I’d hoped to post my review of the latest Monkey and Cake book by now but I’m planning to have it up no later than tomorrow evening. In the meantime, I’ll be preparing for Tuesday’s Twitter chat.
@WeAreKidlit (formerly We Are The People) is currently developing our 2019 Summer Reading list and we thought it would be good to share our process. We want the children’s literature community to know why our list is so different from others by sharing the work we do in considering books. Remember, we work to deliver titles written by IPOC authors that are free of stereotypes, micro and macro aggressions and that don’t center Whiteness. For our first venture into a fishbowl reading, we’re not only decentering Whiteness in the text, but also in the canon by approaching Little House on the Prairie (Book 3 in the series by Laura Ingalls Wilder) with a critical literacy lens. Hopefully you can join us on Tuesday at 9:00pm est/6:00pm pst. Our hashtag for the event is #WeAreKidLit.
I’d wanted to have the review of This Is My Fort (A Monkey and Cake Book: Scholastic) up because of what it does that other anthropomorphic monkey books don’t do. In doing what it does, it begs the question, “Is it possible to have a good anthropomorphic monkey book?” Is it possible to reclaim a racialized identity, reframe and reboot it in a way that empowers? Did ‘nigga’ do it? Did ‘queer’ do it? Are there examples of words or images steeped in histories of hatred and bigotry that have successfully been repurposed? This goes along with the question I get quite often: are there any books out there that are acceptable?
There’s such a long line of black and brown people being reflected in non-human images and this history isn’t dead. Not as long as contemporary religious leaders, museum exhibits, politicians, sports fans and teachers refer to people of African descent ad ‘monkeys’[Check the links, the stories are all from 2018.] Not as long as young minds are brainwashed into accepting this equation. As racism continues, the history continues.
I know people are listening. I’ve had librarians tell me about books they’ve decided not to add to their collections. PeachTree Publishers recently eliminated an anthropomorphic monkey from a forthcoming title and others have told me of books changed in the development process.
“Rather than working to challenge associations that are faulty or negative, such as the African-American-ape association, the visual information we receive from the world may further support them.” source
My postings will continue to be limited over the next few weeks. I’m working on a post for School Library Journal’s Pondering Printz column on what I think are contenders for the Printz and I’ve got a review coming for Horn Book’s Calling Caldecott. AND! I’m teaching next semester! My 8-week course “Black Girl Magic” needs to be developed in time to begin in the second half of the spring semester. I’m excited about getting back into the classroom!
But first, I need to get that review posted!