I hope all my fellow Americans are happy and well-rested after the holiday weekend. I was in my second wedding in as many weeks, so I'm still trying to get back into the groove of things. Can't wait to share some pics with you once I get them!
To kick off my 'get caught up' week, I'm pleased to share with you a guest post provided by Miss Attitude of the blog Reading In Color. I love her blog and was thrilled when I was able to offer her Manifest for review on her blog.
About the blog: Reading in Color is a book blog that reviews YA/MG books about people of color (poc). There is a serious lack of books being reviewed by teens that are YA/MG about people of color, I hope my blog is one step closer to filling in this void.
I think Reading in Color is amazing and I recommend you check it out! And since I'm endlessly interested in childhood reading experiences, I asked Miss Attitude to share her thoughts on reading as a young Brown girl. Were books featuring POC available? More so then than now or is it the other way around?
I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did and stay tuned after the post to find out the winner of the Manifest tote giveaway from the Artist Arthur Community Interview event!
Bright Eyes, Brown Skin
Animals and Dr. Seuss. This is what stands out to me from my early childhood reading. I was doing some “research” for a post that I had planned for father’s day. The “research” consisted of looking at some of my favorite books from childhood and re-reading them. Deep stuff.
I noticed something though; the majority of the books that we have from when I was in the baby/toddler stage are by Dr. Seuss or feature animals. My parents tell me that Marvin K. Mooney will You Please Go Now was a particular favorite of mine, but we own many other Dr. Seuss books as well. I also looked at Guess How Much I Love You, Can’t You Sleep Little Bear? and The Kissing Hand. These books all feature animals as the main characters; rabbits, bears and raccoons. I also have some books with more bears, lions, foxes and other zoo animals. I didn’t ask my parents about the lack of human main characters in my childhood library, but I can’t help but wonder; was a part of this because of the lack of books for Brown babies and toddlers? Did my parents seek to protect me by not having me read the books that showed that little Black boys and girls don’t exist as far as children’s literature is concerned? Did they not want the idea of white superiority reinforced in my mind?
Of course, the white superiority wasn’t blatant, but when the number of books about kids of color doesn’t even come close to the large numbers of books about white kids of color, the subtle message is that Brown kids don’t matter. I have some books with white main characters (The Napping House is a particular favorite that comes to mind) but the number of books I have about animals (or made up characters a la Dr. Seuss) far outweigh the number of books I have about humans, especially books that focus on white children.
I titled this post Bright Eyes, Brown Skin because it’s the main book that is about African American children that I can vividly remembering reading as a toddler. I can practically quote it just by looking at the cover. I’ve been blogging for almost a year now and while I don’t review picture books, something I’ve noticed is that young children today have so many more options than I did growing up.
For example, a book I would have gobbled up as a child is Dancing in the Wings by Debbie Allen. It’s about a Black ballerina, which is what I aspired to be. Eventually I ended up leaving dance after ten years and it wasn’t until I was about eleven or so that I saw Alvin Ailey and learned that Black ballet dancers existed. It came out in 2000, I was born in 1993. I technically could have read it, it’s described as being for kids ages 4-8 and I would have been eight at the time, but by the second grade, I was past picture books, reading instead Beverly Clearly and the Royal Diaries series (for the record I hated the Sweet Valley High series but I did like the Babysitter’s Club).
I don’t think I noticed the lack of picture books about people of color, but then again, right before my pre teen years, I wanted to be white. Maybe the two are connected, I don’t know. It’s a period of my life that I struggle with so I don’t think about it much.
The Internet would have been a huge help to my parents and other parents raising kids my age, now there are lots of websites and blogs dedicated exclusively to promoting multicultural children’s books. It’s amazing and I’m so glad things have changed. I can walk down the children’s section at Borders (sadly my indie bookstore doesn’t have much diversity. I’m working on them!) and I will see Brown faces on the covers of picture books.
I don’t see as much change occurring in literature for older readers, those in middle school and high school. So that’s what I focus on, promoting YA/MG books about people of color. The most crucial years for a child’s development are the early years and if I had to choose, I would rather have multicultural books for babies and toddlers than books for pre teens and teens. But guess what? I don’t have to choose, we can (and should) have both.
A big thanks to those who participated in the Artist Arthur Community Interview! I will send all the questions along to Artist and will send her response to each out to everyone who contributed. I'm so pleased with the questions asked! I entered 27 into the True Random Number Generator at Random.org, was given 24 (I still can't figure out how to post that box from their site), and the winner of the autographed Manifest totebag is.....iluvhersheys_andbooks, aka, Chioma of Black and Blue Ink! Please email me at onlinepublicist [AT] gmail [DOT] com with your mailing address to claim your prize. ;-)
Thank you again, Miss Attitude, of Reading In Color for sharing her story! Is there a children's book with characters of color that comes to your mind?