Saturday, July 11, 2015

I Support We Need Diverse Books

We grew up with my mom who was outspoken about race. A lot of other things, too, but she corrected racist language used by other people and enhanced those corrections as teaching moments for her children. It didn't work well for changing other people's attitudes, but we were taught equality and came to adulthood believing all people deserved our respect. We moved in May this year, and I went through my mother's file cabinet. She wrote letters, asked questions, involved herself in all manner of important issues. I am more proud of her than ever. She's busy conducting protests in the next world, I'm sure. My siblings started having their own children in the 80s. I have nieces and nephews, and now a grand-nephew. For the first next generation, I borrowed an idea from my mother to collect tree ornaments - one each year - for the new babies. Mom did an add-a-pearl necklace for her goddaughter who wore that necklace to her wedding. I did add-an-ornament. I found out fast it was impossible to find any but a white angel. I was already the book aunt, loving books and wanting to share that joy. I bought books with animals, alphabet letters, colors - avoiding the all-white human representation on the cover and in the story. Books with cultural diversity in the 80s and 90s were hard to find. Now we have another generation. And not much has changed. There are ornaments now. But books have hovered in the same dreadful ratio for decades. Diverse books can be found by searching farther and deeper. One book I bought recently is Little Humans by street photographer Brandon Stanton, recommended by a friend. I gift Patricia Polacco books. She writes and illustrates culturally diverse stories (including In Our Mothers' House) and she is a Michigan author/illustrator. She also depicts older people engaging with young people: another missing human contact in mainstream children's books. We need more diverse books written and illustrated by people who have lived the stories. We need to see ourselves in print and picture. Stories are how we identify ourselves, how we understand each other in the beautifully diverse life of the cosmos. And in our homes.

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