I recently joined a webinar for the purpose of learning about upcoming multicultural titles in children’s literature. Lee and Low, Groundwood, James Lorimer and Co (distributed by Orca) and Tuttle Books all shared information about new or upcoming titles. I have to admit I was quite interested in the picture books although I rarely take the time to read them.
At the same time, I look for titles written by authors of color and for books that have fully developed characters of color, where their culture is part of their identity. This doesn’t mean constantly fighting racism or proclaiming ethnic identity but it does mean paying attention to hair texture, family structure, foods and dialog. Eluding to a character’s skin tone doesn’t quite give a full sense of who that character really is.
I read someone somewhere, probably a white author, stating with regards to writing about characters of color that they felt ‘damned if they do and damned if they don’t’. Yes, I feel you on that. I honestly don’t know if I can clearly articulate how I feel about white authors writing characters of color. Do most of us know what we want and, do we know when our expectations are fair and equitable?
What does ‘do it right’ really mean? I continue to say that if your personal life, your friendships, reading and musical selections, knowledge of history, restaurant and movie choices aren’t diverse then you should avoid trying to write diverse. You can’t get it right if you don’t know it.
But, what if a white author does know it and then chooses to write about Native or Asian characters? How far can they develop the story without being criticized? Imagine if a white author were to write honestly about what goes through a characters mind when they encounter a group of Latino teens speaking Spanish or if they’re trying to figure out a young black person’s natural hairstyle. What if a secondary character who is a person of color also happens to be the antagonist? I think that could happen in real life. Books can guide young white readers ability to navigate this racist and sexist world as well as it can young folk of color.
I suggest that if white authors cannot be honest with characters in these moments, if they are going to be accused of being racists or bigots, then they can’t ‘do it right’. Allow them to be racist? No. But, do allow them to explore honest thoughts and emotions. Authors should be able to work with editors who know how these situations unfold. We should work toward having honest dialogs. Once again, I’m expecting way too much of children’s literature because this just doesn’t happen in American society.
See, this is what happens when you don’t write. All your thoughts merge in unexpected ways in unexpected places and you end up with a huge thought peice when all you wanted to do was announce new and upcoming books. So, here we go!
Family owned company that focuses on stories that children of color can identify with and that all children can enjoy.
Parrots Over Puerto Rico author Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore Illustrator by Susan L. Roth
Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac
Summoning the Phoenix: Poems and Prose author Emily Jiang illustrator by April Chu
The Hula Hoopin Queen Written author Thelma Lynne Godin illustrator by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Twenty-Two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank author Paula Yoo and Jamel Akib
Drift author M. K. Hutchins
Rebellion (Conclusion to the Tankborn series) author Karen Sandler
Lee and Low will also be republishing their very popular global Cinderella books this year.
Canadian publishing company.
Why Are You Doing That? author Elisa Amado illustrator Manuel Monroy
Bravo, Chico Canta Bravo authors Pat Mora, Libby Martinez Illustrated by Amelia Lou Carling
Norman Speaks! author Caroline Adderson Illustrator Qin Leng
Lost Girl Found: Story of the Lost Girls in Sudan author Lean Bassoff and Laura Deluca
The Amazing Travels of ibn Battuta author Ratima Sherafeddne illustrator Intelaq Mohammed Ali
Movi la Mano/I Moved My Hand author Jorge Luján illustrator Mandana Sadat translator Elise Amado
Work: An Occupational ABC written and illustrated by Kellen Hatanaka
The Cat in the Wall author Deborah Ellis
Lorimer is a division of Orca Books that maintains a diverse cast of characters throughout their hi/lo Sport, Replay, Podium Sports Academy and Lorimer Side Streets series. Some of the newer titles include the following.
Free Throw by Jacqueline Guest
Hat Trick by Jacqueline Guest
Sidelined author Trevor Kew
Big League Dreams: Baseball Hall of Fame’s first African Canadian, Fergie Jenkins author Richard Brignali
66 year old company founded in Tokyo.
Jet Black and the Ninja Wind authors Leza Lowitz and Shogo Oketani
Revenge of the Akuma Clan by Benjamin Martin
In Real Life by Lawrence Tabak
Korean Folk Songs Stars in the Sky and Dreams in Our Hearts written by Robert Choi; illustrated by Sam Ed
Mei Mei’s Lucky Birthday Noodles by Shan Shan Cen and Heidi Goodman
Ming’s Adventure on China’s Great Wall author Li Jian translator Yijin Wert
The Sheep Beauty author Li Jian translator Yijin Wert
In the Forbidden City by Chiu Kwong-Chiu
This is the Greatest Place: The Forbidden City and the World of Small Animals by Brian Lee