Someone tweeted a link to someone else’s blog post about ethnically diverse picture books. The covers were adorable and I was quite interested in reading the books. I took pause to see the blogger chose to market the books by saying they featured characters of color
but were not about race. That was so not necessary!
I’m not really good at warm and fuzzy and often miss the opportunity to just chitchat. I blog to promote books and literacy and for the longest, that was all I did here. Then, I realized a couple of things.
First, blogs are about social networking. I need to share more of me to build a network. Readers may enjoy the wonderful information I share, but they’re more likely to keep coming back because they love my charming personality. (I’m also learning how difficult it is to write sarcasm.) They’re more likely to engage in the dialog and come back to grow the conversation if it’s fun and inviting. I’ve manage to grow a huge following that comes back for the information, but not so much for the conversation.
Second, readers who come to this blog who are not Black may easily get the impression that all my conversations (that All black people’s conversations) are about race. So, I force myself to get personal and blog about life’s stuff.
My reading tastes are as eclectic as my taste in food. There is a feeling that comes over me when I need/want a black author, just like there’s a time when I really want a romance. But those feelings don’t last and I may just as easily be reading a historical French biography as the latest book by John Irving.
Terry McMillan’s Disappearing Acts came out in the late 80s. While it was successful, it was Waiting to Exhale that really did it for McMillan. While publishers grasped the concept of a group four female friends that she introduced and kept having that re-written, what I enjoyed most about McMillan’s books was that they were not about race. I think if you look at the social history, Blacks in this country were at a place where issues other than race could begin to move to the forefront.
I don’t know when race moved out of the conversation in kidlit. When were we able be comfortable enough in the existing racial identity that we were able to look at coming of age in terms of family dynamics, school situations or intellectual curiosity rather than racial identity? When were Latino writers able to let go of traditional stories and settings for urban American middle class situations?
If you’ve read two books by Asian American authors, Indian, or Latino authors, you have to realize there is no single story. Some stories, like If I Ever Get Out of Here or Darius and Twig, have to be based in race because the turmoil the characters face comes from their ethnic identity. Others like Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass or Sweet 16 to Life are based in communities of color and reflect those cultures in their writing.
All of these stories are testaments to the fact that there is no single American story. Think of all the stories you’ve read that wouldn’t be the same if set in a different city, if the character listened to different music or if the antagonists were zombies rather than werewolves. There is no ‘regular’ story.
Just like we can’t assume people of color write about race, we can’t assume white people write ‘regular’ stories. There are no ‘regular’ stories! Not everyone has likes chocolate chip cookies, rides a bus, goes to church, las a singe mom, has a favorite color, drinks Pepsi, likes McDonalds or owns a cell phone.
The beauty of kidlit and YA should be in everyone being able to find who they are or who they want to be in what they read. YA shouldn’t have a philosophy similar to Henry Ford’s “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.” ‘Regular’ like all black cars, is obsolete.
So, add to this conversation! Muddle over this information, or come back. Maybe we’ll talk about the best game apps and how I have to ration my time playing____!