Diversity in Literature

“When children cannot find themselves reflected in the books they read, or when the images they see are dpexels-photo.jpgistorted, negative, or laughable, they learn a powerful lesson about how they are devalued in the society of which they are a part” (“Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors“). This statement is one of the most powerful statements that I have ever read.

This week I found the articles to be extremely eye-opening. I had not really given a lot of thought to the diversity that is found/not found in literature. As I was reading the articles, I started to think about all of the books that I have read, and it dawned on me; I have not read many books with diversity. Even the books that I have read with minority characters, tend to be books that show those characters in a bad light and usually are not the main characters.

As I quoted from the article “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors” at the beginning, it is so important for students to be able to find themselves in books in order for them to feel valued. When students are not able to see themselves in books, or when those images in books are distorted, students will not see the value in themselves. This of course, can have detrimental effects.

Publishing industries are in the business of making money. As described in the article “Something like an open letter to the children’s publishing industry”, they are publishing what they perceive the market to be at any given time. Unfortunately, I think that these publishing places are not keeping on top of what the current trends are in relationship to the world. I’m wondering if they think that minorities do not buy and read books often, and that is why they cater more to Caucasians? I found it telling when the article stated that we have had an African American President but still 98% of the publishing industry is white (“Something like an open letter”).

child-children-girl-happy.jpgA couple of other surprising things I read this week had to deal with the last two articles: “The Apartheid of Children’s Literature” and “Why Are the People of Color in Children’s Books?”. I felt a huge sickness when the the author of “The Apartheid of Children’s Literature talked about how his conversations go with children. They ask why there are talking animals, magic, and other things in books, but not children of color. That is something that has to be changed. Just think about what those children think: I’m less important that talking animals and pretend magic. In the final article, “Why Are the People of Color in Children’s Books?” I thought it was interesting that Walter Dean Meyers had written it. I will admit that the only book that I have read so far from him is the book Monster. In the book, the main character, Steve Harmon, is an African American boy who is on trial for murder during a robbery. Even though Steve is eventually acquitted, I felt that the book is still stereotyping young African American boys. I do agree that he has written this book to show what inner-city life is like, but still, to me, it is stereotyping a race.

We need to have more literature that is written with diversity in mind. If this is not accomplished, what are we telling those children? They are not worthy enough to be a part of the literary world. I don’t want to be in a world where we pick and choose whom we believe are the ones worthy enough to be a part. I want each student to feel worthy and valuable and to feel wanted.

 

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4 thoughts on “Diversity in Literature

  1. What a thought-provoking post! I think so often we teachers don’t mean to privilege so many white voices in the texts we use in our classrooms; we just haven’t thought about the issues or read widely enough in diverse literatures to find texts that we love. Luckily, there are many wonderful resources online that can help us discover more diverse writers. I really like the We Need Diverse Books website: https://diversebooks.org/

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    1. Thank you! I know for myself, I am very thankful that I took this class. It has really opened my eyes to a lot of different things that I had not been conscious about before. I know that I have to definitely read more diversely and incorporate more diversity in my classroom library. Thank you so much for the link to We Need Diverse Books. I really enjoyed looking at it!

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  2. I agree that it’s crazy how we can read and not realize that our books aren’t diverse. As a white guy, it’s just a fact I take for granted, and these articles made me realize how people with diverse backgrounds must feel left out at times with literature. There’s so much more to it than policies as well; it’s changing people’s attitudes and behaviors towards literature from people with diverse backgrounds and voices.

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    1. I completely agree. I can’t imagine what people of color think when they are unable to find books dealing with their culture in a positive light. It’s a complete behavioral change that needs to happen in society.

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