Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Diversity 101: An Introduction

I grew up reading books by diverse authors and thinking about the characters who lived in them and the questions they raised. I went to a “good” college where we often discussed issues of race, culture, ethnicity, religion, gender, and sexuality. Yet here are a few of the things I wasn’t aware of when I started working as an editorial assistant in 2000:

  • The Clark Doll Experiment
  • The Indian burial ground trope
  • The term “white privilege”
  • That skin tone is a major source of sensitivity in many non-white communities
  • The strong dislike or discomfort many cultures feel toward anthropologists
  • The white savior cliche, in which a white person discovers the wonders of a native group, eventually becomes part of the group, is acclaimed as the best of them all, then leads them into battle against the white culture, which is trying to dominate the natives (see especially Dances with Wolves and Avatar)
  • That for all its charms, The Story of Babar ultimately reproduces a colonialist narrative about the superiority of European life to African life

Friday, December 14, 2012

Diversifying the "Best of" Lists

Every year around December, various publications and organizations will post their “Best of” lists and editor’s choice round-ups. Here are a few diversity titles that we spotted among the crème de la crème.
Young Adult

by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

 Publishers Weekly
 School Library Journal
A School Library Journal Best book of the Year
A Junior Library Guild Selection

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.--From Simon & Schuster

by Eliot Schrefer

 Publishers Weekly
A National Book Award Finalist
A Junior Library Guild Selection

The compelling tale of a girl who must save a group of bonobos--and herself--from a violent coup.

The Congo is a dangerous place, even for people who are trying to do good.

When one girl has to follow her mother to her sancuary for bonobos, she's not thrilled to be there. It's her mother's passion, and she'd rather have nothing to do with it. But when revolution breaks out and their sanctuary is attacked, she must rescue the bonobos and hide in the jungle. Together, they will fight to keep safe, to eat, and to survive.

Eliot Schrefer asks readers what safety means, how one sacrifices to help others, and what it means to be human in this new compelling adventure.--From Scholastic

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Industry Q&A with author Valerie Hobbs

Tell us about your most recent book and how you came to write it.

My most recent book is Minnie McClary Speaks Her Mind. Like most authors, I invest a lot of myself in my characters and I've had a lot to say apparently about things that aren't right, that should be right. About how people should be treated regardless of ethnicity, gender, class, disability, sexual orientation, etc., etc. And I believe that children should be encouraged to think, not just fill in bubbles on state-mandated standardized tests. Miss Marx, Minnie's teacher, is the kind of teacher I wish I had been when I taught middle-school years ago. She encourages the students to think, to question, and to write about the things that concern them. It takes courage, especially these days, to be the kind of teacher she is.

Do you think of yourself as a diverse author?

I hadn't, I suppose because as a white woman I'm not considered "diverse", but my beliefs certainly fall into that camp.