Monday, January 4, 2010

Cybils Discussion

There's an interesting discussion going on at Black-eyed Susan's blog about the Cybils and, yet again, the dearth of a variety of stories by and about PoC (in particular, African-American stories that go beyond the usual historical narratives of slavery and victimization). Here is a part of one of my comments in the thread -- it is in response to another commenter noting how publishers seem to go for what kids *want* and not what might be valuable for them to read/see:
"Focusing on what kids *want* is about profit. For instance, my 8-yr-old wants chocolate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But I, as her parent, am not going to give her chocolate three times a day because I want to feed her something nutritious, I want her brain to develop, and I want her to progress throughout her day with energy and vibrant health. The same is true for media images. Both my kids want whatever they see advertised on TV. They want to watch every popular film that comes out. I make the decision as to what they will get and watch based on what I think will, again, provide the ultimate nourishment for their minds, bodies, and souls.

Likewise, culture and media shape our children's perspectives. The images (or lack of) they see around themselves that reflect the world back to them inform their views of who they are and who they can be. If there are no images of young children of colour, that tells them they are invisible. If all they see are stereotypical images or images of victims, that is how they perceive themselves. Keep in mind that this is while white children get to see themselves reflected in the wide variety of roles available to them: in comedy, in drama, in fantasy, in history, as villains, as heroes, in joy AND in pain.

And, honestly, bloggers do play a significant role here. Bloggers have, however unwittingly, become creators of "internet culture" and images. Teens read blogs. My 8-yr-old goes online to do research for her projects. If all the books being reviewed are books written by white authors about the white experience (or by white authors ABOUT people of colour), then, once again, the world has become a place where people of colour don't exist, or exist marginally, stereotypically, or as historical victims.

I did a post about this some time back -- the fact that my 3rd grader believed Native Americans were extinct because all the books she read at school were about Indians that lived "long ago in tepees and wore feather headdresses." I couldn't convince her that Native Americans are alive and well and living among us today. She has never seen such depictions and so her world is shaped in such a way as to erase Native Americans completely from it. I have since done the research and found books that show Native American children in contemporary settings, but that is research *I* took on.
There is a place for historical fiction--personally, I love it--but there is such a need for more stories.

Bloggers don't create the problem, but bloggers can be an arm of publicity and marketing for a publisher and, as such, they can certainly be a huge part of the solution."
The rest of the comments are worth reading, too, if you have the time; and certainly weigh in on the discussion, if you have something to say!

Also, there is a great list of diverse children's and teen books of 2009 on Bildungsroman's blog. I loved the categories she came up with and all the different titles and voices represented.

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