Hi again! After a long hiatus finishing final exams and rushing to rustle together Christmas presents, it is wonderful to be back. (At peace. At a desk. With tea, cookies, and precious time to write and think about books.)
Now that the holiday scramble has subsided, I’ve had some time to think about my reading diverse books in my hometown. Or more specifically, what reading diverse books means to me in the small, majority white, politically conservative enclave where I grew up.
I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—
I, too, am America.
I’m sharing one of my favorite poems because there are no better words to reflect the problematic, fractious nature of an American history we are called upon to challenge today; and yet, there are no better words to muster pride.
It is from a place of intention and reflection (on what America is, on how I want to recognize the dignity of my fellow Americans) that I say I am celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day today. I hope you and your loved ones are having a wonderful weekend as well.
Let’s be clear: Representation matters.
In a 1990 essay on the paucity of representation of children of color in children’s literature, Rudine Sims Bishop wrote of books as windows into others’ worlds and doors into new experiences. Anyone who grew up a lover of stories can attest to this joy, the sparking of wonder in a book.
Sims points out that books are also mirrors. Children can see themselves in positive, empowering light, reflecting their possibilities. But what happens when we consider children of color, who comprise 50% of public school students but who only populate roughly 13% of children’s stories? Where are their mirrors, and what possibilities do they see?