- Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books? – Walter Dean Myers writes about how not seeing himself represented in fiction affected him as a child, why he writes juvenile fiction and how he worries about the future of fiction that includes people of color.
When I was doing research for my book “Monster,” I approached a white lawyer doing pro bono work in the courts defending poor clients. I said that it must be difficult to get witnesses to court to testify on behalf of an inner-city client, and he replied that getting witnesses was not as difficult as it sometimes appeared on television. “The trouble,” he said, “is to humanize my clients in the eyes of a jury. To make them think of this defendant as a human being and not just one of ‘them.’ ”
I realized that this was exactly what I wanted to do when I wrote about poor inner-city children — to make them human in the eyes of readers and, especially, in their own eyes. I need to make them feel as if they are part of America’s dream, that all the rhetoric is meant for them, and that they are wanted in this country.
- 9 Picture Books That Celebrate Mixed Race Families – There was a hashtag yesterday called #ColorMyShelf that Jennifer Weiner started asking for books with “non-white” characters (the first reply to her suggested “The Help” as a great read.) It was met with mixed feelings, but this post seemed worth sharing.
Books with multicultural or mixed race characters aren’t important just to my family and other families with multiple heritage and/or races. It’s equally important that all children see their friends and family represented in the books they read. I’ve mentioned some of these picture books about mixed race heritage in previous posts but I wanted to put them all together in one place. Talking about race with children feels difficult because our personal baggage about it, but it’s never to early to celebrate all the shades of brown skin around us.
- Gender-specific books demean all our children. So the Independent on Sunday will no longer review anything marketed to exclude either sex – At first blush, this sounds great, but then I wonder what the Independent means by “gender-specific marketing,” exactly. If it’s just ignoring books explicitly labeled “for girls,” that seems wise (and an empty gesture, since those aren’t books that generally get reviewed, but I digress) but if it’s just ignoring pink covered books while still reading “neutral” books with boy protagonists, that’s a problem.
There are those who will say that insisting on gender-neutral books and toys for children is a bizarre experiment in social engineering by radical lefties and paranoid “femininazis” who won’t allow boys to be boys, and girls to be girls. (Because, by the way, seeking equality of rights and opportunities was a key plank of Nazi ideology, was it?) But the “experiment” is nothing new. When I grew up in the 1970s, and when my parents grew up in the 1950s, brothers and sisters shared the same toys, books and games, which came in many more colours than just pink and blue, and there was no obvious disintegration of society as a result. Publishers and toy companies like to say that they are offering parents more “choice” these days by billing some of their products as just for boys and others as just for girls. What they’re actually doing, by convincing children that boys and girls can’t play with each other’s stuff, is forcing parents to buy twice as much stuff.
- The Soapbox: Refusing To Review Books Marketed To One Gender Is Counterproductive – While I have my concerns about the Independent’s post, I’m not sure I agree with this one either. Refusing to review books marketed in a stereotypically gendered fashion isn’t a “boycott,” it’s a scope determination.
Many of the genres that market the most heavily toward women and girls are genres traditionally marginalized by book reviewers, including young adult and romance. Female authors who write fiction are often more likely to find their books shunted into the ambiguous “women’s fiction” category, ignored by the mainstream and more legitimized capital-F Fiction.
Because book-reviewing publications want to appear “respectable,” they opt for books in the capital-F fiction section. Take, for example, the case of The Hunger Games. The three-book series was written by a woman (Suzanne Collins), featured a female protagonist (Katniss Everdeen), and was first marketed at the girls and young women who faithfully spend their more of their money on books than young men and boys do. Once enough young women and girls bought the books, they flew up the best-seller lists and mainstream publications were forced to take notice, especially after the Jennifer Lawrence-starring films made bank at the box office. But under the Independent’s logic, The Hunger Games isn’t worth writing about, because it was originally marketed toward girls. When a book is marketed to ‘everybody,’ that means it’s marketed to men.
- “Do What You Gotta Do”: Cop Shows Bolster Idea That Police Violence Works – This most likely came into my Twitter feed via @prisonculture, and it seemed like a great companion to the many recurring discussions Romancelandia has about the messages books contain and the extent to which it influences us.
However, policy doesn’t only influence media; sociologists have found that media has a real effect on policy. Because “public knowledge of crime and justice is largely derived from the media,” the Cop Booster subgenre is part of a larger criminal-media-complex that manufactures “pervasive images of predatory criminals” that “steer [the] currents on our criminal justice policy.”3 Television programs like “Chicago PD,” a classic Cop Booster show, reproduce a narrative that that not only shields real life police forces from the scrutiny of public accountability but also engenders millions of people’s assumptions about criminality – assumptions that help keep the gears of the prison-industrial complex spinning.
- Searching for the Farmers Who Posed for Government Photographers During the Depression – I kind of love the pictures from the Depression and have spent entire days just surfing the Library of Congress Flickr account, so this Slate article was pretty cool to see. The woman at the end of the article made me glad to live in the age of convenience stores and birth control.
Perhaps the most bittersweet story that Manning uncovered is that of the Bettenhausen family, whose matriarch, Emma, features in these photos taken in McIntosh County, North Dakota. Emma Bettenhausen let Vachon photograph her going about her daily labors: ironing, feeding the stove with corn-cob fuel, making bread, stocking the cellar with an impressive array of canned goods.
Manning found that Emma Bettenhausen had given birth to 15 children when the photo was taken, and that she was then four months pregnant. She died of cancer eight months after her last child was born. “These are the only significant photographs of the family taken at the time,” Manning writes.
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An ice hockey fan from north of Boston and the genre's most beloved troll, Ridley enjoys reading contemporary and historical romance, as well as the odd erotica novel. As someone who uses a wheelchair, she takes a particular interest in disability themes.
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