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Diversity in the Publishing Industry

09/12/2011

Saturday, in my Children’s Lit course, we talked about diversity in the publishing industry. When we went around the classroom and shared our childhood favorites, there was a definite lack of diversity within the books both in regards to the absence of representations of people of color as well as non-Western perspectives. I’m guessing that a majority of us were children in the 1980s-1990s, when multiculturalism in the schools became the buzz world and was often embraced, but often tokenized other cultures and used literature and education to tell white people what to think about other cultures, rather than finding materials that let these cultures speak for themselves. I recall books about pre-Columbian Native Americans exalting the Noble Savage stereotype disregarding the complex nature of tribal society, celebrating Cinco de Mayo by making skull masks and bringing in tacos, etc. While we had a multicultural wall in school, the tapestry of perspectives remained homogenous, Eurocentric and white-washed.

With the publishing industry and subsequently book reviewers and selectors often ignoring the  culturally conscious (Sims Bishop) books in favor of highlighting a few social conscience and melting pot books, what tools can we use to seek out books by people of color, GLBTQ, people with disabilities, different religions, etc? With the time and effort it takes to seek out alternative resources for book selection, as well as pressures to meet books “in demand”, how can we come up with creative solutions to seek out these materials and advocate for their inclusion?

Food for Thought:

“Demanding Diversity in Publishing http://www.huffingtonpost.com/zetta-elliott/demanding-diversity-in-pu_b_478224.html

“Something like an open letter to the children’s publishing industry” http://zettaelliott.wordpress.com/2009/09/05/something-like-an-open-letter-to-the-children%E2%80%99s-publishing-industry/

“White Privilege and Children’s Publishing: A Web 2.0 Case Study” http://www.winchester.ac.uk/academicdepartments/EnglishCreativeWritingandAmericanStudies/publications/write4children/Documents/w4cissue2cApr.pdf

“Kids of Color: The New American Whitewashing” http://www.bookslut.com/features/2010_02_015679.php

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