Why bother?

2016.

 

bfgandgiants

So far, a pretty awful year–not personally, but politically. The murder of Jo Cox, a young female member of parliament for no other reason than her tremendous empathy.

The Brexit-fuelled increase in nasty racist incidents.

The utter horrificness of Trump (though he may yet be defeated, America!).

War in Syria continues. Women and girls are marginalised threatened, assaulted and murdered all over the world.

Why bother about children’s books in times like these?

Why bother about representation in children’s books, of all things? In the UK, we don’t have America’s fraught history of slavery, the struggle for freedom, suffrage and civil rights.

Why should we care if representation in children’s literature is served mainly by a sprinkling of high-profile authors adding a character of colour, sometimes as protagonist, often as side-kick.

A few tweets:
CatherineJohnson
‏@catwrote
Just a thought. if we kidslit folk had included more ‘diverse’ characters for the last 30yrs maybe ppl wld see we were not ‘other’

Nikesh Shukla ‏@nikeshshukla 
I say that as a comicbook fan who has seen every Marvel movie. I’ve had enough of white boys saving the world.

Mariam ‏@helloiammariam 
Random observation at @yalc_uk: so many young people who are PoC / and so many girls wearing hijabs. PoC read FYI. #YALC

Angie Manfredi ‏@misskubelik 
I’m curious: what’s the first book you remember reading/having read to you starring a POC/Native protagonist? Answer and RT please.

J. Ire ‏@justinaireland 
If you ever wonder why I care so much about diversity: I have an eight year old. I see what her classroom looks like.
J. Ire
‏@justinaireland
Children’s publishing is failing actual children. Most of her classroom isn’t white (and I live in the suburbs).

J. Ire ‏@justinaireland Aug 1
So when the books being published don’t offer a mirror to most of the kids reading them? That’s an issue. At all levels.

An article by the fabulous Justina Ireland on an apartheid of the imagination for Story.

A blog post on Slate by Rumaan Alam about why we need more children’s books where race is not the focus of the story but an integral part of the whole.

A (gorgeous) picture:

Yeading’s Revolting Rhymes workshop today #bigfriendlyread

CpGqwO4WAAAVY6qCpGqve8WEAAFxkG

 

I have an 8 year old and an 11 year old. I run a book club at their school and volunteer at the wonderful Ministry of Stories

Children–all children–deserve a literature that reflects the world around them–that answers the questions they have about the world. They aren’t getting it.

How did we get to this place?

Why is the world so unequal?

Whose interests does it serve to keep the poor in their place and the wealthy walled off in a bubble of privilege?

Why are women and girls who speak out and use their voices such a threat to the status quo?

And sometimes–often–these questions are better dealt with through fiction.

Think of Animal Farm. Or The Giver.

But children also deserve to be heroes. To believe that they can save the world.

White boys, white girls, black boys and black girls, brown boys and brown girls.

Abled and differently-abled, neurotypical and neurodiverse.

All  children deserve to be heroes. Of funny stories, stupid stories, zany stories, detective and spy stories, fantasy and adventure and science-fiction and historical stories.

My answer to this question:

Angie Manfredi ‏@misskubelik
I’m curious: what’s the first book you remember reading/having read to you starring a POC/Native protagonist? Answer and RT please.

I didn’t read one single book with a protagonist that wasn’t white until I was a young adult. Unless you count The Horse and his Boy. Which is tricky. Firstly because The Horse and his Boy is the title of the book though Aravis is the more interesting character. Second, the book is chock-full with casual racism not to mention Orientalism.

So, inspired by a friend’s request on his Facebook page I am posting 365 days of children’s books featuring protagonists who are children of colour. They will be mostly fantasy and sci-fi with a sprinkling of other genres. They will range from chapter books through YA to adult, with maybe a special picture book or two. I’ll focus on authors of colour but not exclusively.

                                        We can be heroes.

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About g.r.del

reading, writing and the rest.
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9 Responses to Why bother?

  1. What an awesome idea! #diversekidlit

  2. What a fantastic and inspiring reading project, really interested to hear about the books you discover.

  3. g.r.del says:

    Thank you both for your interest! I have around 40-50 reviews lined up and ready to go but any recommendations are extremely welcome!

  4. You raise some great points about how important diverse books really need to be. For all of us.

    Sounds like a wonderful blog challenge! We look forward to seeing more of them shared with #diversekidlit too.

    • g.r.del says:

      Thank you! It’s an amazing bonus for me as in seeking books with diverse protagonists I’m discovering so many great authors! Sadly the UK has an even narrower range of voices than are published in the States. I also really want to seek out new authors from non-Western European/ N American/ Australasian countries during the course of the year.

  5. it’s taken a ridiculously long time to reply to your comment on MWD on the #DiverseKidLit round up – please forgive me – this is a fantastic post, and I have read back to it through your wonderful, diverse reviews to date. I think things are changing for the better in the UK, with some new small presses creating an exciting range of diverse picture books – and hopefully that will filter through to MG and YA… In fact, the books are out there, and accessible over time wherever they are published – partly it’s a question of finding them, when they so often have to compete with the mega-machine of big publishers… I look forward to reading about the rest of your year 🙂

    • PS I love the tile of your blog!

    • g.r.del says:

      Thank you! And thank you for all the wonderful work you do with MWD, it is such a great resource. The project was partly inspired by my old writing tutor who posted on FB the difficulty of finding great chapter-to middle-grade books for his mixed black-Asian British kids who had graduated from PBs. I write for children, volunteer part-time as a school librarian and run a book club and I still find it hard-but thought I’d share all the great books I have found!

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