A few days ago, Varian Johnson took to Twitter.
With the re-affirmation that the voices of Native Americans and people of color are not being heard; with the awareness that LGBT+ people, those with disabilities and/or from lower income groups and who are Muslim are threatened, attacked and denied rights; what do we caretakers of messages to our children do in the face of this election? How do we maintain our hope and have enough left over for young people who really need to hear from us? How do we communicate that we cannot rest in feeling the isolation, the insecurity and the bitterness? How do we remember our power? Our purponse? And how do we tell allies we need you but we need us more? We need to hear from us, our #ownvoices.
It’s a messy place where we are because we ALL need to speak out and speak up regarding human rights and dignity up but allies, do not speak for me or over me. Do not explain me. Do not assume you know my pain because it is not new with this election. For me, its different, but it’s not new.
I want to say to Varian that I need your voice to help our young people know how to navigate this world and to help them figure out how to create their own space in it. Varian, you give our young people hope when you normalize the day to day of America for them and you give them power when you re-create and validate them on paper and when you expand their tomorrow by building worlds of ‘what if’. You give them tools of resilience and resistance when you visit their schools and libraries, look in their eyes and speak with honesty and with possibilities.
Librarians, booksellers and educators need to be aware of books that tell stories in our #ownvoices and incorporate them into booktalks, displays and into the curriculum under subject headings other than ‘diversity’. Decolonize those collections! LGBTQ+ books are not issue books to hide in the 800s or 300s. Tanita Davis’ Peas and Carrots is about families more than it’s about diversity.
The New York Times recently came out with its list of Best Illustrated Books of the Year which is beautifully inclusive.
Jason Reynolds’ As Brave As You just won the 2016 Kirkus Prize.
These works of fiction are definitely worth everyone’s attention and should be in library collections across this country from tiny rural hamlets to major urban centers. We’ve all talked about how segregated we are on Sunday mornings when we go to church, but we cannot ignore how segregate our library collections continue to be. Let’s work on organic, American diversity.
Our government is being disrupted. I can’t be mad at voters for wanting a change in our system, but I can be angry that the education system and that the media has failed to bring to light real issues that are confronting us thus letting voters be disillusioned and led down a path that will bring us all more harm than good. And, I can be angry about librarians who fail do what they should to provide free and open access to information, to provide information literacy skills and to provide materials that inform rather than entertain.
At some point soon we really need to talk about children’s non-fiction. Soon.
Varian’s question is real and while he was reflectively speaking aloud, it’s a question all information providers should be asking themselves.
added after publishing the post: Some of you on Facebook will be able to access this link https://www.facebook.com/groups/ALAthinkTANK/permalink/1257965614276256/. It will take you to a post by Debbie Reese the relates so much to my post here today, but gives a deeper context to what librarians, librarians and Dewey do to our users.