I missed my Sunday posting, but there are just a few things on my mind.
This weekend, Dr. Debbie Reese will deliver the 2019 May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture, “An Indigenous Critique of Whiteness in Children’s Literature.” The event is hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison. For those of us who cannot attend, a livestream will be hosted by Wisconsin Public Television. I’m quite proud of Debbie, of her work and many, many accomplishments. I’m also proud of ALSC for selecting her to deliver this year’s lecture. Debbie is a fearless #DiversityJedi. Writing in Kirkus last week, Vicky Smith chose to highlight this work of advocacy.
“Reese’s is one voice among many that have been raised in sustained, earned rage over the past several years, demanding that the industry do better in its representation of marginalized identities. .. When industry insiders complain in private or in public about the tone taken by the Jedi, when they talk about abridgment of free speech, I’m astonished. No Twitter commentator, however fervently angry, can suppress speech. They can—and do—cause authors and publishers to reconsider publication. That is a choice, possibly based on a sense of the market, possibly based on new conviction. It is not the result of government suppression. Protest, whether physical or virtual, is a vital part of the American tradition. The Jedis’ calls for better representation are far more akin to a boycott than they are to suppression of speech.”
I’m still following the monkey books. Mr Monkey Takes a Hike by Jeff Mack (Simon and Schuster) came out this month. Five Little Monkeys’ Shopping for School (Five Little Monkeys Story series) by Eileen Christelow (HMH Books) in June, and several Curious George books. You know Curious George? The monkey who was captured in Africa (no specific country named) in the first book and always does silly, mischievous things, needing someone to save him while general millions of dollars in profit for whoever holds that trademark. Imperialism exists there on so many levels!
The We Are Kidlit People Summer Reading List is out there! I hope it’s finding its way to teachers, librarians, parents and students and I hope it’s making a difference for young readers. We’ve certainly had more downloads than last year!
My FB feed has constant reminders about an upcoming workshop on evaluating, auditing and diversifying library collections. Such work is an important part of collection development. It is something librarians do in order to provide the best materials possible for library users. Performing this work through a lens of equity and inclusion is about more than just the book. It’s about how you’re living your life. Bringing equity to that shelf in a way that matters requires a work premised in diversity, justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. In love. I mean, I could find several lists that recommend books about people with disabilities, I could work to find some that are #ownvoices, but I have to read the books. I have to know when the representation is on point, who the leading authors are who write with and about disabilities. I should know which awards are given for books that contain stories about people with disabilities. You know how I’ll now if that representation is right? By expanding my reading into adult biographies and news articles and by actually putting down the book and meeting and talking to people with disabilities.
It won’t stop there. It’s not just about the book on the shelf.
Is that shelf accessible to someone with a disability? Is my library? How inclusive is my library programming? Where are my books about disabilities located? Surely my biography of Wilma Rudolph is in the biography section and not 300s for social issues.
Lining a shelf in a library or in a classroom with “diverse” books is barely a start in building a more inclusive library. We expect that reading books as ‘windows’, a view into other’s lives, will minimize hatred and white supremacy, but that’s only if it’s more than a token act. And please understand that all children need windows, not just the white kids. We all need a to spend more than the length of a book looking into someone else’s story. Books are a pretty nice place to begin that process, but let’s not stop there.
I hope you follow, re-tweet and interact with the #diversityJedi on Twitter. We may focus on books and publishing, but our work is about much more than that.