Monday, June 16, 2014

My Take on the Movement for Diversity in Children's Literature

Recently I read a blog post by Shannon Hale about Varian Johnson's The Great Greene Heist and the #greatgreenechallenge, a movement asking bookstores to support diversity in children's literature by encouraging sales of this particular new release. All the push on social media recently for diversity in literature made me take notice, but my approach to most ideas trending on the internet is to be cautious.

Internet trends, particularly discussions based on controversial topics, tend to be electronic screaming matches wherein different factions proclaim their viewpoint to be correct in every possible way, and anyone who disagrees is labeled with various monikers that are synonyms for "evil moron." The vehemence of the arguments and the lack of charity in some of the exchanges are disturbing, and totally ineffective for constructive debate. I respect Ms. Hale so I decided to read Johnson’s book and do some reading on the topic of diversity.

In reading some of the recent articles, I have yet to come across those nasty exchanges, though I haven’t followed the tweets about it. I was struck by Walter Dean Meyer’s New York Times article from March 15, 2014, where he relates how he realized as a black teen that the books he read were not about people like him, and stopped reading. Even more disturbing, actually mind-boggling to this white woman, is the story he relates of a personnel manager having two equally qualified men, one black and one white, apply for a chemist position. In the manager’s mind, the black man couldn’t possibly be a chemist, despite his qualifications.

What is most encouraging to me is Meyer’s conclusion, that we don’t need an increase in stories about blacks as victims needing to overcome slavery or racism, but rather stories that people of all colors can read about blacks (and other minorities) showing that minorities can attain the same possibilities as any white child. Getting people to buy such stories so that publishers will publish more of them is the motivation for the #greatgreenechallenge, and I can endorse a movement that encourages writers and publishers to publish stories where skin color doesn’t determine a person’s potential in life. For my review of The Great Greene Heist and how it represents diversity, check my blog later this week.

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