We’re firmly in the month of March. Keep coming back here because I will post the March releases by authors of color before the month ends. I promise. February was filled with Writers on Writing and reviews of sources on enslavement. March may be quieter because of offline responsibilities but, I do hope to review some older, classic YA books by Native and women of color as my tribute to Women’s History Month. And, we’ll be releasing the We’re the People Summer Reading List.
February found folks around the web using #StepUpScholastic to following up on Scholastic’s access to our children. The campaign was announced here on the Ferguson Response blog and it went even more public on 29 Feb when Leslie Mac held the #StepUpScholastic Twitter chat. She’s archived it here. “The goals of the campaign are simple, encourage children & adults to critique current offerings from Scholastic and ensure that Scholastic hears their voices in this call for substantive change.” We are asked to engage in the program in the following ways.
- Read the content created by Teaching for Change which walks through HOW to critique these books & catalogs.
- Submit an email directly to Scholastic via our Action Network campaign.
- Submit a photo or video to the #StepUpScholastic tumblr.
Debbie Reese sets an example of being proactive in the #StepUpScholastic campaign.
I’m sure you’ve heard that ‘she who controls the pen controls the history’? Be vigilant. Keep learning about the massive reach of Scholastic and of textbooks companies. Read the books, know who writes the text and sits on the boards that create the books. Understand the huge role Texas plays in what appears in textbooks and be fearful of people like Mary Loy Bruner who is running for a seat on the Texas board of Education.
On the Civil War, she wrote in 2014: “Slavery is not the Reason for the Civil War. by [sic] Mary Lou Bruner…. Historians waited until all of the people who were alive during the Civil War and the Restoration were dead of old age. THEN HISTORIANS WROTE THE HISTORY BOOKS TO TELL THE STORY THE WAY THEY WANTED IT TOLD.”
source: The Washington Post
This rewriting of history isn’t just in America and it’s not only in children’s books. Japan for years has been re-writing its interactions with Korea during World War Two.
But, it’s the power of independent voices that are getting the true story out there.
Independent voices like Leslie Mac and Deborah Menkart whose only vested interest is in our children.
Independent voices that used crowdsource funding to create and release a movie about the comfort women that has climbed to lead the box office in Korea.
Independent voices like those featured in Amy Martin’s new column in School Library Journal that features indie children’s authors.
School Library Journal also recently featured an article on how few sight impaired people are learning braille.
Because teachers and students often depend on audio tech, including text-to-speech programs, vision-impaired children aren’t learning the conventions of written language. “He or she might be getting information, but the child isn’t reading,” says Chris Danielsen, director of public relations at the NFB, which provides many resources for braille literacy (learning braille). In the 1970s, more than 50 percent of vision impaired people in the Unites States knew braille. More recently, among the nearly 60,000 U.S. children who are legally blind, only nine percent were registered braille users, according to a 2010 report. Other estimates put the figure at 10 to 12 percent.
source: School Library Journal
Is there another side to this discussion?
Living here in Indiana, I realize the way the publishing world marginalizes those of us who don’t live in NYC. Not only are the major publishing houses, agents and publishers there, but the discussions take place there as well. Sure, there’s a small pocket centered around Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles, but it pales in comparison. I like how Padma Venkatraman used the power of the Internet to overcome geographic barriers and create this important roundtable of voices from South Asia.
Rachna Gilmore: Yes, inasmuch as all authors’ life experiences inform who they are, and influence the values they form, which inevitably shapes their writing. More specifically though, as a brown person of Indian heritage in a white world, I have, of course, experienced racism; both the active, vicious kind, although rarely that, as well as the more patronizing and labeling kind, born of stereotyping. I know much of it is simple misunderstanding and ignorance. It has fueled my desire to write in a way that builds bridges. I strongly feel that it is through fiction that we can cut through boundaries. When we read of characters of cultures that we have perceived of as “strange” or “other”, and when we identify with them through the magic of fiction, and recognize that at the core they are not really that different from us, that is when we start to relate to others simply as people. We drop our stereotyping assumptions and see that our common experiences as human beings are far more profound and real than any superficial differences of skin colour or cultural preferences.
Gilmore’s words make me want to send a shout out to Ellen Oh, #DiversityJedi extraordinaire.
Another important roundtable this past week came from the PEN Equity Project. If you don’t click any other link here, this. This is the one to read. It begins in that place where we stay stuck too long, of recounting the battles and missed opportunities, but it takes the chance to say ‘what if …’ to imagine a way forward.
There is a role for all of us who understand that even if the industry was meant to not be diverse in all of its representations, it cannot stay that way.
Cheryl Klein Imagined setting up classroom libraries. I do that for a classroom here in Terre Haute. Every month I send a collection of books to first grades and I do imagine making this a thing, a foundation that matches more classrooms to donors. You might think the school library is doing or can or should be doing this. Research shows the closer the books are to young readers, the more they will read. Sometimes, libraries just can’t provide books because they have either no librarian to select the books or no funding with which to purchase them. I recently had the pleasure of serving on YALSA’s Great Books Giveaway Committee and was almost in tears while reading librarians describe their profound need for books. Comments from those who received the grant can be found here. The link will also take you to an application for the next grant round.
Isn’t it interesting how much of the heavy lifting for our children’s literacy is done by women? Just look how many women I’ve listed here today. And, in the recent Lee & Low Diversity Baseline Survey, it was documented how many straight white abled-bodied women work in publishing. Lee & Low has been watching the report ripple through the industry and has capture insights here.
I have to leave you with this breathtaking phone of my youngest son from his recent trip cross country to visit his brother. He walked out there and sat on the edge of the world, something I could never, ever do. I catch my breath just thinking about it. Funny, the only place on my Bucket List is the Grand Canyon, but I cannot go to the edge.
Here’s to the generation that will not be limited by our fears.