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kevinwaynewilliams
03-17-2014, 05:41 PM
Walter Dean Myers asks "Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books? (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/16/opinion/sunday/where-are-the-people-of-color-in-childrens-books.html?_r=0)"

kevinwaynewilliams
03-18-2014, 06:57 AM
Hmm, one of our favorite topics shows in the the New York Times and no one reacts.

Lavern08
03-18-2014, 09:21 PM
...My cousin Jerry:

http://jerrycraft.net/

Little Anonymous Me
03-18-2014, 09:41 PM
I've definitely noticed this and been saddened by it. I'm doing my teaching practicum, and when I was at my school the other week, one of the kids was reading some book about a train. Kid loves trains, so it's all good. He's pumped. We're going through it, and I noticed all three characters were white. Then there was a fourth character who wasn't. He gets all excited, only to read on and see that character had the briefest and least important role in the book. Have you ever seen a seven year old deflate like a popped balloon? I wanted to punch something.

aruna
03-19-2014, 06:10 PM
There was a bit of a kerfuffle in the UK last year when the Children's Laureate, Malorie Blackman, called for more diversity in children's books. I read some of the articles and following comments with a sickening feeling in my belly; here's an example. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/10098595/Black-characters-put-parents-off-books-new-Childrens-Laureate-says.html). There was a very negative reaction to her comments, even in the liberal press (which does not include the Telegraph).
Her sense of being "invisible" -- well, I get what she means but for me it was a bit different. I never felt invisible, but I certainly felt there was something missing in the books I read. I recently wrote about this in an interview for a Polish event, answering the question of why I write what I write. Here's what I said:


...when I was growing up, Guyana was a British colony, British Guiana, and our culture was very much influenced by Britain; in fact, our culture was, fundamentally, British. That meant that everything we were given to read, was of British source. I was a voracious reader, yet even as a child I noticed that not one of the books I read came with a setting or characters familiar to me.

I grew up in a society that was a melange of six races, predominantly of African or Indian ethnicity; yet every single book I read was populated by homogenously Caucasian characters; their problems and issues had to do with British (or, sometimes, American) society. They ate strawberries and cream and crumpets and Yorkshire pudding. They celebrated Christmas with snow and reindeer, and rejoiced at the break of spring and the first daffodils. Where were the palm trees, the mangoes and fish curries, the bougainvilleas and kiskadees (a local bird) so familiar to me? Why was everyone lily-white? Where were the books set in our own country, among our own people?

Black people were so invisible in books that one sentence in an Enid Blyton books hit me hard in the gut, and I never forgot it. It was one of the Famous Five books – which I loved, and devoured one after the other. In this book, Anne, the youngest and most timid of the Five, was woken up at night by a noise and saw the outline of a man’s head in the window. Trembling in fear, she said to her elder brother: “Oh Julian, suppose it was a black man!”

I’m sure that scene has since been edited out of new editions of the book, but it made an enormous impression on me at the time, and just goes to show how marginalised non-white characters were.

Sometimes, Europeans find it hard to understand this need for more diverse character casts, and accuse us of whining when we speak of this phenomenen. But think of it this way. Imagine you, as a white European, had grown up in Europe, among people who mostly looked like you; and yet every single book you read, from childhood on, hat ONLY black characters, and was set exclusively in Africa. Can you imagine how odd that would begin to feel? And how you would yearn for books that more reflected your own reality? That’s how it was for me and many others

Lillith1991
03-19-2014, 11:34 PM
I love your answer Aruna! This could also apply to other genres where PoC aren't represented as much as they should be either. Simply amazing.

Ken
03-19-2014, 11:44 PM
The article writer lost credibility right at the start.

"Of 3,200 children’s books published in 2013, just 93 were about black people, according to a study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin."

93. But the remainder didn't all feature whites. They featured a beautiful mix of nationalities. Chinese, (((Japanese))), Spanish, etc. The remainder also didn't feature people all of the time. A lot of kids books star animals as characters, like “Goldilocks and the Three Bears, which the article writer went on to mention, while failing to connect the dots.

Is 93 still unsettling a figure out of 3200. Yes. But far less so in view of the above.

When arguing a point you've gotta be fair.

Swaying statistics in your favor isn't gonna help. It may actually undermine any valid points you go on to make.

Kitty27
03-21-2014, 01:13 AM
What annoys me to no end is the focus on whether White readers will like the book. Of course,some readers don't care. That's a given.

But never do they take the time to market TO the group who wants and needs these books. They claim they want to have more diversity,but their first thought isn't even about us. POC are a huge audience. Do the marketing and we will come. It's like this very simple concept escapes them. Examples abound if they can't believe it. E.Lynn Harris and Washida Clark comes to mind.

Sigh.

kevinwaynewilliams
03-21-2014, 06:23 PM
The article writer lost credibility right at the start.

"Of 3,200 children’s books published in 2013, just 93 were about black people, according to a study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin."

93. But the remainder didn't all feature whites. They featured a beautiful mix of nationalities. Chinese, (((Japanese))), eSpanish, etc. The remainder also didn't feature people all of the time. A lot of kids books star animals as characters, lik “Goldilocks and the Three Bears, which the article writer went on to mention, while failing to connect the dots.

Is 93 still unsettling a figure out of 3200. Yes. But far less so in view of the above.

When arguing a point you've gotta be fair.

Swaying statistics in your favor isn't gonna help. It may actually undermine any valid points you go on to make.

It's true that the fair comparison would be something like "Books featuring white characters" to "books featuring black characters". If the selection were truly unbiased, I would expect that ratio to be about 6:1. I suspect that far more than 570 of those 3200 books featured white characters.

kuwisdelu
03-22-2014, 08:50 AM
The article writer lost credibility right at the start.

Did you actually look at the study?

Books about Africans/African-Americans? 93.
Books about American Indians? 34.
Books about Asians/Pacific Islanders? 69.
Books about Latinos? 57.

...books about PoC? 253 / 3200 = 7.9%

PoC in the US? 116 million / 313 million = 37% (source (http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/06/13/18934111-census-white-majority-in-us-gone-by-2043?lite))

Number of books that need to be about animals to make these numbers okay? 2519 / 3200 = 78.7%.

(1 - 0.787) * 3200 = 681.6 books about humans
253 / 681.6 = 37% books about PoC among those books about humans

Do you really think more than three quarters of those books are about animals?


But the remainder didn't all feature whites. They featured a beautiful mix of nationalities. Chinese, (((Japanese))), Spanish, etc. The remainder also didn't feature people all of the time. A lot of kids books star animals as characters, like “Goldilocks and the Three Bears, which the article writer went on to mention, while failing to connect the dots.

That's a beautiful sentiment, but it's utterly unrealistic.

Look at the numbers. The remainder did not feature "a beautiful mix of nationalities."

Moreover, books that features main characters of multiple Non-White ethnicities were counted for each of those ethnicities, meaning some of those books were counted more than once in the PoC numbers, so this is actually an optimistic overestimate of how many books were about PoC — an underestimate of how bad it is.

There are not enough animal books in the world to make up for the disparity.


Is 93 still unsettling a figure out of 3200. Yes. But far less so in view of the above.

In light of the above?

No. Not any less unsettling at all.

kuwisdelu
03-22-2014, 09:12 AM
Of those 34 children's books about American Indians, this post (http://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/2014/03/2013-ccbc-data-on-fiction-byabout.html) goes through the 14 by US publishers, and could only recommend 8 of them as being good and responsible representations of Native Americans.

How many of the rest of those 253 books about PoC would pass the smell test?

Hapax Legomenon
03-22-2014, 09:20 AM
Why did this study not count white people and animal books? It seems like it would have helped their argument.

Ken
03-23-2014, 12:20 AM
Next time you're at the bookstore check out the kid's section.
A lot of books are about animals. And I do mean A LOT !
Not including anthropomorphized machines, etc.
Locomotives, trees, stones. You name it.

My "guess" is that of those 3200, at least 700 feature inanimate objects as MCs.

Again. 93 is still unsettling no matter how you slice and dice it. It's just that when you use stats as the basis of an article you've gotta give an accurate measure. Otherwise readers won't be able to take it seriously, even if things still add up to the general impression you're relaying. "What's up with this #%&@ under-representation?!"

And like you and Hapax say, giving the complete picture wouldn't really have undermined the article writer's argument. It would have helped it as well as assuring readers he was being fair in his assessment.

One would expect that from the NY Times !

kuwisdelu
03-23-2014, 12:34 AM
Again. 93 is still unsettling no matter how you slice and dice it. It's just that when you use stats as the basis of an article you've gotta give an accurate measure. Otherwise readers won't be able to take it seriously, even if things still add up to the general impression you're relaying. "What's up with this #%&@ under-representation?!"

And like you and Hapax say, giving the complete picture wouldn't really have undermined the article writer's argument. It would have helped it as well as assuring readers he was being fair in his assessment.

I don't understand what you want. It gave the actual, exact numbers. Not even percentages. There was no hyperbole that I can discern. What more is missing?

And I'm a statistician, so I'd happily call it out if something was amiss here.

Why, when discussing the number of children's books about PoC, do we have to be derailed to talk about books about animals and inanimate objects?

Why do we need to stop and qualify our frustration with "but it's not quite as bad as it sounds because there are all these books not about humans, but it's still pretty bad" to be taken seriously?

If I'm frustrated with the number of PoC in fantasy and science fiction, do I need to qualify everything I say by pointing out all the characters that are aliens and non-human creatures?

Hapax Legomenon
03-23-2014, 01:15 AM
I mean it would have been better to give an exact proportion of white people and animal books so people could not possibly imagine there was just a very high proportion of animal books.

kuwisdelu
03-23-2014, 01:36 AM
I mean it would have been better to give an exact proportion of white people and animal books so people could not possibly imagine there was just a very high proportion of animal books.

The CCBC does not appear to keep track of the number of books written about white people or animals. That is hardly the NYT author's fault.

If you want an equally damning statistic, then look at their numbers for children's book written or illustrated by PoC writers and artists.

The rest of those books sure aren't being written by animals.

This whole line of inquisition is just a distraction.

Ken
03-23-2014, 03:55 AM
Who knows. Maybe you're right. Maybe the issue I raised about the stats has no bearing on the issue and was just a distraction like you say. Apologies to you and the other participants if I derailed the thread, unintentionally.

We now return you to your regular scheduled broadcasting ...

kuwisdelu
03-25-2014, 12:56 AM
Of those 34 children's books about American Indians, this post (http://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/2014/03/2013-ccbc-data-on-fiction-byabout.html) goes through the 14 by US publishers, and could only recommend 8 of them as being good and responsible representations of Native Americans.

Going back to this link, I wonder if anyone has gone through those 93 books about black people to see how many are positive portrayals versus how many perpetuate stereotypes?