caring is not trying, trying is not succeeding

Diversity Cupcakes

“Diversity Cupcakes.” I love google. (Photo credit: clevercupcakes)

May 16, Charlesbridge, a children’s publisher in Boston, co-hosted a panel, with CBC Diversity, on diversity in children’s literature with authors, illustrators and editors. This happened awhile ago, obviously, but somehow I never had time to write about it. But I think it’s important to, because it was sponsored by CBC Diversity, which is trying to be this huge, multi-publisher effort to promote diversity, and yet I can’t really understand what it is they think they’re doing. For one thing, I keep seeing invitations to participate in their efforts and their blog on various listservs, other blogs, etc, and yet they don’t reply to (if they even accept) comments, they don’t respond to emails, and they basically keep it very much in their club of favorite people, which is the opposite of “Advocating for an inclusive and representative children’s publishing industry,” as they say on their blog tagline.

The usual questions were asked, like can authors write outside their culture, how can you avoid stereotyping or tokenizing, what’s it like to be a creator of color in the industry, how do you edit a book for authenticity if it’s not your culture, etc. Mostly the creators told funny racism stories, by which I mean the silly things people say that you can laugh about later, and then said how in general, they are treated just fine. Great for them. The editors basically said it’s hard to sell books about kids of color and how they wish they received more submissions. Not sure how those two work together, but sure. There was also this overarching thing behind many of the things said about how children are delicate creatures, and we need to hold their hands when it comes to reading things outside of their comfort zones, which is apparently white kids reading about Mexican kids, or something.

Ultimately, through the panel and the milling about afterwards, I learned that diversity will forever be more common in historical fiction, magical colored people, and noble savages, and that nobody wants to be the first to do anything remarkable. Continue reading

scholars are still humans, and that’s unacceptable

So I am reading a bunch of scholarly books and articles for my final paper for my realism class. Of course. Since the requirement is one essay, I found two book-length works that seemed relevant (the paper is on The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: A Novel in Pictures; more about it in a later post) and am also looking for essays and chapters of other books that I already have. It’s not that I go above and beyond, it’s that I have no conception of proper scope for school papers and I want to know everything about everything.

Anyway. The book I read first is The Distant Mirror: Reflections on Young Adult Historical Fiction (Scarecrow Studies in Young Adult Literature) by Joanne Brown and Nancy St. Clair. It’s really useful, because before I can write what my paper is actually supposed to be about, I have to write in some way that proves that historical fiction is realism, so I thought this would give me some good background theory. Continue reading

the conundrum of avoiding the rue problem

I read Gretchen McNeil’s Ten for the Hub Reading Challenge, but also because it said it was a slasher film in a book, and that sounded completely excellent. And in that sense, it totally delivered as a delicious slasher film that completely takes all the tropes and characters present in those and does nothing to update them, and that’s great, because nobody wants you to update them. They’re great because they’re utterly predictable.

But there is a point where things get meta, and where they get meta, they get weirdly racial and problematic, and even though I have no business assuming that McNeil did this in response to a current event that happened barely a year ago (except also, to be fair, it happened longer ago than that), but I’m going to, because I think it allows me to think about an interesting concept in writing.

So everyone knows that the book The Hunger Games has Katniss as maybe something that’s not totally white, or at least not totally WASP, but that everyone read her as white and it’s not really a problem, because that’s what the author is. But what some people didn’t notice in the book is that there were some people of color in it. Because, if you are the kind of person who thinks about literature and problematic things in literature, you probably know how everyone reads everyone as white, no matter the reader’s color, unless it is explicitly stated repeatedly that the character is not. And sometimes not even then. This isn’t really up for discussion as far as its validity, because everyone knows that it is more or less fact, because it’s the way we in the U.S. were socialized to read. Continue reading