The time book mom and blogger, stepped up: Jenny at Babies, Books and Bows couldn’t believe
the fear and didn’t want to see the gorgeous picture book Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns (American Library Association Notable Children’s Bk 2013; Notable Children’s Trade Book/Social Studies 2013) removed from the Scholastic bookfair at her daughter’s school after a parent protest about the book. Jenny spoke up. In her letter to the bookfair rep, she stated
[O]ne of the reasons we love the school is the diverse population. She goes to school with kids from different cultures, that speak different languages, and have different beliefs. We have raised our daughter to be kind and empathetic to her classmates, to learn from them, to listen to them with an open heart instead of shunning them away with fear. It is the fear that drives the request to have the book removed.
As a book fair volunteer, I watched as the children searched the shelves for books that were interesting, that were fun, and to which they could relate. Our school population has many Muslim students, and the students should not be taught that a book about their culture in a beautifully illustrated children’s book is akin to terrorism, as [was] inferred from [the] comments [cited] in the paper. Also, there were many books about other religions and cultures available at the book fair, including books about Christmas, Hanukkah, and Greek Mythology, just to name a few. So [the] comment that there was not any representation from other cultures or religions is baseless.
I think Judy Blume put it best when she said, “Let children read whatever they want and then talk about it with them. If parents and kids can talk together, we won’t have as much censorship because we won’t have as much fear.”
She then bought a copy of the book to giveaway on her blog.
The post in which she writes about Latina representation in YA and the responses are from authors who struggle to diversify their writing: she makes a valid point. YA fiction for any teen who is not White can be a challenge to find. Blacks and Latinos had been relegated to “urban” fiction which often focused on gangs and violence but not even that can’t even be found now. Cambodian American, Guatemalan American and Puerto Rican authors know how the language flows, power structures and celebratory practices. Sure, there have been authors who have written outside their culture and gotten it right, but it’s not because they read a book about how to do it. It’s because they’ve been immersed in other cultures. “Some of their best friends are Black”. Their list of favorite books is as diverse and the music they listen to and the food they eat. Otherwise, they’re pretty much just faking it. If you don’t know it, you probably shouldn’t write about it. If your world is all White, then write your book! If it’s good, authentic story it will sell!
I scratch my head when I think about all the authors of color I haven’t seen on the shelf in a mighty long time while at the same time white authors are trying to expand their repertoire. Coo Booth. Varian Johnson. Mitali Perkins. Neesha Meminger. Paula Yoo. Torrey Maldonado.
I’m about to get back to my book stack. Two months left. A book a day, my friends; a book a day! Before I get back,
The day my daughter was born: I have to wish my daughter the happiest of birthdays. I honestly don’t know how she got so old, but she’s celebrating her 29th (for the first time). Kristen is the person who first made me realize how difficult it is for teens of color to find books about teens like themselves. Kris attending a high school with close to 2000 students and it’s a high school that has long been known for it’s diversity. I guess diversity was all in the student population, but not in the library. I was a social studies teacher then and could find her a few books I’d read, but being that teen struggle for independence, she didn’t want books I’d read. I remember finding Coldest Winder Ever for her. I think the most recent book I gave her was City of Glass, which she enjoyed enough to read the series. We read and discussed books while we lived in Taiwan, but our reading interests are not quite the same. That doesn’t matter. What matters is simply that she reads. And, that she is a beautiful young lady with a vibrant energy who is making a difference exposing human trafficking with her camera.
Saturday. 9 November. Wishing you all memories of today that are as good as mine.