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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: diversity, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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This book is a gem and a gift, and in order to avoid spoilers I'll say up front: Parker is blind. The dots on the cover are Braille. And now you know ...except, it's not a big secret. Really, Parker would be the first to say, "So? And get over... Read the rest of this post

0 Comments on TURNING PAGES: NOT IF I SEE YOU FIRST, by ERIC LINDSTROM as of 11/27/2015 8:23:00 AM
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2. Books & Christmas with James Moloney

Meet James Moloney, author of The Beauty is in the Walking (Angus&Robertson, HarperCollins) James Moloney is a statesman in the world of Australian YA and children’s books.  The hilarious Black Taxi and Kill the Possum for YA and Dougy, Swashbuckler and Buzzard Breath and Brains  for children are among my favourites of his books. I store his […]

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3. Unsung Heroes

Source: Jonathan Haynes, Flickr

Source: Jonathan Haynes, Flickr

I had an encounter recently that shifted my perspective.  We are proud – justifiably – of our role as defenders of freedom to read and access to information.  And, as a colleague reported in a recent post, that role is extremely valuable.  But there are quiet defenders out there, too, who are our allies, and sometimes they are the ones we least expect.

I serve a diverse community with immigrants from Central America, Southeast Asia and Africa, along with upscale urban professionals.  Explaining the wonders of the public library system to immigrants – and it’s all free! – is the most gratifying part of my job. But sometimes a gentle explanation of access to everything, and the parent’s role as arbiter of what their children should read in print or online, is needed.

Source: HarperCollins.com

At the end of summer, a mother who brings her three children to the library regularly asked me for help in finding books for the oldest child, a boy entering 6th grade.  She wanted books to help him get ready because he was “starting middle school.”  The language barrier made it a little difficult to identify exactly what she was thinking of, so I selected several books on dealing with school issues, and also books on puberty. I showed her what I had, and we put them out for him to look over and decide what he wanted to take home.

While he was looking them over, she said to me, “Where I come from, they think you shouldn’t talk about these things.  But he needs to know!” This was certainly a teachable moment – for me!  It upended my assumptions and moved me profoundly to find that this woman is such a courageous parent, bucking her culture to do what she thinks is best for her children.

The post Unsung Heroes appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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4. Feminist Storytelling by Elizabeth Hall Magill

You are all in for a real treat today. Elizabeth Hall Magill is here to share a very thoughtful post on how to craft a story with a genuine feminist perspective, which for Elizabeth means getting into the very heart of a character, unvarnished by societal assumptions. I especially loved her point on the rich space between the narrator and character -- the bold there is mine. Welcome Elizabeth!

How to Craft a Story with a Feminist Perspective: A Craft of Writing Post by Elizabeth Hall Magill

Feminist Storytelling

A couple of years ago, I had the good fortune to meet Sherman Alexie, author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, when he won Longwood University’s John Dos Passos prize. Mr. Alexie offered to read the first chapter of my novel, which I was about to revise. I knew my revision would be a feminist one—it would include an awareness of class, race, and gender privilege that reflected my recent work—but I wasn’t sure what shape it would take. Mr. Alexie gave me the perfect place to begin, a line on the sixth page of my manuscript: Seth didn’t hate his father’s money—he just hated his father.

I would never have thought to begin with that line. But when I considered it, I realized the line framed the story perfectly—the novel is about a group of UVA students struggling with loss, grief, and growth. A story that unravels from a fulcrum of white, upper-middle-class privilege. To begin with a line that acknowledges that privilege meant I was off and running with my feminist revision.

But why a feminist revision? And what does that mean, in a practical sense?

In the four years since I’d written the novel, I’d gone from believing the word feminist was tainted with disdain for men and condemnation for women to understanding that it held freedom. Feminist writing taught me why motherhood was harder than it had to be and why I never felt pretty enough. It exposed my own assumptions to me—assumptions I made because I was white and middle-class and hadn’t had to think beyond front-page headlines. It allowed me to find sisters I thought I’d never have and release cultural baggage that weighed me down.

I needed to bring this awakening to my fiction—I needed more characters in my book, from more backgrounds. I needed to cut through the assumptions I’d made unconsciously. I needed my protagonist—a young woman named for a goddess—to fully understand the meaning of self-ownership, and claim it. I needed to help my readers see what I’d seen.

But how to do all that and remain true to good storytelling? No one likes to read a book that feels like a treatise. And many people have unexamined assumptions as a result of living in a patriarchy, just like I did. Exposing these assumptions can be a real-turn off, and painful to boot. Sure, literature is supposed to make us face pain, as well as entertain us and make us think. But how to do that in a story, and let the story lead?

The key is tucked into the space between narrator and character.

In nonfiction, the words are always and only mine. But in fiction, the words sometimes come from the mouths of people who are nothing like me—people who are, and must be, completely separate from me. Regardless of the story’s point of view, the writer is shaping it, making choices about what, where, when, how, and why.

In this space between narrator and character, the writer can show the reader characters and events from a perspective that the characters don’t have. This is the perfect place to play with ways to bring a feminist consciousness to the story. And I’ve found a few strategies that work well:

Expose Assumptions

A patriarchy is full of assumptions about people—poor people are lazy, no one group of people is more privileged than another, and all women experience sexism in the same way, to name a few. These assumptions are a form of bias, shaping our perceptions of each other on an unconscious level.

By allowing characters to be fully themselves within the context of their daily lives—a bisexual woman after a breakup, a black teenage boy out for a walk—you can expose the harmful assumptions of patriarchy. The feminist term for living daily life while dealing with whatever patriarchy sends your way is lived experience. And fiction is great at depicting lived experience.

You can also allow a character to demonstrate an assumption and then counter it directly, either through the character’s growth or through other characters. Alexie does this at several points in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian—Junior is constantly realizing what assumptions he’s made about the white kids at his new school, and exposing the ones they’ve made about him.

Play Against Stereotype

Stereotypes are an insidious form of bias, and they’re prevalent in our media. Stereotypes reinforce the assumptions of patriarchy—the dumb blonde, the asexual Asian man and the compliant Asian woman, the hypersexual angry black woman and the stoic black housekeeper—our culture has a ton of them, and they all negatively impact the people they claim to portray. So play against them—create characters that don’t fit into their stereotypical boxes.

The writers for the movie Big Hero 6 have this one down-pat: each of the main characters plays against stereotype while poking fun at it. You can play against stereotype in subtle ways, and with minor characters, as well: in my revision, I needed a surgeon, and she became a black woman rather than the usual older white man. Another character has shown up, a male theater major—maybe he’ll be straight, or bi. Maybe someone will think he’s gay, and he’ll have fun with the assumption.

Teach, Don’t Preach

This is just another way of saying show, don’t tell. Your readers don’t want a feminist lecture—they want a story with a heartbeat. So give them one. One of my favorite ways to teach feminist consciousness is by showing female desire.

The sexual perspective—in movies, in advertisements, in books, in short stories, in poems—is overwhelmingly heterosexual and male. So mix it up—make a woman’s heart beat fast as she is near someone she’s attracted to. Describe the gut-wrenching lust, the biceps or breasts, the gorgeous eyes, the sunlight on hair. Let desire be human, and centered in the female.

I’ve done this in my own work, describing my protagonist’s reaction when she meets her future boyfriend. And I love the way Martina Boone portrays female desire in Compulsion—our experience of Eight is firmly rooted in Barrie’s physical reactions. When we see feminist principles—the female gaze, and female self-love and self-ownership—in action, they become normalized.

This is the beauty of feminist fiction: it exposes us to ourselves while telling us a story we can’t put down. It gives us—all of us—back to ourselves. And it does so not by lecturing, but by using the space between narrator and character—a space that, like everything about storytelling, is part logic and part magic.

About the Author:

Elizabeth Hall Magill has been blogging about feminist issues at Yo Mama since 2011–posts have been featured on BlogHer (Spotlight BlogHer) and Miss Representation’s Sexy or Sexism campaign. Her essay "Jesus and Sophia" appears in the anthology Whatever Works, edited by Trista Hendren and Pat Daly, and her work has appeared in Role Reboot and on the news site .Mic.

In addition to revising her novel and writing short fiction, Elizabeth is currently researching and writing a nonfiction book entitled American Sexism: Questions and Answers. You can find her blog on Facebook or follow her on Twitter: @LizHallMagill.

-- posted by Susan Sipal, @HP4Writers

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5. Happy Birthday Isamu Noguchi!

the east west houseToday is Isamu Noguchi’s birthday and we’d like to take a moment to celebrate one of the twentieth century’s most important and critically acclaimed sculptors.

According to the Noguchi Museum’s website, Noguchi was born in Los Angeles, California, to an American mother and a Japanese father, Noguchi lived in Japan until the age of thirteen, when he moved to Indiana.  While studying pre-medicine at Columbia University, he took evening sculpture classes on New York’s Lower East Side, mentoring with the sculptor Onorio Ruotolo. He soon left the University to become an academic sculptor.

Noguchi’s work was not recognized in the United States until 1938, when he completed a large-scale sculpture symbolizing the freedom of the press, which was commissioned for the Associated Press building in Rockefeller Center, New York City.  This was the first of what would become numerous celebrated public works worldwide, ranging from playgrounds to plazas, gardens to fountains, all reflecting his belief in the social significance sculpture.

east west house
Image from The East-West House

In 1985 Noguchi opened The Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum (now known as The Noguchi Museum), in Long Island City, New York.  The Museum, established and designed by the artist, marked the culmination of his commitment to public spaces.

Noguchi received the Edward MacDowell Medal for Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to the Arts in 1982; the Kyoto Prize in Arts in 1986; the National Medal of Arts in 1987; and the Order of Sacred Treasure from the Japanese government in 1988.  He died in New York City in 1988.

The East-West House is a tribute to the artistic beginnings of this pioneering modern sculptor and designer. Written and illustrated by Christy Hale, the book tells the story of the boy who grew up to be the multifaceted artist Isamu Noguchi. Guided by his desire to enrich everyday life with art while bringing together Eastern and Western influences, Noguchi created a vast array of innovative sculptures, stage sets, furniture, and public spaces.

Purchase a copy of the book here.

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6. On Making and Using Book Lists - Considering A Recent Mighty Girl Book List

This blog recently celebrated its 9th anniversary. In nine years I've learned a lot about children's literature that I didn't know going in. I've also met, virtually and in person, a great number of very smart folks who review and share books with kids of all ages from all kinds of backgrounds.

I mention this background because I don't jump lightly into conversations that are uncomfortable and that point out shortcomings in books that have received praise elsewhere. Case in point, the recent Mighty Girl book list Celebrating Native American & Aboriginal Mighty Girls for Native American Heritage Month. While there are very positive books on this list, books that show a range of Native American identities and experiences, there are also books that perpetuate ugly stereotypes and misconceptions.

I don't consider myself an expert in this area, but I listen and try to learn. I spend time in my methods course reviewing books with students to help them understand that as both windows and mirrors to lived experience, books must accurately reflect social identities. We read An Updated Guide for Selecting Anti-Bias Children's Books by Louise Derman-Sparks and How to Tell the Difference: A Guide to Evaluating Children's Books for Anti-Indian Bias by Beverly Slapin, Doris Seale and Rosemary Gonzales. I send them to read blogs such as American Indians in Children's Literature, a blog written by Debbie Reese that reviews and critiques children's and young adult books about native peoples,  De Colores: The Raza Experience in Books for Children, a group blog that reviews and critique children's and young adult books about Raza peoples throughout the Diaspora, The Brown Bookshelf, a blog designed to push awareness of the myriad of African American voices writing for young readers, and others.

I have written a fair number of thematic booklists since the birth of this blog, though they all fall along the lines of science, math, and poetry. I am always excited to find lists written by others, hoping they will help me and my students find the best books for use in the classroom. I was excited to see the latest post from A Mighty Girl show up in my feed, but was disappointed when I looked critically at the list.

In order to move conversations forward about diversity in children's literature, we must be willing to listen to the voices from underrepresented groups when they tell us we're getting it wrong. We must be willing to set aside "classics" and old favorites when the information they present is inaccurate. Nowhere is this more problematic than when faced with a book sporting a Newbery,  Caldecott, or Printz sticker.

I so wanted to leave this feedback for the author of the list, Katherine Handcock, at the Mighty Girl site, but couldn't find a mechanism to do that. I appreciate all that A Mighty Girl does to empower girls and affirm their place in this world. However, this list contains titles that contain stereotypes and inaccuracies that could actually be harmful and less than empowering. I hope everyone who visits will read this list with a critical eye. Stop by American Indians in Children's Literature and check out some of the reviews Debbie Reese has posted or linked to for books on the list she does NOT recommend, such as Julie of the WolvesIsland of the Blue Dolphins, and Mama Do You Love Me?. While you are there, check out Debbie's list of Best Books.

I hope the folks at A Mighty Girl will reconsider this list and think about replacing some of these titles with books that will truly empower Native American & Aboriginal mighty girls.

For more on this, read Debbie Reese's letter to Katherine Handcock.

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7. The Green Bicycle - a review

The Green Bicycle by Haifaa Al Mansour
(Dial Books for Young Readers, 2015)

Eleven-year-old Wadjda lives with her parents in Saudi Arabia.  Lately, however, she's seen very little of her father. Rumor has it that he is seeking a second wife.  Because money is scarce and women are not permitted to drive, Wadjda's mother takes an hours-long cab ride each day to a remote village to teach school.  Covered in black from head to toe, she shares the ride (without air-conditioning) with other teachers - crammed in a dilapidated cab in the sweltering desert heat.  Wadjda, due to her young age and family's financial circumstances, has a special note that allows her to walk alone to school each day—but she longs to ride a bike like Abdullah.  She and Abdullah were once friends, but now that she is older, she is not permitted to fraternize with boys.

Wadjda, however, does not easily take "no" for an answer.  She rebels against the tedious rules of her girls-only school. Why shouldn't she be able to sell mix-tapes of Western musicians? She rebels against her mother and father. Why can't she play video games in her living room designated for men only. She rebels against the constraints of her culture. Why can't she talk to Abdullah if she wants to? And why can't a girl have a bicycle?  Despite the obstacles and consequences, Wadjda is determined to have her way.

     A lecture she'd heard in science class tickled her memory.  Again and again, her teacher had told them that dark colors absorb heat, while lighter colors reflect it back.  She ended the lesson my stating that this phenomenon was one of the miracles of the universe.  It proved there was one almighty God, Allah, and that he had created everything for a purpose.
     Beneath her hot black veil, Wadjda twisted her lips.  She wondered if people knew this scientific secret when the tribal code assigned black to women and white to men.  Maybe the real miracle of the universe was that she was able to walk home in Riyadh's sweltering afternoon sun without passing out!
     The boys were gone now.  Their bicycles moved like a flash around the corner.  Wadjda squinted into the dusty afternoon and continued slowly on her way.  As she walked, she pitched the stone Father had given her at various targetst— a can, a stick, a funny-colored brick on the side of a buildingt—thinking all the while about the different miracles of the universe.  It had taken so much to get her to this exact spot, at this exact moment.  So what was her purpose, now that she was here?
Wadjda is an endearing protagonist because, despite a setting that is foreign to the American reader, Wadjda is familiar to us.  She is just a girl like most girls—sometimes obedient, sometimes rebellious, sometimes remorseful, sometimes not.  To women and girls of the West, life as a female in Saudi Arabia seems oppressive, cruel, unfathomable. To a girl like Wadjda, it is just life—a life in which she must eke out moments of hope, happiness, and laughter.  Along with heartache, Haifaa Al Mansour has showed us those moments.

I've heard that the movie is phenomenal.  Whether by book or by movie, I urge you to know Wadjda's story, The Green Bicycle. I think you will love this spirited young girl.

Below is the trailer for the movie Wadjda, on which The Green Bicycle is based.
What makes this even more inspiring is that this movie, made in Saudi Arabia was written and directed by a woman, Haifaa Al Mansour, in a country without movie theaters and where women are not even supposed to be outside without a male relative. You can read highlights of an interview with Haifaa Al Mansour here: [http://www.npr.org/2013/09/22/224437165/wadjda-director-haifaa-al-mansour-it-is-time-to-open-up]

My copy of The Green Bicycle was provided by the publisher at my request.

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8. Building STEAM with Día in 2016!

Día: Diversity in ActionALSC is accepting proposals for the 2016 Building STEAM with Día mini-grants. To launch the yearlong celebration of Día turning 20, ALSC will award up to ten (10) libraries $2,000 each to implement a Building STEAM with Día program in their community. The project year for this grant is January 2016 through May 2016. This mini-grant opportunity is funded by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation through the Everyone Reads @ your library grant awarded to ALSC. For more information and to apply for the mini-grant, please visit http://www.ala.org/alsc/diaturns20.

ALSC President Andrew Medlar can attest to the importance of a culturally inclusive approach to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) programming, so he is “excited that ALSC is able to provide a second round of funding that will help libraries incorporate diversity into their STEAM efforts.”

Celebrating Día

The Building STEAM with Día program is part of the El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day) initiative, commonly known as Día. This nationally recognized initiative emphasizes the importance of literacy for all children from all backgrounds, and 2016 marks the 20th year of its observance. Día is a daily commitment to linking children and their families to diverse books, languages and cultures. This is the first of two funding opportunities that ALSC will offer this year to help libraries celebrate Día all year. ALSC also manages the National Día Program Registry to help libraries and community partners share information about their Día programs throughout the year.

The common goals of all Día programming are to: celebrate children and connect them to the world of learning through books, stories and libraries; recognize and respect culture, heritage and language as powerful tools for strengthening families and communities; nurture cognitive and literacy development in ways that honor and embrace a child’s home language and culture; and to introduce families to community resources that provide opportunities for learning through multiple literacies. For more information, visit http://dia.ala.org/.

Image courtesy of ALSC

The post Building STEAM with Día in 2016! appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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9. Help Save a Life At Our Bone Marrow Registry Drive in NYC

Bone Marrow Donor Drive

We’re excited to share that we will be partnering with local businesses, organizations, and community members for a bone marrow donor registry drive this Saturday, November 21 from 2pm to 4 pm at La Casa Azul Bookstore in East Harlem, New York City. 

The drive will highlight an issue of major importance within the multiracial community: the lack of bone marrow donor matches. For patients diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma and other life-threatening diseases, a bone marrow transplant may be their best or only hope for a cure. Yet 70% of patients who need a transplant to do not have a matched donor in their family, and for multiracial people, finding a match can be especially hard.

That’s because bone marrow donors must be extremely genetically similar to recipients. As this Time Magazine article explains,

Compared to organ transplants, bone marrow donations need to be even more genetically similar to their recipients. Though there are exceptions, the vast majority of successful matches take place between donors and patients of the same ethnic background. Since all the immune system’s cells come from bone marrow, a transplant essentially introduces a new immune system to a person. Without genetic similarity between the donor and the patient, the new white blood cells will attack the host body. In an organ transplant, the body can reject the organ, but with marrow, the new immune system can reject the whole body.

Because Caucasians make up the majority of people in the donor registry, Caucasian patients often have the best chance of finding a match. Chances for patients from other ethnicities can be as low as one in four. But chances for multiracial patients are often the lowest of all, with only 3% of registered donors self-identifying as multiracial or mixed race.

Becoming a potential bone marrow donor is quick and easy: all it involves is a simple cheek swab. Donors are then added to the bone marrow registry database–the larger the database, the more likely that every patient can find a match.

If you’re in or near New York City, we hope you will come out and join us! Here are the details:

Saturday, November 21, 2015
2pm – 4 pm

La Casa Azul Bookstore
143 E. 103rd Street
New York, NY 10029

The first 50 donors will receive a multiracial crayon pack in appreciation for their support!

About the Sponsors:

Be the Match has a registry of nearly 12.5 million volunteers ready to be life-saving bone marrow donors. Because there are patients who can’t find a match, Be the Match encourages more people to join the registry and to be there when they are called as a match.

Project RACE advocates for multiracial children, multiracial adults, and their families primarily through education and community awareness. It supports policies that make a positive impact on people of multiracial heritage at local, state, and national levels. Project RACE is active in the effort to find bone marrow donors for multiracial people and sponsors countless donor registry drives throughout the United States.

La Casa Azul Bookstore is an independent community bookstore located in East Harlem that seeks to raise community awareness and political consciousness on issues affecting East Harlem residents.

Lee & Low Books is the largest multicultural children’s book publisher in the country. It is also one of the few minority-owned publishing companies in the United States.

Alex Barnett is a comic and writer from New York City. He also is the host of the podcast Multiracial Family Man that explores issues of concern to multiracial people and families.

Bryony Sutherland and Sarah Ratliff, authors of the book Being Biracial: Where Our Secret Worlds Collide, a collection of stories about what it means to be more than one ethnicity.

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10. Thursday Review: THE WAY BACK FROM BROKEN by Amber J. Keyser

Summary: Full disclosure: Amber Keyser is an author I met at a past KidLitCon; her editor Andrew Karre at Carolrhoda Lab I also know from KidLitCon (a different one) and I'm in contact with both of them online. They sent me my review copy of The Way... Read the rest of this post

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11. Should I Read or Ditch: SOUNDLESS by Richelle Mead

I was really excited to read SOUNDLESS. I had never read a book by Richelle Mead before, and I've only heard amazing things about her writing. However, I'm having a really hard time getting into this book. Is it just me? Is this her normal writing? Not that it's bad! It's just so slow! The story sounds really interesting on the outside. I love that she's writing something that hasn't

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12. Is Staff Diversity Training Worth It?

diversity102-logoRecently, we sent a number of LEE & LOW staff members from different departments to an “Undoing Racism” workshop, held by the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond. The People’s Institute is an organization that “is a national and international collective of anti-racist, multicultural community organizers and educators dedicated to building an effective movement for social transformation.” The workshop, jointly taught by a white leader and a leader of color, was a three-day intensive that covered everything from a history of race and racism to the power dynamics at play today in various systems. Participants were encouraged to reflect on their own experiences and identities, as well as to listen deeply as others shared.

We decided to do this workshop because even with LEE & LOW’s focus on diverse books, we felt that our staff would benefit from specific training in anti-racism concepts.  “Even though Lee & Low’s mission is to address the lack of representation of marginalized groups through publishing diverse books, the workshop hammers home how deep institutional racism goes,” said publisher Jason Low. “The intimate setting also makes issues of racism more personal. Instead of reading about racism in the paper or online you are hearing firsthand experiences, from a person sitting three feet from where you are sitting.”


The recent problems found in books like A Fine Dessert and The Hired Girl, along with long-standing problems in publishing in general, indicate that now more than ever, publishing staffs need diversity training. While the burden of mistakes can be placed on the author and illustrator, in truth publishers share an equal part of the responsibility in making sure that the books they produce are accurate and do not reinforce harmful stereotypes.

Racial insensitivity and stereotypes making it past the editorial process are expensive mistakes–in terms of both cost and impact–but they are avoidable. Below is our staff’s reaction to the workshop, plus a follow-up meeting we held in-house. Our plan is to hold monthly meetings on racism and diversity moving forward. (Note: Answers have been condensed and edited for length.)

1. What did you learn that you did not know before attending the workshop?

Stacy Whitman, Editorial: I didn’t know some of the history before. For example, I knew about indentured servitude (I actually had a couple ancestors who were indentured), but I didn’t realize the way that indentured labor and slavery were wedged against each other, and the way whiteness was created out of that time period. I had known that church had been used as a way to keep slaves in line, and I had known about slave rebellions, but hadn’t realized how those pieces fit together with indentured servitude and creation of a status of whiteness.undoing-caption1

Jessica Echeverria, Editorial: One of the biggest takeaways was how the deeply-entrenched history of racism in this country is never really taught in school. This was clear from some of the participants’ reaction in learning that race was a social construct. I think back to my own education growing up in Florida, and the topics of race and racism were not examined until I was in college. And even then, they were courses I elected to take and not required for all students. So yes, racism stems from ignorance, but we should be aware that this ignorance was purposeful.

Hannah Ehrlich, Marketing: One of the main things that the workshop showed me was that having open conversations about race is just really, really hard – and rarely do we white people get it right the first time. While I had thought about white privilege before, I hadn’t really thought much about the internalized superiority that white people have absorbed over generations and generations. Because of that, even when we want to be allies, often racial conversations end up with us in a defensive stance, trying to define why we are “good” white people instead of accepting our own complicity in an unfair system and spending our time listening. Conversations that center whiteness are the default, and it takes a lot of hard work to move past that. It was moving to see this play out over the course of three days, and definitely made me more aware of how, as a white person invested in racial justice, I can be a better ally by letting go of the need to define myself as “not racist.”

undoing-caption2Louise May, Editorial: There was a good presentation of theories on the origins of institutional racism. I had not before seen the information put together this way. It was quite impactful.

Jill Eisenberg, Literacy & Sales: The workshop and follow-up discussions with my colleagues have encouraged me to examine how adults present history and historical people/groups to children. Much of the workshop was spent exposing the historical narrative of America as racist and capitalistic. I was particularly disturbed about the lack of recognition and respect Native peoples had (and have). Our presenters showed us that this explicit invisibility is even written into our Constitution (Article 1, Section 2).

Rebecca Garcia, Marketing: The facilitators asked the group how many of us were gatekeepers. I had to think about it for a moment before I raised my hand. Having never thought of myself as a person with power, it was shocking to discover that I am a gatekeeper. Before that, I thought of editors as gatekeepers. After all, they’re the ones who decide what books to acquire. But since I regularly disseminate all kinds of information through social media, of course I’m a gatekeeper. Information is power.

Veronica Schneider, Literacy & Sales: Being in literacy & sales and working at a diverse children’s publisher, I think I was aware of my role as a gatekeeper. Reflecting in the workshop, however, showed me just how strong of a gatekeeper position I maintain. I choose what kind of information reaches others-from educators to children-as I develop questions and activities for our teacher guides and carefully align Lee & Low books to schools’ curricula. Conversations with educators may begin with them sharing their needs in terms of thematic units or student reading levels, but then I take that information and decide which books would ultimately work best for various academic and social-emotional reasons. Diversity is certainly an issue that is close to our hearts here at Lee & Low, but how we approach and communicate this information to others is different based on your department and on an individual basis.

undoing-caption3Additionally, the systemic nature of racism is a powerful concept that although I was aware of, is all the more apparent once analyzed in depth. Tracing the roots of racism to highlight the gaping holes in our knowledge in history was both eye opening and frustrating. Why aren’t we being taught this in schools? Why aren’t we openly having these discussions?

Keilin Huang, Marketing: The idea of being a “gatekeeper” really resonated with me. The LEE & LOW Facebook page has over 7,300+ likes, and whenever I post anything, I’m choosing and determining what those 7,300+ people will see. It was a realization of power that I had never thought about in-depth, and it’s a tool to use in the undoing of racism.

2. How will you apply what you have learned from the workshop to your job at Lee & Low?

Stacy, Editorial: Editorially, I’m continuing to interrogate my biases and assumptions. Thinking about further ways I can include voices of color in the projects I work on, and continuing to seek out more authors of color. Thinking about how I contribute to systemic bias, and how I can counteract it.

Jessica, Editorial: Further inspired by the workshop, I plan to continue working on books that will hopefully fill in the gaps of what’s not being taught in school. I keep thinking about Texas and the new textbooks that have whitewashed parts of US history.

Hannah, Marketing: The workshop has definitely made me more undoing-caption4aware of my own whiteness, and how that affects the dynamics among our staff, with our authors and illustrators, and with other people we work with. It has encouraged me to examine my own culture and the lens through which I see the world – what am I missing? What am I not getting? Because I work in marketing and publicity, a big part of my job involves communication, and it’s worth exploring how racial dynamics affect that communication. Are we using language that reinforces institutionalized racism?  Am I being a good ally personally, and is Lee & Low being a good ally as a company? These are all things that are important for us to consider in our work.

Louise, Editorial: The workshop reinforced my commitment to the need to acquire diverse stories that accurately represent stories from an insider point of view.

Jill, Literacy Specialist: We at Lee & Low Books publish and offer many books by and about Native peoples. It is critical to show that Native peoples aren’t just “were,” but also “are.” Our students need to read stories about and by Native peoples in recent times, not just suspended in a simplistic time capsule whether a folktale without additional background knowledge and proper context or a “by the way” side blurb in a history textbook. As I work closely with schools and organizations serving children, I want to make sure that the books we do have get in front of students before they internalize and perpetuate racist views on American history. These topics need to start early and often.

Veronica, Literacy & Sales: When speaking to schools, educators, teachers, nonprofits, and other organizations, we need to make sure to not only consider their requests and needs but to be clear/open about the different ways in which our titles can enrich + open their world.  I need to keep stressing the importance of windows + mirrors concept in my work. This means showing non-diverse (mostly white) schools that diverse books have a place there, too.

Keilin, Marketing: One of the leaders said that as advocates of eradicating racism, everyone needs to constantly question the institution of racism. Even with little or no knowledge of something, supporters of undoing racism seek out information and learn as much as they can about a certain institution. They ask questions. They listen. As someone who works in children’s book publishing and has a means of reaching thousands of people every day, this really struck a chord with me. People who want to undo racism don’t always claim to be experts, rather they are proactive in their fight. They don’t stand off to the side and hope that things will magically be fixed. It takes effort, as all of us at LEE & LOW know, and that is something I will continue to strive to do both at work and personally.

3. What do you hope to continue to learn about and explore in post-workshop meetings with fellow Lee & Low staff?

undoing-caption5Stacy, Editorial: How to know what I don’t know, and how to share that knowledge with others in a way that they’ll listen. I guess this has been my quest, editorially, all along, but the process of the workshop in particular was interesting because while it was emotionally draining, everyone in the room was listening. Everyone was participating (even the slightly weird woman who wouldn’t shut up) and working through their resistance. There was a range of resistance, of course, but the process worked to get people talking and listening.

This applies to how marketing is already thinking about audience with social media and other sales channels—who we need to discuss the importance of diversity with before introducing our books.

Jessica, Editorial: I’m excited to see how our discussion will produce new and valuable content for our readers.

Hannah, Marketing: I look forward to talking more in the future with staff members about challenges we face in our respective departments. How does editorial handle a historical manuscript that uses language we deem problematic? How does sales handle administrators who don’t think their students would be interested in diverse books? Discussing these challenges as a company will help make us stronger and more aware of the issues that we face in our work, and it will allow us to develop company-wide policies to address difficult questions.

Louise, Editorial: It would be interesting to discuss what we can do to move ourselves further to toward being a “Fully Inclusive” institution.

Veronica, Literacy & Sales: Increase the sharing of articles and books about racism. Come up with ways to address problems that are occurring in the news/present day and how Lee & Low can be part of the solution.


Has your company undergone staff diversity training? If so, we’d love to hear about what worked and what didn’t in the comments section below.

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13. DREAM THINGS TRUE by Marie Marquardt }} Not what I was hoping for

Review by Leydy DREAM THINGS TRUEby Marie MarquardtHardcover: 352 pagesPublisher: St. Martin's Griffin (September 1, 2015)Language: EnglishGoodreads | Amazon Evan and Alma have spent fifteen years living in the same town, connected in a dozen different ways but also living worlds apart -- until the day he jumps into her dad's truck and slams on the brakes. The nephew of a senator, Evan

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14. Simmons College and LEE & LOW BOOKS Establish New Scholarship

Simmons College logoAs our readers know, LEE & LOW BOOKS focuses on publishing books that are about everyone, for everyone. Our books feature a diverse range of characters and cultures, and we strive to work with and publish authors of color with our New Voices Award and New Visions Award.

This is why we’re very excited to announce a new partnership with Simmons College. We have teamed up with The Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College and established a scholarship to increase diversity in the world of children’s literature. The new Lee & Low and Friends Scholarship will provide opportunities for students of color to enroll in the most prestigious children’s literature graduate program in the United States.

The scholarship initiative is a partnership between two organizations committed to diversity in children’s literature. LEE & LOW BOOKS is the largest multicultural children’s book publisher in the country and a leader in the movement for more diversity in the publishing industry. The graduate programs in children’s literature at Simmons College are dedicated to bringing a wide range of voices into books for children and young adults, and to providing students access to careers that diversify the field of children’s literature.

“Lee & Low is excited to be partnering with Simmons College to provide a meaningful way to address one of the most challenging obstacles in bringing more equity to publishing: the pipeline problem,” says Jason Low, publisher of LEE & LOW BOOKS.

Unpaid internships and costly graduate programs, combined with low entry-level salaries, are significant barriers for many hoping to work in publishing. The Lee & Low and Friends Scholarship will support students for whom the traditional entrances to publishing remain closed, and thus create a pathway for diverse graduate students to positions in which they can influence what and how children’s literature is created.

The $100,000 scholarship fund was created through donations from LEE & LOW BOOKS and Simmons College alumni. The first recipients will be chosen for fall 2016. “Children’s Literature at Simmons welcomes this collaboration with Lee & Low as we team up to create venues of access that lead to lasting change,” says Cathryn M. Mercier, Director of the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons. For more information, contact childrensliterature@simmons.edu.


ABOUT THE CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF CHILDREN’S LITERATURE AT SIMMONS COLLEGE: Established in 1977, the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature supports the advancement of the study of children’s and young adult literature through nationally recognized partnerships and graduate programs, including the nation’s
first Master of Arts in Children’s Literature and Master of Fine Arts: Writing for Children, as well as several innovative dual degree options. To learn more, visit simmons.edu/academics/graduate-programs/childrens-literature-ma.

ABOUT LEE & LOW BOOKS: Established in 1991, LEE & LOW BOOKS is the largest children’s book publisher in the United States specializing in diversity. Under several imprints, the company provides a comprehensive range of notable diverse books for beginning readers through young adults. Visit leeandlow.com to learn more.

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15. “¿Qué es deportar?”: Teaching from Students’ Lives

Guest BloggerWe at LEE & LOW BOOKS believe that high-quality bilingual books help build a solid foundation to achieve literacy in any language while affirming and validating a child’s identity, culture, and home language. We are so excited and honored to share this one educator’s example of why books featuring characters like her students belong in her classroom and curriculum.

In this guest post, Sandra L. Osorio describes using books that captured her students’ bilingual and bicultural experiences. An elementary bilingual teacher for eight years, Osorio is now an assistant professor at Illinois State University. This article originally appeared in Rethinking Schools magazine, and is cross-posted here with permission. Article is also available in Spanish from Rethinking Schools.


I was sitting around a kidney-shaped table with Alejandra, Juliana, and Lucia, 2nd graders who had chosen to read Del Norte al Sur (From North to South) by René Colato Laínez. I read the book’s introduction out loud, which included the word deportado (deported). I asked my students: “¿Qué es deportar? ¿Ustedes saben qué significa?” (What is deported? Do you know what it means?) Lucia looked straight at me and said, “Como a mi tío lo deportaron”. (Like my uncle, they deported him.)

For an inclusive bilingual classroomOur class was part of a developmental bilingual program with all native Spanish speakers. I had introduced literature discussions the previous year when I had the same students in 1st grade, but now I was carefully choosing books with themes I thought would resonate with my students’ lives, including the complexities of being bilingual and bicultural. In Del Norte al Sur, José desperately misses his mother, who has been deported to Tijuana because she doesn’t have the right papers to be in the United States. I knew that some of my students were also missing members of their families. One student’s father had been deported back to Mexico and he had not seen him in years. Another student’s father had separated from her mother and moved to a city more than three hours away. I hoped these two students would connect with José’s problems and begin to talk about their feelings. I soon learned that many other students shared similar feelings and experiences.

Although immigration is passionately debated in the media, it is an issue often ignored in schools, even though it’s central to the lived experiences of Latina/o children—even those born in the United States. This was something I didn’t realize until I created space for students’ lives in the curriculum.

I originally decided to teach bilingual students because of the struggles I had faced as a bilingual child myself. I attended a bilingual (Spanish-English) preschool, but when my parents enrolled me in a private, English-only kindergarten, they were told to immediately stop speaking Spanish to me because it would “confuse me.” This was surprising to my parents—I had not even entered the classroom yet. My parents made the decision to continue to speak Spanish in our household; they wanted me to be able to communicate with our extended family in Colombia. I am grateful for this decision because it allowed me to grow up bilingual and maintain ties to my bicultural heritage.

At school, I don’t remember ever reading a story with a main character who was bilingual or bicultural. Because Latina/o culture and people were invisible in the curriculum, I felt I had to keep my Spanish language knowledge at home and hidden from my teachers and classmates.

I did not want another generation of students to feel like I did. I wanted to help students build and nurture their cultural and linguistic pride. I wanted to make sure that bilingual students were held to the same high expectations as other students. And I wanted them to understand that they did not have to give up their home language to be successful.

So I fulfilled my dream and became a teacher. All of my students were emergent bilinguals who spoke Spanish as their home language and were born in the United States, many in the same town where our school is located. Of my 20 students, 16 were of Mexican descent, three were Guatemalan, and one child had one Guatemalan parent and one Mexican parent.

Bilingual Isn’t Necessarily Bicultural

Our program was supposed to be one of academic enrichment, using both the students’ native language and English for academic instruction. The primary goal was development of biliteracy. In 2nd grade, 70 percent of the school day was to be in Spanish and 30 percent in English. But since 3rd graders in the program were not “making benchmark” on state tests, I was pressured to introduce more English in my 2nd-grade classroom.

For the first couple of years I was a rule follower. I implemented the exact curriculum passed down from the administration without question, including the required language arts curriculum. It was a scripted basal reader program—the exact same one used by the non-bilingual classrooms—only it had been translated into Spanish. Each week we read a story from an anthology and worked on the particular reading skill dictated by the manual.

Diversity Gap in Children's Books Infographic 2015
Diversity Gap in Children’s Books Infographic 2015 – click for larger image

This was convenient for me as a beginning teacher because it is challenging to find quality texts in Spanish. According to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, of an estimated 5,000 children’s books published in the United States in 2014, only 66 were about Latinas/os. At least, I told myself, my students were reading in their native language on a daily basis.

Yet I began noticing that my students were not seeing themselves in the stories we read. The basal reader had more than 20 different stories, but only one that included a Latina/o-looking individual, and nowhere in the story did it talk about any of the complexities of being a bilingual or bicultural child.

My students were learning to read in Spanish that had been translated from the English, with texts that were Latina/o-culture free. The basal reader conveyed a clear message: Diverse experiences don’t matter. Every student was treated the same, given the same story to read, and taught the same skills. There was no differentiation. There was no mirror. There was no joy.

I began to question whether what I was doing was in the best interests of my students. I realized that I had to be the one to advocate for them.

I decided to bring in more literature written by Latina/o authors about Latina/o children. I began to compile a list of books by award-winning authors on such lists as the Pura Belpré, the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award, and the Américas Award. I also looked for additional books by authors I already knew: Alma Flor Ada, Gloria Anzaldúa, and René Colato Laínez. In addition to Del Norte al Sur, the books I chose included La superniña del cilantro, by Juan Felipe Herrera; Esperando a Papá, by René Colato Laínez; Prietita y la llorona, by Gloria Anzaldúa; and Pepita habla dos veces, by Ofelia Dumas Lachtman.

The greatest challenge I faced was getting multiple copies of the books I wanted my students to read in small groups. To clear this roadblock, I applied for and received a grant to purchase books. I also borrowed copies from colleagues and scoured the shelves of multiple public libraries around the area. One way or the other, I was able to get four to five copies of each book.

I centered the literature discussion groups around four themes: Family, Cultural Stories, Language, and English. For each theme, I gave students four or five titles to choose from. I started each unit by giving a book talk in which I shared a few passages from each of the book choices. Then I gave students time to browse through the books and fill out a ballot ranking their top choices. Each group of literature discussions was five days long, including two days of preparation and three days of group discussion that I facilitated. Students prepared for discussions by reading the story and marking the book with sticky notes. They used the sticky notes so they would remember what they wanted to say in the discussion group. To help with that process, I gave them a sheet with sentence starters.

When our classroom shifted from basal-based reading instruction to literature-based discussions, I noticed an immediate change in my students. They were more engaged in the stories. Through the personal connections they shared, I learned new things about them and their families. Our literature discussion groups became a place where we came together and shared our joys and the difficulties we were going through. It became a place where we learned that we were not alone, and that the curriculum could be a space for reflecting and holding our own experiences. Students who had been labeled with “low proficiency” in reading on the benchmark test at the beginning of the school year were often the ones talking the most during the discussions. Our conversations helped them feel more comfortable, see themselves in the curriculum, and explore their multiple identities. They were acquiring the tools and space to unpack complex issues in their lives.

Making Space for Students’ Fears

In Del Norte al Sur, one of the books in our Family theme, we read about José going with his father to Tijuana to visit his mother, who is staying in a women’s shelter while she tries to assemble the documents to return to the United States. José, who lives in San Diego, is able to go visit his mother on the weekends and help her with the garden at the shelter; his father pays for a lawyer to process the paperwork. Although the situation is challenging for José and his parents, it is far milder than the reality of most individuals who are deported. Most children are not able to see members of their families who have been deported for extended periods of time. Many who are deported are never able to return to the United States.

Even though the story wasn’t a perfect match to my students’ own experiences, they started making personal connections to the text. When Lucia shared that her uncle had been deported, I asked her to explain what that meant. “Es cuando la policía para a una persona y les toman los fingerprintes y después se fija en una máquina si los deportan o no, pero deportar significa que los van a mandar a México”. (It’s when the police stop someone, take their fingerprints, and look on a machine to see if they will deport them or not, but deporting means they send them to Mexico.)

Although I was excited that my students were discussing this topic and I asked questions to further the conversation, I wanted to make sure I didn’t push them into an uncomfortable or upsetting space. I paid close attention to everyone, looking for cues about how they were feeling. My ultimate goal in the introduction of these literature discussions was to get my students to develop their critical thinking skills, but first I had to make sure they felt safe enough to share their stories. Before we began the literature discussions, we had developed community norms. Two of our norms were “we feel safe” and “we respect and listen to others.” When we created and reviewed the norms, my students and I talked about not making fun of each other, not laughing at individuals who were sharing, and not interrupting.

When Lucia shared her uncle’s story, it opened up a group discussion. Alejandra told us about a time her father was stopped by the police while they were driving to a nearby city. She also told us about a time her family was driving and her mother spotted a police officer. Her mother said, “Bájense porque ahí está la policía y qué tal si nos detiene”. (Get down because the police are there and what if they stop us.) Alejandra demonstrated how she slouched down in her chair. Her mother told Alejandra and her sisters, “No escuchen lo que está diciendo el policía”. (Don’t listen to what the police officer says.) Alejandra said, “Entonces no escuchamos”. (So we didn’t listen.) As Alejandra talked, we just listened. I made sure not to ask questions because I wanted to allow Alejandra the opportunity to share just as much as she wanted to.

Staying silent took lots of practice. I was so accustomed to jumping in and guiding my students in a particular direction. The pressures I felt to cover the curriculum and raise test scores made me want to push my students along at a faster pace. I had to change that mentality. I wanted my students to do most of the talking because I wanted to open up space for their lives. I didn’t want them to feel judged. I wanted our discussions to be a place where they felt safe discussing any topic. Too often, I found my students waiting for me to speak so they could agree and repeat what I said. I wanted to move away from the idea that teachers were the only ones with answers. My students had important things to share. I wanted them to realize that their experiences could help us understand each other and the book.

Alejandra finished her story by saying that the police officer followed them home and talked again to her father when they arrived. She explained that she and her younger sister were born in the United States, so they are allowed to stay, but her parents and older sister don’t have this advantage. If they are stopped again by the police or ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement), her family might be split apart. I had never seen her so vulnerable.

I turned to Juliana and asked if she had anything she wanted to share, or if she knew anyone who had been deported. She fidgeted with her hands, staring at the table, before looking up and saying “Sí, mi papá”. (Yes, my dad.) Lucia nodded. “Oh, sí, ella ya nos contó la historia”. (Oh, yes, she already told us the story.)

Taking Time to Listen

At one point in our discussions Lucia announced, “No me gustan los Estados Unidos para nada.” (I don’t like the United States at all.)

This caught me off guard. “¿Por qué?” (Why?)

Lucia said that here in the United Stated she felt enclosed, but in Mexico she was free to go outside every day.

Alejandra added, “Mi mamá dice que no le gusta aquí”. (My mom says she doesn’t like it here.) She told us about a lady who helped her mother fill out some paperwork and told her mom to call her if she ever got stopped by the police. The lady told Alejandra’s mom that the police had gotten harder and that they didn’t want people from Mexico. They wanted to deport everyone.

Lucia jumped in. “Sí, están mostrando mucho de eso en Primer Impacto, que tratan de sacar a los mexicanos”. (Yes, on First Impact, they are showing lots of that, that they are trying to get rid of the Mexicans.) Primer Impacto is a popular Spanish-language, daily news program. My students were watching the media alongside their parents. This is where they were getting a lot of their information about the current political context in the United States, including hostility toward immigrants, harsh deportation policies, and family separations.

Although I felt pressure to keep the students reading and to move things along so that they could answer specific questions about the text, I resisted the temptation and asked, “¿Cómo se sienten ustedes con eso, ustedes siendo mexicanos y americanos?” (How do you feel about this, being both Mexican and American?)

Alejandra answered: “Yo me siento mal ser mexicana y americana porque mi mamá dice que si la van a deportar que no sabe a quién llevarse, porque le toca llevarse a Perla pero puede dejar a mi hermana y a mí. Y dice mi mamá que si llegan a pararla, que puede que ya nunca la veamos”. (I feel bad being Mexican and American because my mom says that if they are going to deport her, she won’t know who to take because she’ll have to take Perla, but can leave my sister and me. And my mom says if they stop her, we might never see her again.)

Hearing Alejandra talk this way made me extremely sad. Why did a child this young have to deal with issues normally reserved for adults? When I was growing up, I didn’t realize my parents were undocumented. They had overstayed the tourist visas they used to enter the United States, but I only learned about it when I was 10 years old and my parents became U.S. citizens. Both of my parents were given amnesty under the Immigrant Reform and Control Act of 1986 signed by President Reagan. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like to worry about my parents possibly not coming home.

My students’ narratives shed light on the complex lived experiences they navigate on a daily basis. On the one hand, they want to be in Mexico or Guatemala with their extended families; on the other hand, they know how hard their parents are working to stay here. As a child, I had many of the same contradictory feelings. My entire family, other than my parents and brother, were in Colombia. I felt like I didn’t belong here in the United States. At the end of one trip to Colombia, I cried and begged my father to leave me there to continue school. He said no, that there were more opportunities for me in the United States, but I’m not sure he realized the impact of the fact that none of my teachers or classmates acknowledged the difficulty of being in a learning environment that ignored and devalued my language and culture.

Embracing Complexity

While Lucia, Juliana, and Alejandra were reading Del Norte al Sur, the other literature groups were reading La superniña del cilantro and Esperando a Papá. (So many students wanted to read La superniña del cilantro, we ended up with two groups working with that book.) Both of these books also raised issues of family separation and the border.

1. Recognize that bilingual isn't necessarily biculturalStudents in the group reading Esperando a Papá told personal stories about family members crossing the border. One day, I explained that, according to the U.S. government, it’s against the law to cross the border without the right documents. I asked them what they thought about that—was it a fair law? Was it OK to break that law? Camila said, “Mi mamá y mi papá nomás cruzaron, porque querían a lo mejor ver lo que estaba aquí, pero si tú matas a alguien y te vas entonces eso es como no seguir la ley”. (My mom and dad only crossed because maybe they wanted to see what was over here, but if you kill someone and then you leave, then that’s not following the law.) Camila was talking back to the dominant discourse that says it is “wrong” to cross the border without papers and expressing a more complex view of the moral issues involved.

When I brought up the same question to the whole class, the children saw both positive and negative aspects to crossing the border illegally. In terms of positive aspects, they knew and retold stories about family members coming over to find a better life or get a better job. But many of them experienced the constant fear of family members being deported, and they had heard stories about hardships in crossing the border. For example, one child said her female cousin had to cut her hair like a boy for fear of being hurt as she tried to cross over. When Eduardo talked about how hard it was for his dad to climb over the fence, Carlos looked confused. I pulled out my iPad and showed the class pictures of the fence along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Together, we read stories about immigrants to the United States from other parts of the world and the difficulties they faced, including In English, of Course, by Josephine Nobisso;I Hate English!, by Ellen Levine; and No English, by Jacqueline Jules. I wanted my students to understand that they shared experiences with people from other cultures, places, and times. I wanted them to see the injustices and prejudice they faced as part of a bigger pattern of power and marginalization. I tried to help them better understand these aspects by connecting them directly to the stories they shared.

For example, one day Camila told us about a conflict she and Lucia had during recess with English-speaking students from another class. Camila and Lucia were playing on top of the play structure when two girls started pushing them and calling them names. Camila said she told them “That’s not right,” but they continued. Then, Camila told us, “Yo le dije a Lucia en español que mejor nos vayamos de ahí y nos fuimos.” (I told Lucia, in Spanish, that it would be better if we left and we did.) After we gave Lucia and Camila support, we talked about the lack of integration between the bilingual students and non-bilingual students at the school. We discussed what they could do to make friends from other classrooms.

Soon these conversations influenced my planning across content areas. I realized I had to make space for students’ stories beyond literature discussions—in writing, math, and social studies. In social studies, for example, students and their parents became experts as we studied their home countries.

My students’ stories were different from my own. Lucia’s, Juliana’s, Alejandra’s, Eduardo’s, and Camila’s stories have similarities, but also differences. I realized the importance of not grouping all Latina/o narratives into one stereotypical box. Giving my students voice and exposing them to a range of multicultural literature gave us the opportunity to dig deeper and see broader vistas.


  • Get 30% Off Magazine Subscriptions Purchased on Rethinking Schools Magazine Website with Discount Code: LLJ15 (discount taken at checkout!)
  • Buy From North to South/Del Norte al Sur
  • Browse bilingual Spanish/English books on the web and in our catalog from LEE & LOW
  • Teacher’s Guide for From North to South/Del Norte al Sur by LEE & LOW

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16. Guest Column: I’ve had it with The Walking Dead over how it portrays Black men

by Thaddeus Howze [Editor’s note: There’s been a lot of controversy over how The Walking Dead treats its non-white characters. While I was impressed with the number of people of color in the cast, they haven’t always survived the zombie apocalypse in heroic fashion. But everyone dies in a zombie apocalypse, you may say. I […]

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17. 5 Reasons Why Books with Characters of Diversity Are Important

I’m optimistic that, through literature that explores and celebrates diversity, all kids will be able to comfortably go on any adventure with any character to anywhere.

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18. Thirteen Scary YA Books: Diverse Edition



Thirteen Scary YA Books (diverse edition) This post was originally posted October 14, 2014.

Halloween is right around the corner. There’s no better way to celebrate than by reading books that will scare you to pieces! Here’s a lucky thirteen list of our favorites (all featuring diverse characters or by diverse authors):

  1. Half WorldHalf World by Hiromi Goto – Melanie Tamaki lives with her mother in abject poverty. Then, her mother disappears. Melanie must journey to the mysterious Half World to save her.
  2. Vodnik by Bryce Moore – Sixteen-year-old Tomas moves back to Slovakia with his family and discovers the folktales of his childhood were more than just stories.
  3. The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa – Allie Sekemoto survives by scavenging for food by day. She hates the vampires who keep humans like cattle for their food. Until the day she dies and wakes up as a vampire.
  4. Liar by Justine Larbalestier – Micah is a liar; it’s the only thing she’ll tell you the truth about. But when her boyfriend Zach is murdered, the whole truth has to come out.
  5. Battle Royale by Koushan Takami – A group of junior high school students are sent to an island and forced to fight to the death until only one of them survives.
  6. Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall – Odilia and her sisters discover a Wolf Mark coverdead man’s body while swimming in the Rio Grande. They journey across Mexico to return his body in this Odyssey-inspired tale.
  7. Devil’s Kiss by Sarwat Chadda – Zombies, ghouls, and vampires all make appearances in the story of Bilquis SanGreal, the youngest and only female member of the Knights Templar.
  8. Panic by Sharon Draper – Diamond knows better than to get into a car with a stranger. But when the stranger offers her the chance to dance in a movie, Diamond makes a very wrong decision.
  9. Ten by Gretchen McNeil – Ten teens head to a secluded island for an exclusive party…until people start to die. A modern YA retelling of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.
  10. Wolf Mark by Joseph Bruchac – Inspired by the Abenaki skinwalker legend, this YA thriller is Burn Notice with werewolves.
  11. The Girl From The WellThe Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco – A dead girl roams the streets, hunting murders. A strange tattooed boy moves to the neighborhood with a deadly secret.
  12. 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad –  Three teenagers win the vacation of a lifetime: a week-long trip to the moon. But something sinister is waiting for them in the black vacuum of space.
  13. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake – Cas Lowood is a ghost hunter, called to Thunder Bay, Ontario to get rid of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, who has killed every person who has stepped foot in the house she haunts.

What else would you add to the list?

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19. Harassment and what you can do about it, NYCC edition

Last week, the cartoonist Julia Wertz wrote about the street and online harassment she’s received in recent years, and the disparate response to it: A lot of men responded by asking me if I was okay, which, don’t get me wrong, was sweet and very much appreciated, and I know they were just looking out […]

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20. Recap: Diversity at New York Comic Con

This past weekend, we noticed an unusual number of superheroes, cosplayers, and characters from our favorite TV shows flooding thesubways, buses, and streets of New York City. Did we unknowingly fall into an alternate universe?

Turns out that it was just New York Comic Con, the annual pop culture phenomenon dedicated to comics, graphic novels, anime, video games, movies, and television. The first convention was held in 2006 and it has continued to grow steadily over the past several years, bringing an ever-growing number of comics and pop-culture fans to New York City. And not only has Comic Con continued to grow, but so has programming dedicated to issues of diversity and diverse creators. We were lucky enough to get a pass for LEE & LOW staff. Below, three staff members share their highlights from the show:

new york comic con 2015

Keilin, Marketing and Publicity Associate

Oh Comic Con. What a crazy event to go to, but definitely worth every minute!

I went to a Geeks of Color Meetup, hosted by Diana Pho (editor, Tor Books), and featuring Shelley Diaz (editor, School Library Journal), and author Melissa Grey (The Girl At Midnight). It was great to mingle with other “geeks” and to get to know Diana and Shelley.

Sailor Moon at the Geeks of Color Meetup

The greatest thing about the Meetup was seeing the diversity in the room. There was one group of people that I joined that was talking about the new Star Wars movie coming out, and it didn’t matter that we were all from different backgrounds because we all could geek out about something we were all collectively excited for. Diana often hosts these types of meetups for people of color, and if anyone is interested, you can contact her on her website, Beyond Victoriana.

After the Geeks of Color Meetup, I booked it over to the Asian American Comics and Creators panel, which unfortunately was full. On the positive side, that just meant that there was a full house to participate in a discussion on Asian Americans in the comic book industry. While the depictions of Asian Americans in comic books has improved, there is more that can still be done.

The thing I like most about conventions like these is that it shows you the wide spectrum of people within fandoms, whether it’s seeing a black Wonder Woman or an Asian Peggy Carter. Nerding out is for everyone!

Rebecca, Marketing and Publicity Assistant

Thanks to things like the We Need Diverse Books campaign, diversity has been on people’s minds more than ever before. Last year, we saw one of the most diverse television seasons we’ve gotten in a while. It’s no surprise that diversity in comics and geek culture was on a lot of people’s minds at New York Comic Con! I attended 4 panels focused on various aspects of diversity at the show this year.

The “Chicks Kick Ass” panel

At the Pushing Boundaries panel, there was a discussion about representation. Author Marjorie Liu spoke about the burden that authors of color often face when they are the only ones representing entire cultures. They have to make sure that their characters are “perfect” and not stereotypical; however, trying to tell a “perfect” story gets in the way of an authentic narrative. This is the danger of a single story: one person from a marginalized or underrepresented group can’t represent everyone from that group.

Some of the other panelists, like Jeremy Whitley, the creator of Princeless, spoke about using their work to fill a need. Jeremy Whitley’s daughter is a person of color, so he wanted to write a comic where a young black girl would see herself as a princess that went on adventures. Geek Out was started as a space for LGBT+ fans of comics. At one point in the discussion, the panelists spoke about bad representation. Is bad representation better than no representation? There was no clear answer, as one panelist said he preferred bad representation to none at all. But author Marjorie Liu said, “As a woman of color, I’m allergic to bad representation.”As a woman of color ComicCon II

The pervading feeling at the “Geeks of Color: Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” panel was that while people are paying more attention to diversity and things with diverse content, we still have a long way to go. Industries need to diversify from within as well as to seek out diverse creators. Diversity naturally happens when there are a variety of people creating things.

Authors Melissa Gray, Daniel Jose Older, Sara Raasch, and Kim Harrison discussed what made the protagonists of their novels “kick ass.” Melissa Grey (The Girl at Midnight) discussed how female characters are never allowed to be unlikable, like male characters often are. They’re usually expected to be “nice.” Daniel José Older wants his books to show the diversity in Brooklyn, because a book should be like a friend and tell you the truth.

At the Women in Geek Media panel, the panelists encouraged the room full of people to create their own works. Everyone, they told us, has a unique story to tell. Many of the women talked about having to create their own spaces and writing with a unique voice, which is what made them stand out. They also encouraged everyone there who was fed up with the lack of representation of women, people of color, and other marginalized groups in media to channel their anger thoughtfully and to hold content creators accountable.

All the panels I attended were full almost to capacity. It was great to see how much people are clamoring for more diverse representation. But the real highlight of Comic Con was meeting Amandla Stenberg!

Amandla Stenberg and artist Ashley A. Woods (“Niobe: She Is Life”) with Marketing & Publicity Assistant Rebecca Garcia!

Stacy, Publisher of TU BOOKS

On Thursday night of Comic Con, I went to the #BlackComicsMonth panel moderated by Dean MizCaramelVixen. It was an all-star lineup, including Chad L. Coleman (who played Tyreese on The Walking Dead), who is producing a new comic that stars his likeness, and comics artists and writers Scott Snyder, David Walker, Mikki Kendall, Shawn Pryor, Steve Orlando, Christine Dinh, Mildred Louis, Jeremy Whitley, and Afua Richardson. If you want to see the whole panel, you can view it on YouTube.

The panel started out by talking to a standing-room-only crowd of at least 300 people about what “diversity” meant to them. Christine Dinh spoke about how there are more young women reading comics—that kids are more diverse than ever. Another panelist talked about how what it means to be black could mean so many different things, and that all those representations were important—that there is no one way to be black.

Everyone on the panel emphasized how important the voices of people of color are in comic books. Kendall said, “If you don’t see yourself out there, put your stuff out there.”

“Fangirls Lead the Way” panel

Later that night was a fangirl panel (“She Made Me Do It: FanGirls Lead the Way”) discussing how important women are not only in the creation of art but also in the appreciation of it. On the panel were Jamie Broadnax, who created Black Girl Nerds; Rose Del Vecchio and Jenny Cheng from myfanmail.com, a site that sends fandom products to subscribers; and Sam Maggs, author of The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy and writer for The Mary Sue.

One of the main topics of the panel was discussing how women and girls get challenged to show their “credentials” as geeks. “I’m so over the cred thing. You don’t have to prove anything to show your passion for fandom,” Broadnax said. Maggs agreed and went on to discuss how those fans should also be reflected in the stories they consume, saying, “A range, diversity of stories can only mean better content for everyone. Why can’t white dudes look up to a black girl protagonist and have her be their role model?”Why can't white dudes ComicCon

On Sunday, the We Need Diverse Books panel focused on the hashtag #IAmNotYourSidekick, discussing the importance of narratives that center the experiences of characters of color. On a personal note, the panelists discussed the first time they’d ever seen a “mirror” of themselves in a book. Some never did, at least until adulthood. Dhonielle Clayton, a Harlem Academy librarian and WNDB VP of librarian services, mentioned that she had mirrors, but only about slavery and civil rights, not fun books. Variety in representations of marginalized people is so important, she said.

The panel also discussed the importance of opening doors for writers of color, talking about the quotas of some houses (“we already have our ‘black book,’” even if the topics are completely different), and how writing cross-culturally is possible to do well, but how it must be done responsibly. Daniel José Older pointed out that too often white writers want to jump on the bandwagon of “diversity” as if it were a trend, but, he asked, “We talk about writing the other, but can you write about yourself? Can we write about whiteness?” (Older wrote an excellent article on this topic last year at BuzzFeed.)

Everyone on the panel agreed that the way to fix the problem was to talk up diverse books. “Buy diverse books!” YA author Robin Talley said. “The more you do, the more there will be.” Older also noted not to assume that a traditionally published book that stars a diverse character will have a million-dollar marketing campaign. “It likely won’t!” he said. Panelists agreed that word of mouth is one of the most important marketing tools for diverse books—sharing them with friends, talking about them on social media, and requesting them from libraries and bookstores were all mentioned as important methods of helping diverse books grow in the market.

From the #IAmNotYourSidekick panel

To see pictures from Comic Con, check out the TU BOOKS Facebook page and the LEE & LOW Facebook page.

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21. Emma Shevah, the author of Dream on, Amber | Speed Interview

Which five words best describe Dream On, Amber? Oh boy. That’s tricky. How about warm, witty, heartbreaking, upbeat and booyakasha.

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22. SERPENTINE by Cindy Pon }} Diverse and Imaginitive

Review by Sara SERPENTINEby Cindy PonAge Range: 12 and up Grade Level: 7 and upSeries: SerpentinePaperback: 300 pagesPublisher: Month9Books, LLC (September 8, 2015)Amazon | Goodreads Inspired by the rich history of Chinese mythology, this sweeping fantasy is set in the ancient Kingdom of Xia and tells the coming of age story of Skybright, a young girl who worries about her growing otherness.

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23. Diversity in Children’s Picture Books [Infographic]

Diversity in Children’s Picture Books [Infographic]

Ten Groundbreaking Books: 1920 – 1969

The debate about lack of diversity in children’s literature sparked my interest in a very personal way. Confessions of a white author – well, not really – anyone can see I’m not a person of color. Okay, that’s out of the way. So, why am I responding curiously to the diversity dearth facts? Because maybe, just maybe, the facts hit a raw nerve. Behind the data are stories of authors and illustrators whose picture books broke new ground for depicting children and families of color when the mainstream/buying public had little interest in multicultural content.

Continue reading Diversity in Children’s Picture Books [Infographic] at Story Quest.

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24. About That White as Default Thing

WARNING: Extremely contentious topic ahead.

A while back, author Malinda Lo tweeted a story where she came across a woman who told her that she deliberately left her character’s race ambiguous so the reader could decide. Malinda’s response was that the woman should define her character’s race clearly.

Bear with me here. I’ll explain my comment to Malinda in a bit.

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. I’ve actually broached this topic a few times, particularly when it comes to describing a character physically. I’ve been fairly adamant about wanting to know straight away if a character isn’t white, although some people take umbrage with that.

Needing to know a character’s race or ethnicity “right up-front” with “irrefutable textual evidence of a character’s not-whiteness” smacks of prejudice. Why would anyone assume that every character is white unless she is told otherwise?

Look. Being identified as non-white is not prejudicial…unless you have a problem with non-whiteness. There is theoretically is no value judgment on being black, Korean, biracial, or gay. Theoretically. Being ethnically non-white is a fact; facts don’t have value judgment. We, as humans, assign value judgments to neutral facts.

Author Linda Sue Park wrote in a comment in a discussion with the Cooperative Children’s Book Center about the concept of a race neutral character.

I am not black, but as a nonwhite I can attest that my race is an everyday issue. For Asians such as myself, it has negative ramifications far less often than for blacks in daily U.S. life, but not a day passes that I do not confront the question in some form. This is perhaps the single most difficult aspect for those of the majority complexion to understand: There may be moments or even hours when my Asianness is not at the surface of my thoughts, but NEVER a whole day, much less weeks or months.

She also very succinctly why people—even and especially non-white readers—read “white as default” in her blog post here.

I want to deconstruct the idea of whiteness a bit.1 “White” isn’t a race; it’s a cultural construct. Caucasian is given as the racial designation, but not all Caucasians are “white”. For example, the peoples of the Middle East and North Africa are Caucasian…but they are not considered “white”. Neither, for that matter, were the Irish or the Italians at the turn of the early 20th century. Slowly, as these cultures became more assimilated to the “mainstream”, they became white.

This is what I meant when I said to Malinda that “white” is the absence of race. “White” erases all traces of Other. When people talk to me about living in a “post-racial” society, I have to focus all my efforts into not rolling my eyes so hard they fall out of my head. White people might live in a post-racial society; the rest of us do not. We cannot.

My dad is white. My mother is not. Because she is not, I am not. Because my features are more hers than my father’s, the world sees me as Asian. This is not something I ever “forget” or don’t think about.

My partner is also multiracial. His father is Goan-Indian, his mother is white. He is white-passing. Because his features are more his mother’s than his father’s, the world sees him as white. He has to constantly “prove” he is not.2

I describe myself as Asian. But white people don’t generally describe themselves as white; they have the privilege of not having to think about it. That’s why I will always, always read a character as white until told explicitly otherwise, and why I will never be able to see me in a racially “neutral” character.

Because white is the absence of color.

  1. Note: I’m being US-centric because that is the culture in which I was raised.
  2. He gets hideous questions like, “What kind of Indian are you? Dot or feather?”

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25. NYCC and SDCC ’15: Portraying Mental Health in Comics

Mental illness has been a trope in comics-related properties ranging from Peanuts to Gotham, but do new sensitivities to mental health issues mean that it’s time for this to change? At this year’s San Diego and New York Comic-Cons, I had the privilege of moderating a couple of panels on the portrayal of mental illness […]

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