I love Monday mornings!! They’re still fresh with energy that accumulated over the weekend and that brings with it a lot of hope, possibility and unearned joy. Today is no exception.
Except that I have miles to go before Friday!
I’ve been posting photos of my TBR basket. It doesn’t change much. Not only am I a very, very slow reader but, my actual reading lately falls outside that box. I’m reading for the blog (yes, there will be reviews–soon) and for the We Are Kidlit Summer Reading List. (it’s coming soon, too) I’m reading articles for my monkey work to support the research that lies ahead and they’re not in my basket either.
I was honored to be part of Kweli this month. The Kweli Color of Children’s Literature Conference for almost 20 years has been celebrating and supporting the voices, stories and truths of Asian and Pacific Island American, Black Americans, Indigenous and Caribbean and Latinx authors. Because their work Is focused on writers for these communities, I’ve never really felt I belonged there. Needless to say, I was welcomed. I learned so much from the honesty and engaging sessions that often posed questions that will lead to transformation in how our stories are delivered. My session was on critical literacy, specifically how historical nonfiction acts as counterstory narratives. Yet, I was questioned on the classics and censorship, two questions layered in white supremacy. Two questions affirming that we are in the midst of change and letting go can be so hard. Holding on can be, too. Really, the only censorship I’m concerned about is the classic censorship of marginalized voices.
It seems that’s changing but a couple of articles primarily addressing the adult book market indicates smoke and mirrors.
According to the NYTimes, the increase in book sales during the pandemic was led by older titles with establish sales that algorithms used to promote these titles more than newer releases. Topping these sales were celebrity authored books. To prove their point, Snoop Dogg’s name was invoked in the title to attract readers even though he’s barely mentioned in the piece. I do wonder how this information will trickle into the youth market where celebrity books have been a bigger presence in Black authored children’s books than books by authors of other minoritized group. While sports and entertainment stars have had a presence in the picture book market, I’m noticing that many debut young adult Black authors have well a establish social media presence. How often does this marketable talent translate to dedication to young adults and the literature written for them?
Complicating this even further, in “Who Gets to Be Writer” the staff of Public Books looked at data they’ve collected on the demographics of literary prizes “in all genres” (children’s?) with a $10,000 or higher award. (yes, there’s money in them there awards) They noticed that a shift in the racial/ethnic identities of the winners began in 2000, and another noticeable shift occurred in 2017 with Black writers winning more than writers from any other racial group.
When we compared prizewinning writers to the same random sample of writers in Books In Print, we noticed that those with an elite degree (Ivy League, Stanford, University of Chicago) are nine times more likely to win than those without one. And more specifically, those who attended Harvard are 17 times more likely to win.
Some may think this simply reflects excellence at work: writers who attend elite schools are presumed to be the smartest, or to have received the best training. And if writers do not come from backgrounds that grant easy access to elite education, their talents are nonetheless recognized by these institutions, who then open the door for them with scholarship funding. But in our research, we have noticed again and again stories about educational access where race and class overlap, stories that complicate any easy narrative of recognized merit.
There’s so much more to this piece, I hope you’ll take the time to read it.
in a rich conversation about how and why they write about young Black and Latinx girls today, Meg Medina and Renée Watson definitely move beyond critiquing the publishing industry and discuss crafting their stories, the difficulties of getting them marketed and how they write beyond stereotypes.
“I’m always trying to think of how I can make a very realistic girl, who is flawed and is figuring it out, and give her the space, literally, the space on the page and the time to figure it out. Hopefully, readers are seeing that as some type of mirror, that they could also be a little messy, and that there’s time to grow and figure it out.” more
I haven’t exactly had ‘zoom fatigue’, just an inconsistent use of my calendar and this has led to me missing a lot of wonderful online talks. Here are a few events coming up this week.
27 April: Meet the Author: Marilisa Jiménez Garcîa: “Side by Side: US Empire, Puerto Rico, and the Roots of American Youth Literature and Culture.” Commentator: Prof. Sonia Nieto
20 April: We Are Still Here! Native American Truths Everyone Should Know virtual launch event. Tracy Sorrell in conversation with Kelly Starling Lyons hosted by Fulton Street Books.
This pandemic (neither COVID nor racism) isn’t over yet. The vaccine is supposed to stop the virus from invading our bodies, but there’s work to do, real healing to do to repair all with ways trauma has magnified injustice. The daily mass killings are definitely one of the symptoms. Our emotions – the rage, the joy, the fear – each tells us how well we’re connecting to situations, to others and to ourselves. On the whole, we’re not doing so well. But, what about you? How do you feel?
In considering all that she’s learned and how she’s feeling, Imani Perry writes that she “ began to understand that physical vulnerability was no weakness when it came to my emotional landscape. Love is in sharp relief now, as it was then. We are all brought to the very core of what it means to be human. There is no evasion of tragedy, and yet there is enormous capacity. I think we can use it. I think we can attach our hearts to human history. I think we can learn to care deeply about every imbalance, including those far beyond our immediate surroundings.” source: https://www.thenation.com/article/society/parenting-teaching-covid/
We have miles to go.
Be well and do good.