I am an elementary school librarian in an urban setting in Massachusetts. Through the work of creating a more representative and inclusive library collection for my students, I learned a lot about the politics of the publishing industry, the accepted institutional racism and purposeful exclusion of communities in books and that we should be outraged at the continued disenfranchisement of our children.
Follow me on Twitter: @reflectlibrary

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"Reflecting the Lives of a More Diverse Group"

 As publishing practices that disenfranchise our youth of color continue, we are hearing more authors give voice against these harmful conventions. Matt de la Peña is the most recent author to come out in support of diversity in children's literature, asking, "Where's the African American Harry Potter or Mexican Katniss?" in an article posted on CNN's Living site.

What seems most powerful about this article, was the fact that de la Peña didn't realize that the stories he was writing COULD even get published. He never felt represented in books, until he read Junot Diaz's "Drown".

Photo from http://www.cnn.com/
2014/04/09/living/young-adult-
books-diversity-identity/
"'Drown' by Junot Diaz was the first book that made me think I might be able to make writing my livelihood," de la Peña said. "And I thought, 'Wait, people publish the kind of stories I write?' That novel made me feel like publishing was a possibility. And then I started digging in on the hard work."

What else are we robbing our children from accomplishing by not having a reflective body of children's literature? How will we change the deleterious effect these publishing practices have on our youth? 

I hope that this conversation will continue to be pushed forward. This is an issue that should not be a "fad". We currently have press supporting the discussion, but sometimes I worry once the issue leaves our society's very myopic view, where will we be? Where would Matt de la Peña's books be if he hadn't found Junot Diaz? My library would be short some great and representative reads...


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