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