Conferences are great opportunities for catching up with people. During ALA Midwinter, I met up with a dear friend and one topic of our conversation was future projects. As I discussed some things I was considering, my friend asked “How will that change children’s books”? That simple, well-intentioned question has been haunting me. How do outsiders change an industry?
It’s not just that I and many others who advocate for an improvement in the representation of marginalized people in children’s literature are not employed in the industry, but we’re invisible them as established in this recent Wall Street Journal article. (Remember the All White World of Children’s Books?)
KT Horning and her dedicated crew at the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison collect publishing data on children’s books about people of color and First/Native Nations. They’ve been playing with the numbers lately, creating new graphs.
If you’ve been following the numbers, you’ve seen this trend.
This calls a couple of this to mind for me. First, Decolonize, Not Diversify. Diversity is a nice word that addresses opportunities for everyone one in every way we can be differentiated. Can we talk about decolonization? Cultural appropriation. Misrepresentation. Oppression. Whiteness.
We all tend to follow the numbers that come out each year documenting how few books are published with POC, F/NA and that caveat that the count is about quantity, not quality. No one is ever satisfied with the lack of increase in the quantity. As the “minority” becomes the “new majority”, the limited number of books and the attitudes they perpetuate still continues.
The other thought I had, was my friend’s question: how will we change this?