This might seem like a weird thing for a white mother in WA to be worrying about, but…
I want my children to read about diversity.
Last Saturday Grammy took all of her grandchildren to see the Village Theater perform “Big River”. Every time I encounter Huckleberry Finn I gain new insight. Hearing him sing was no exception.
“Big River” had some bad words, most especially the bad word that sometimes bans Mark Twain from schools. But I knew that my son Bruce could handle it, even though he’s just seven.
That’s because we spent all of September reading books about the African American experience.
When I saw the character Jim on stage, trapped in a shed and singing about wanting to fly away, I thought about the stories my son and I read together from The People Could Fly by Virginia Hamilton.
In the car on the way home from Everett, Bruce and I had one of those parent-child conversations that you dream about.
But here’s the problem:
I searched and searched for books by African American authors and had a boat-load of trouble finding any. I don’t know if you can tell from that picture, but four out of ten of those books, are by famous people. If you are African American, do you need to be a movie star to get a children’s book published?
That’s why when I read the article Will Latino Stories Sell by Laura Lacamara, I was so intrigued. Is that what’s happening with books about African Americans too?
This is actually a question I’ve been meaning to email Mary Kole, author of Writing Irresistable KidLit for a long time. (You can read my full review of KidLit here.) Writing Irresistible KidLit shows a keen analysis of trends happening in the MG and YA market today. The one thing I didn’t see Mary Kole mention specifically however, was this question I have about the lack of books written by or about African Americans and Latinos. Has the upswing in the MG/YA market left without them?
If I put my fourth grade teacher hat back on, I know that Christopher Paul Curtis, Mildred Taylor and Gary Soto are master writers. But where’s everyone else? I looked and looked and couldn’t find anyone in our library. Are African American and Latino authors not getting published?
In the picture book market, I keep seeing Amazing Grace everywhere. Isn’t the author Marry Hoffman a white woman from England? Don’t get me wrong, I love that book. But if I was an African American picture book writer from Detroit, I might be a bit miffed.
I understand that publishers need to make money.
So maybe this is what moms like me need to be saying: