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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: diversity, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. The story behind Modern First Library

Modern First Library

I’m guest-blogging over at Cynsations today with a behind-the-scenes account of how the Modern First Library program came about. Here’s a taste of what I’ve got to say:

A widespread urge to Do Something About This led to lots of conversations among authors, editors, librarians, and other champions of children’s literature. It led to the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. And it led me to email Meghan Goel, the children’s-book buyer at my beloved local indie BookPeople, to discuss a new spin on the notion I’d had on that recent walk.

Wait — email Meghan in what capacity? As an author? Yes, but also as a BookPeople customer, and as a dad, and as a member of the community. Of various communities, in fact, large and small. What’s important is not whether I felt especially qualified to lend my voice but rather that I had an idea that I thought might be worth trying, and I decided not to keep it to myself. Sharing an idea was the least I could do.

Thank you, Cynthia Leitich Smith, for inviting me to share that story. And thanks to Meghan and the BookPeople staff for the fact that we have this story to share in the first place.

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2. TURNING PAGES: BABA ALI AND THE CLOCKWORK DJINN, by Danielle Ackey-McPhail & Day Al-Mohamed

Come, Best Beloved, and sit you by my feet. I shall tell you a tale such as sister Scheherazade could have scarce imagined. A tale of wonders, of deeds both great and grievous, of courage that defies description, and above all, Child of Adam, I... Read the rest of this post

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3. Diversity Defined

Diversity is a really hot topic in the Kid Lit world these days. At the recent SCBWI International Conference in LA, hundreds of people attended a panel about diversity and a chat afterward. You hear the word being tossed around all over the place, and sometimes I wonder if everyone is talking about the same thing.

Blame it on my days in high school debate, but I always like to define our terms when talking about something that could mean many things. When I think about children's books/literature, I think of diversity coming in three ways.

First, there is a diversity in authors and illustrators. From what I've seen, the Kid Litverse is full of a diverse cross section of authors and illustrators. Dozens of various ethnic and racial origins are represented. Just off the top of my head I can think of Asian, Hispanic, African-American, Native American artists in every age level of our industry. I know many LBGTQ authors and illustrators, men and women. I know some of almost any religious affiliation. Sure it could always be a higher number, which is I think where the discussion starts. It's not that publishers don't want diverse authors and illustrators, nor do they discriminate. Talent is talent. It seems to me the challenge is encouraging, mentoring, and training more people, letting them know their voices are necessary and welcomed. There are many ways we could do this--scholarships for under-represented groups to attend conferences/schools/events, mentoring programs, and contests. SCBWI is on the forefront of this, offering a wide variety of opportunities for everyone, and some special programs for under-represented groups.

Second, there's diversity in the publishing industry. As we all know, the publishing industry does not always embrace change very fast. But there are publishers out there--Lee and Low comes immediately to mind--that particularly focus on diversity in their publishing program. Plus, with the rise of self-publishing, access is there for anyone of any age, gender, ethnic or religious background. The discussion continues into the blogosphere, where there are numerous blogs and other resources where diversity in literature is the frequent topic.

Third, we're talking about diversity in the characters portrayed in children's books, and this is where the discussion can get heated, but I also find it the most interesting. White, middle-class characters have dominated children's literature for decades. But, as we all know, kids come from all sorts of diverse backgrounds, skin colors, religions, genders, sexual identities, and economic status. In the last few decades, we've seen a few more characters of color, particularly in picture books, which is terrific. And in the last decade, we seem to be getting more ethnic backgrounds represented in novels, too. I think we need more LBGTQ characters.  I'd love to see more characters with metal illness, handicaps, autism spectrum syndrome, ADHD. More characters from around the world. Not just Americans with different colors of skin, but different cultures from all over.

Here's where I think things get challenging when we talk about diversity. Who's writing or illustrating these characters? Some people feel strongly that the author/illustrator come from an authentic place in presenting these characters, by which they mean, I think, that only a Native American can authentically write or illustrate a Native American character, for example. I would love to see more people writing characters from their authentic experience, but I also don't think we need to limit ourselves.

Writers and illustrators have always portrayed characters outside of our own experience. We write about historical figures, when we never lived in that time period. We write fantasy, when we've never fought a dragon. It is possible to write characters that are outside your own personal realm of experience. That's why research is so useful and important. I am currently writing a book set during WWII in which one of the main characters is a Japanese American girl. I am Caucasian, so how can my character be authentic? Lots and lots of research. I have another WIP that includes a Native American character. I may not be Native American, but I grew up in a town just outside one of the nation's poorest reservations, and I had daily interactions with Indians both on and off the reservation, so I think I have a fairly authentic grasp of their struggles and issues, even though they are not my personal struggles and issues. I am a female, but one of my latest books is in first person from the point of view of a teenage boy. Again, I live with my teenage son, so I have a pretty good picture of his male voice and viewpoint. I have written gay characters, lesbian characters, and more. Because, basically, I think there are some universalities about our human experience that allow us to imagine and put ourselves into the shoes of people who might be different from ourselves by focusing on what unites us.

To me, this stance isn't a cop out. It's an acknowledgement that an African-American author, for example, is in the best position to authentically portray an African-American character. However, if that author wants to write about a white, middle-class character, I have no problem with that. If he is a good writer, he should be able to manage it. And I think if I do my homework, I can manage to portray an African-American character if I want to. And I want to portray diverse characters. I hope we all do.

I'd love to hear what others think about this.

For more information about diversity in children's literature, check out the We Need Diverse Books campaign, which just recently announced its inception as a 501-c3 non-profit organization.

And look for our Boise SCBWI conference next April, where we plan to focus on diversity in children's literature.


by Neysa CM Jensen
Boise, Idaho

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4. Diverse Fall Shows We’re Looking Forward to:

This year’s Emmys had an unfortunate lack of diversity. But, never fear! Fall 2014’s TV season is about to start and there are some amazing diverse offerings on the horizon.

Returning:

Grey’s Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes’s medical drama returns for its eleventh season.

Elementary, starring Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu as a modern day Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson, returns.

Sleepy HollowSleepy Hollow normalizes POC characters as leads in a fantasy-world setting, in which their POC-ness isn’t an “issue” but definitely a part of who they are as characters. It tackles historical issues like slavery head-on (for example, Ichabod’s reaction to Abbie being a cop), and it centers Abbie’s experience as the hero of this tale.

Ultimately, it’s epic and funny and fascinating—it tells a good story.

Scandal, Shonda Rhimes’s political thriller, returns with Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope.

Premiering:

Fresh off the Boat is the first sitcom starring Asian Americans since Margaret Cho’s All American Girl in 1994. There are 18.9 million Asian Americans in the US. It’s time to see some positive representation! Fresh off the Boat

The Minority Report with Larry Wilmore will replace Comedy Central’s Colbert Report.

Black-ish, starring Tracee Ellis Ross and Anthony Anderson, follows a middle-class African American family in a mostly-white neighborhood.

Selfie looks fun and funny, a fresh take on My Fair Lady, with a nicely diverse cast across the board.

Cristela, “in her sixth year at law school, is finally on the brink of landing her first big (unpaid) internship at a prestigious law firm. However, she’s a lot more ambitious than her traditional Mexican-American family thinks is appropriate.”

How to Get Away with MurderHow to Get Away with Murder stars two-time Oscar nominee, Viola Davis, as “the brilliant, charismatic and seductive Professor Annalise Keating, who gets entangled with four law students from her class “How to Get Away with Murder.””

Jane the Virgin is a retelling of Venezuelan soap-opera Juana la Virgen staring Gina Rodriguez.

Survivor’s Remorse, produced by LeBron James, follows Cam Calloway, a young basketball prodigy who is thrust into the limelight after getting a multi-million dollar contract with a professional team in Atlanta.

 

Honorable Mentions:

Galavant is about a dashing hero, determined to reclaim his reputation and his “happily ever after” from the evil King Richard. Karen David stars as Isabella. It’s unclear from the previews what role Isabella will ultimately play overall, but Karen David is the top-billed woman in the cast, so we have hopes her character will be important!

Jada Pinkett Smith as Fish Mooney

Gotham, WB’s new origin story on Batman and several villains, will have Jada Pinkett Smith in the role of Fish Mooney. Zabryna Guevara will star in the role of Sarah Essen.

Have we missed any? Let us know in the comments what diverse shows you’re looking forward to this fall!


Filed under: Diversity, Diversity, Race, and Representation, Race Tagged: African/African American Interest, Asian/Asian American, diverse television, diversity, fall 2014, Multiracial, new tv shows, Race issues, television, tv

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5. Diversity – What does it mean for writers and young readers?

I’m thrilled to be back blogging after a stellar three-month summer hiatus. I completed the first draft to my contemporary YA, which is my MFA thesis. I attended a superb writer’s craft conference for the benefit of the non-profit Sierra … Continue reading

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6. We Need Diverse Books

The ground roots movement for more diversity in books now has an official organization. 

http://weneeddiversebooks.tumblr.com/post/93178270072/we-need-diverse-books-announces-incorporation-as-a

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7. Feathers, Scales, Fur or Skin: Tales of Friendship and Being Yourself

The Lucky Country. That’s Australia. We embrace difference. Celebrate diversity. Stand up for what we believe in. Be ourselves. Show compassion for those in need.   The following picture books, as chosen for the 2014 Speech Pathology Australia Books of the Year shortlist, all share common themes; diversity, friendship and uniqueness.   The Short Giraffe […]

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8. Character Education, Part 1: How To Choose Books For Core Value Study

As we cluster in workshops, around webinars, and near the water cooler, we are already thinking about and preparing what skills and knowledge we want to teach. Yet, to truly have a successful year, let’s ponder an additional question: who do we want to teach?

The start of school is a popular time to model and instill core values because August and September are a fresh start: our time as teachers, librarians, and administrators to create and cultivate a community bound and motivated by the same values and goals. It is during this period that we can expose our students to stories with strong morals that feature both examples and non-examples of how to react in tough situations and learn from one’s mistakes.

However, it can be very difficult to select just the right text to teach values that will guide our students through academic and developmental challenges over the coming year and lay the groundwork for the community we hope to build.

Many teachers dust off their tried-and-true character education read alouds each coming school year or rely on word of mouth recommendations that send us back to the classics year in, year out. During my first year of teaching, I remember everyone scrambling to find a book that demonstrated “respect” or “persistence.” When a master teacher on campus mentioned that she used a particular title for the start of every first week of school, that sounded like hard proof to me and I was grateful. I went out and bought it.

Yet, there is not just one book that will make the abstract concept of “empathy” or “leadership” concrete to third graders or kindergartners. With such dependence on the same books, many of my third graders had read The Lorax three years in a row to learn about responsibility and respect. It’s an outstanding book to explore these values, but still…three years? It was time to shake things up.

Whether your school has campus-wide core values or you can determine your own, I encourage you to think carefully about which books you use to teach core values. They are the foundation of a classroom or school’s culture and can guide children’s social, intellectual, and emotional development.

For successful character education study, choose a set of books that:

1. Have protagonists that both exemplify and struggle with at least one of the classroom’s core values. Don’t just present stories with perfect, role model-worthy characters! Students should see multiple examples of people and situations of the core value in action to learn that one’s character is made, not born. Finding books where characters (protagonists and antagonists) lie, cheat, lose their cool, or are hurtful to other characters can be just as powerful as exemplary characters, if not more so. Students can discuss what they can learn from both examples and non-examples, share advice for different scenarios, and reflect on similar experiences in their lives where they struggled to make the right decision.

2. Are both fiction and nonfiction. Pair fiction with nonfiction texts to show students a range of experiences and real world applications. Reading a biography of a famous leader practicing or struggling with a core value gives students the chance to visualize the core value in their environment and daily lives, as well as let them see that knowing how to make good choices doesn’t come naturally and needs to be practiced.

3. Align with the Common Core ELA Standards. Character education doesn’t need to be separate from ELA instruction or your curriculum. In fact, core value study is great for teaching close reading, determining central ideas and author’s message, analyzing word choice, and comparing two or more texts.

4. Have protagonists students can identify with based on race, gender, family background, language, and experience. Although students absolutely learn from characters different from themselves, it is very meaningful for children to see someone on the cover and in the pages they identify with struggling or succeeding to make good choices. Especially for younger students, relating to aspects of a character’s identity helps students visualize themselves in the character’s situation and develop empathy. Additionally, for children who are new to school or are English Language Learners, having characters that remind them of themselves or their families may give the children more confidence to participate in class, which is critical to building a strong classroom/school community at the beginning of the year.

Looking to refresh your character education read aloud shelf? For book recommendations demonstrating your classroom’s core values, check out our Pinterest boards:

What core values do you teach children? What are your favorite books to teach these core values? Let us know below!

Jill_EisenbergJill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 


Filed under: Common Core State Standards, Educator Resources, ELL/ESL and Bilingual Books Tagged: CCSS, children's books, close reading, diversity, Educators, ELA common core standards, Reading Aloud, reading comprehension

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9. Chat with author John Nichols. New Mario Acevedo novel.

Con workshop - writing characters outside your culture


This year's Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' Colorado Gold Conference will be held Sept. 5-7, in Westminster [Denver]. Among other panels and workshops, author Mario Acevedo and I will be leading one [Sunday, 9:00am] called "Deep-six the Stereotypes: Writing Characters from Another Culture."

Its description: "How can writers diversify their fiction with vibrant characters from a different culture or background so their writing attracts 21st Century readers? Insights into what hooks / turns off agents when authors write outside their cultural experience."

We envision our audience largely being Anglos wanting to hear about writing non-Anglo characters. Not that I'm an expert, but why is this Chicano author willing to help Anglo writers write about Chicano, Latino, etc. characters? (I haven't asked Mario the same.) There are other questions that could be asked.

Do Chicano authors have a "responsibility" to help Anglo writers--already published more than we are--so that they can succeed even more? Can Anglo writers do a decent portrayal, from their non-PoC perspective and worldview? Questions could go on and on.

They remind me of two hours I spent in the Taos Plaza last month, during the Fiestas. I'd been there before, seen the sites, the festivities, the shops and artwork. That part of our--wife Carmen also went--trip was el mismo. The two hours were totally new.
 
I had a first edition of Milagro Beanfield War I'd wanted autographed and author John Nichols did that earlier this year. We exchanged surface-mail letters, I sent him my novel, he invited me down and I was to meet him in a café near the Moby Dickens Bookshop.

The Nichols website states, "As of July, I’m 73 years old, my heart is locked in permanent atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure. I'm a walking time bomb ready to have a stroke." So, initially my intention was to do a La Bloga interview of the man who'd authored one of my favorite books about Chicanos, written by an Anglo. Maybe even his last interview.

When I was in the graphic/ad business, my company had produced the artwork for the movie's Denver premier, so besides a reader-author connection, I had remote connection to Nichols' work. The movie starred Rubén Blades, Sonia Braga, Melanie Griffith, Christopher Walken, et al; director Robert Redford; producers Moctesuma Esparza and Redford; Nichols did the screenplay.

If you've never seen the movie, you should. Not only for its humor and its background on New Mexican land/water struggles, but because it's good. For it's time, it was great. A major motion picture laced with Anglo/Latino talent.

After attempting to come up with insightful interview questions to ask Nichols, at some point I gave up. It felt artificial, irrelevant and not what I wanted to do. [Never even took a selfie of us.] I decided to simply meet the man who wrote the novel. Chat. Discuss, exchange stories, maybe laugh a little. Eat and drink (not that Nichols was/is in a condition to down traguitos with me).

At the appointed hour, I expected an old guy with a cane maybe made out of an agave stalk, hobbling or leaping like in the movie poster. The cane was simple and plastic. The man didn't jump around much. We ordered a bite, I'd have a couple of Negras, Nichols, some non-alcoholic drinks. And we began.

Another writer asked me, "What did you learn?" He meant, what great writing knowledge did I take away from the talk. I don't know that I have anything literary to answer to that and am not sure that I should.

In the two hours, I saw/experienced/shared in small ways several things. That Nichols, like on his website, holds family high on his list of achievements and experiences. That he holds Nature and being alone in Nature--something I've written about--high on his list of how we should spend our time on the planet, not only near the end of it.

Then there was his smile. And eyes. Nothing that you'd expect from a casi-muerto. What you'd expect from a twenty-year-old. What you'd expect from a kid starting out in life with crazy expectations and hopes and decades in front of him to accomplish anything he wanted.

I didn't expect his Spanish accent to be so gringoly obvious. My grammar is unschooled; his is in nascent stages of Span. 201, to be kind. But he was unashamed about using it. He didn't blush whenever his fluency fell or vocab was a bit off; he just talked on like a mexicano drinking unas, outside a Texas beer joint. I got over noticing it and just went with our exchange. Of course, I wonder what he heard in my Spanish that might've made him cringe.

If Nichols and I live long enough, perhaps there will be an interview, not necessarily his, or my, last. I don't know that that's that important. [yeah, 3 "that’s" and maybe English isn't my 1st language]

How does my short time with Nichols relate to our upcoming workshop? Mario and I could hope that out of it came some new awareness that in the future could produce the kind of gringos' share of the work that went into the Milagro movie. [No, I don't know what pinche petho developed during its production.] Or encourage a little of the multi-national, multi-talented camaraderie that this country direly needs, not only literarily. If Mario and I reach some in the audience who are/can be such gente, then we'll have done, no milagro, but at least a little progress in lifelike lit.

It took me two hours to shed the nervousness of being one-on-one with a great gringo writer. Should the two of us endure until another meet, I'll have reached the stage of bouncing some of my crazy ideas off him, especially, about death. And what it's probably not. Or story ideas. Or poor jokes. Or introduce my dog to him. Yeah, maybe a little interviewing, por pendejo.


More vampiros

From Mario Acevedo's website, about the upcoming book release of Rescue from Planet Pleasure:
"If you're a fan of Felix Gomez, you know he's got a lot hanging out there. For one, the most bodacious vampiress of all time, his buddy Carmen Arellano, was kidnapped by aliens and she's being held prisoner in deep space. And Phaedra, the ruthless bloodsucking ingenue--now with extra-superpowers--is making good on her threat to destroy the Araneum and take over the undead underworld.

"Felix is not alone in his quest to save Carmen and stop Phaedra. That red-headed whirlwind with a gun, Jolie, has got his back. Also appearing is everyone's favorite down-and-out trickster sage, Coyote, and he's brought along his mom...la Malinche...aka La Llorona! Here it comes, a big, hairy story bristling with action, intergalactic adventure, skin-walkers, Hopi magic...all told in tumescent PervoVision. Exactly what you'd expect from Felix Gomez. [La Bloga note: and what you'd expect from Mario]

Es todo, hoy,
RudyG, aka Chicano spec lit author, Rudy Ch. Garcia, Taos tourist and Nichols fan

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10. Books Strengthen Family Bonds

DSC00616Lydia sat with her two children in the waiting room. Her eldest read aloud from his new book, pausing every now and again to teach his mother and younger sister how to say the words in English. His little sister beamed with pride when he let her turn the page.

Andrea Gatewood of the Nassau County (NY) Department of Health knows that providing new books to families like Lydia’s leads to priceless interactions. For the past ten years, she and her colleagues at the Nassau County Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program have been giving books from First Book to the local low-income women and children they serve.

Traditionally, WIC programs supply women who are pregnant or recently gave birth and children up to age five found to be at nutritional risk with supplemental foods, health care referrals and nutrition education. But at five WIC sites in Nassau County, families also receive colorful new books.

teen parenting program 3“The books from First Book teach children how to count, the alphabet, the importance of family, other languages, colors, different foods and incentives to promote physical activity,” said Andrea. “They strengthen family bonds, promote diversity and improve literacy.”

Andrea takes great care in selecting books that are both engaging and culturally relevant as nearly 100 percent of the children she serves come from minority households.

“We have distributed books at Christmas, Halloween and to kick off the school year. Our goal is to reach as many children as possible,” Andrea shared. “The partnership between First Book and WIC has allowed thousands of children to receive brand new books and will have a lasting impact on an individual and community level.”

Over the past ten years, the Nassau WIC Program has received approximately 20,000 books from First Book, thanks to grant funding made possible by members of the First Book – Long Island volunteer chapter and the Guru Krupa Foundation. The Foundation, based in Jericho, New York, funds initiatives related to education, health and basic sustenance of underprivileged children in India and the United States, and has helped First Book provide more than 51,000 books to children in need in the greater New York and Los Angeles areas in the past two years.

DSC00612“We at Guru Krupa Foundation believe that education is a cornerstone for future success in life,” said Mukund Padmanabhan, president of the Guru Krupa Foundation. “Supporting initiatives that bring the benefits of education to underprivileged children can lead to enormous future dividends, not only for the children but to society.”

Join the Guru Krupa Foundation in supporting program leaders like Andrea by making a gift to First Book. Just $2.50 provides a brand-new book to a child in need.

The post Books Strengthen Family Bonds appeared first on First Book Blog.

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11. 11 Educator Resources for Teaching Children About Latin American Immigration and Migration

What an amazing week to see the response of last Sunday’s post and hear what many of you are facing, doing, and aspiring to in schools and communities. In addition to using children’s books to initiate conversations, deepen background knowledge, and humanize the events, here are eleven teaching resources to help you provide the best information, context, and perspective for your students.

Amazing Faces mirror

  1. Colorín Colorado is a free bilingual service that presents information, activities, and advice for educators and Spanish-speaking families of English Language Learners. One of my favorite sections is “Reaching Out to ELL Students and Families” because it gives explicit tools on how to create a welcoming classroom environment, learn about our students’ backgrounds, and reach out to parents of ELLs.
  2. Educators For Fair Consideration (E4FC) offers educator guides to support teachers and school staff in supporting undocumented students in school and beyond graduation.
  3. Colorlines contributes award-winning daily reporting, investigative news, and analysis on issues of race with a subsection devoted to child migrants. They also have a campaign, Drop the I-Word.
  4. The Library of Congress has curated thousands of resources, especially primary sources and online exhibitions, on immigration in the United States providing critical historical context to current events. I strongly recommend checking out the presentation, Immigration: The Changing Face of America, where students can read the immigration history of specific ethnicities and races, and the Themed Resources: Immigration, where students can study the contributions of American immigrants.
  5. The staff at the Latin American and Iberian Institute (University of New Mexico) have created and organized thematic guides, lesson plans, and news articles for issues related to Latin America available at the Latin America Data Base.
  6. Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, provides award-winning educational materials to teachers, including immigration-themed units and lessons.
  7. Border Crossers has prepared a list of resources for adults to learn how to teach and talk about race and racial justice with students.
  8. The Migrant Policy Institute, a Washington, DC think tank, offers powerful analysis of global and regional migration. I want to underscore their visual tools, such as the International Migrant Population by Country of Origin and Destination map.
  9. Accompanying the two PBS documentary series, Latino Americans and The New Americans, are rich lesson plans and activities for grades 7 and up to explore the diverse experiences of coming to America.
  10. Latin@s in Kid Lit has an extensive list of children’s literature for those looking for more beyond our eleven book list, as well as interviews and teaching ideas.
  11. The MY HERO Project enables students to create, share, and discover stories, audio, art, and films that promote tolerance, peace, and diversity. Teacher resources are available at MY HERO Teacher’s Room.

art from Arrorró, mi niñoFor further reading:

11 Books on Latin American Immigration and Migration

What resources would you add? What resources do you recommend? Please share them with our community in the comments!


Filed under: Educator Resources, ELL/ESL and Bilingual Books Tagged: children's books, diversity, Educators, Immigration, Latino/Hispanic/Mexican, Race issues, Reading Aloud, reading comprehension

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12. Sharing iDías : Diverse Programming at Your Library

One great initiative that the Public Awareness Committee works to promote is El día de los niños/ El día de los libros (Children’s Day/ Book Day), which was founded in 1996 by Latino children’s author Pat Mora. Día is a special way for libraries to emphasize the importance of advocating literacy to children of all backgrounds while also encouraging Dia_Hi_Colorfamilies and children to connect with multicultural books, cultures and languages. Exposure to diversity on a regular basis is very important for children and the public library is poised as the perfect space to provide diverse encounters. You can read more about why nurturing cultural diversity in your library is important by reading Jamie Campbell Naidoo’s wonderful ALSC white paper The Importance of Diversity in Library Programs and Material Collections for Children.

At the recent ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas, Naidoo and Debby Gold of the Cuyahoga County Public Library presented a poster session titled “How Do You Día?”on behalf of the Public Awareness Committee. They invited all who visited the poster session to submit and share their own Día success stories into their iDía jar.

Seven awesome iDías were submitted and here they are!

* A public library donates a book for every child to celebrate Día and partners with other organizations to donate goods for diverse programming.

* At the Salt Lake County Public Library four people demonstrated science experiments in four difference languages to introduce diversity into the community.

* Dallas Public Library offers bilingual Día storytimes and crafts.

* A library shares Spanish language uses for materials and provides multicultural book talks.

* Each New Orleans Public Library branch hosts a yearly program geared towards Día  programming. Themes may focus on different countries and their cultures, such as Africa, China, India and Italy. Local authors are also brought in.

* A libraDia bookmarks, etc.ry in Commerce, CA invited author Antonio Sacre to read during a storytime program.

* A library holds multicultural craft events, including creating Native American dream catchers, basket weaving and Egyptian vases. They also invited an Indian dance troupe to perform.

What stellar iDías! I especially love the iDía to hold a science program in various languages. Thanks to everyone who stopped by the poster session and shared their success stories! Do you have an iDía that you would like to share? Tell us! Better yet, show us! Share photos from your diverse library program by posting on the Día Facebook page.

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Nicole Lee Martin is a Children’s Librarian at the Grafton-Midview Public Library in Grafton, OH and is writing this post for the Public Awareness Committee. You can reach her at nicolemartin@oplin.org.

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13. The same or different? (Anne Rooney)

This post was going to be called "Gargoyle blindness", but you'll have to wait for that one, because I left my camera in my college office with all the photos on it. Instead, I'm picking up on Keren David's excellent and thought-provoking post of yesterday.

Keren said that she felt unrepresented in books when she was a child because there were no Jewish characters. I wholly respect that position, and don't want to excuse the publishing industry, the non-Jewish community, or anyone else. But I want to make a slightly different point - don't all children feel isolated and alienated? And isn't that one of the reasons we read? Reading helps us to find a community of made-up people we can feel like, that make us say, 'oh, yes, it's just like that!'

Cover image of ElmerI was not black, or gay or Jewish or disabled or a member of any other group that is/has been under-represented in children's books. But children will always find something to pick on in others (and themselves). I was bullied for - I don't even know what. Being different. But we're all different. We just don't all have a nameable 'different' group. I suppose I could say that I did see children like me in books because there are books about children who feel different. There are a lot of them. Which might give us a clue: all (almost all?) children feel different, excluded, isolated, not like everyone else. Of course, if you also belong to an ethnic minority or under-represented group, you probably feel even more different, as you have the Keren-flavour of difference as well as the universal, existential difference.

Perhaps there are two distinct kinds of children's books. (OK, there are lots of kinds - but this is one way of dividing them.) There are books about a single protagonist and how they are different and suffer/triumph as a result. These are books like Peter Rabbit and Eleanor and Park, Twocan Toucan and The Little Princess, Heidi, Elmer and The Bunker Diaries. (There's a good exam question in that - how are Elmer and The Bunker Diaries alike?) Then there are the stories that offer a gallery of characters and invite readers to identify with one of them. A gazillion Enid Blyton books, and any number of multi-authored My Little Alien Unicorn Space Fighter series are the most obvious examples. But there are more thoughtful books, too - The Silver Sword, for one. And there are books that pretend to be the second and are actually the first, like Little Women - because is there anyone who preferred another character over Jo? (Doesn't just choosing to read the book align you with her?) Or Harry Potter, which pretends to be the first type but over the course of the series becomes the second type.

The different functions and appeals of the two types are too complex to consider here, but the first deals most thoroughly with the feeling of being different and becoming comfortable with it, discovering one's own strengths and weaknesses. The second is more concerned with fitting in - with seeing there are other people like you that fit comfortably into a group, and little differences are not a barrier to acceptance. I think, perhaps, it's the second type that in particular needs to be careful to represent as many different types of child as possible as they are the books that invite children to pick the character like them to follow through the story.

Is there a division between children along these lines - preferring one type of book over the other? I'd be interested to hear in the comments which you preferred. I overwhelmingly preferred (and prefer) the first. I had no time for Famous Five, Malory Towers or any of that. The Little Unicorn, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Mrs Pepperpot and Dr Dolittle were my favourites.

Cover image of Little Black SamboConfession time. My favourite book, when I was five, was Little Black Sambo. That's an unacceptable book now, of course. But I didn't know it was unacceptable (and indeed it wasn't in the 1960s), and I can remember why I liked it. The boy was so cool. He could outwit tigers! I can remember the first reading, when I was so upset that he lost his colourful clothes - and then it was all OK. He had the life I wanted (including good weather and blue trousers) - he defeated the bullies and, in true fairytale style, ate them so that they were definitely gone.

How was Sambo different? Because he wasn't a tiger, and tigers were in charge. Not because he was black. How was he like me? He was bullied by people who weren't like him (people who were tigers, but hey, it counts).

There were no black children in my school until a year or so later (this was rural Hampshire), but I can remember that him being black didn't affect my identification with him - he just lived in a country where people were black. (Sri Lanka, as it happens - Little Black Sambo is Tamil.) Now, the Mumbo/Jumbo thing bothered me, but not because I had heard of mumbo-jumbo as I hadn't. But I thought if his mum was called Mum[bo] his dad should be called Dad[bo] or something similar. And Jumbo was the name of an elephant, which his dad clearly wasn't. I rationalised that the local word for 'Dad' must be 'Jum'. And then that was OK. (I was familiar with different languages as my parents spoke in French when they didn't want me to understand what they were saying.)

Start-rite shoe advertisement
No chance: I had to wear Hansel-and-Gretel shoes
- those shoes that show kids being abandoned
in the forest on the poster. Great. That makes
you keen to go shoe-shopping.


The point was that I could empathise with Sambo because he was a child in a spot of bother. Quite a big spot of bother, actually, with those predatory tigers. It was *just* like being bullied at my primary school. 'If you don't give me your apple/pencil/scarf...' Little Black Sambo was a child like me. Except that he lived somewhere warm and got to eat butter made out of melted tigers. How amazing was that? And those shoes! I wanted shoes like his.

In some of my other favourite books, the characters weren't even human. I could empathise with Moomins - no problem there. Or animals. I could read those stupid stories set in boarding schools, even though I knew no one who had ever been to a boarding school, even though I didn't really like them. I read books about boys. None of it mattered, because I was reading books for the bits that are the same no matter who you are, the bits that are part of the human condition - and that included the existential angst of realising that no one is like you. But on the other hand people (or moomins) can look very different and be just like you.

I read books about people who were not superficially like me and found comfort in the characters being like me at a deeper level. Which is not to say we don't need more diversity in children's books, or that we shouldn't endeavour to show children of all types. But what I think is most iniquitous is when books show children (or adults) of a particular group or type in a consistently bad light (or only one type - white, pretty, athletic - in good positions). When all the Jewish characters are like Fagin, or all the fat girls in boarding school stories are stupid, or all the ginger kids are freaks, that's bad. Because we see past superficial differences unless they come to stand for something. So while in one way there were no children like me in the books I read, in another way there were a lot of children like me because they were humans (well, living beings) and they were individuals.

But I couldn't outwit tigers.




Anne Rooney
aka Stroppy Author
Latest book (probably) A Bird in the Hand, Readzone, 2014

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14. My Writing and Reading Life: Anna Kang

Children notice and point out differences all the time, and it’s natural. But hopefully as we mature, we learn that all individuals are unique and that everyone is “different.”

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15. 11 Books on Latin American Immigration and Migration

The-StorytellerAs media coverage has intensified around the events of children crossing the U.S. border, many educators and families are wondering, “What should we tell our students?” For some children, this may be the first time they are learning of these countries. But for many others, these events may involve their own heritage or depict their families’ experiences. Using books to talk about the recent events can be an opportunity to learn about a new region and help children see the cultures and people beyond these events.

We’ve put together a list of 11 books (many of which are bilingual English/Spanish) that teach about the emotional journey families and children must undertake along with the physical journey. These stories allow children to see each other and themselves in characters who are living life to the fullest and refusing to let any obstacle stand in their way.

Whether you are looking to explore the themes of the DREAM Act, learn more about the journey of one’s own family, or see America from a different angle, these books reveal the complexities, challenges, joys, and surprises of coming to a new place. Join these characters as they share their challenges and excitement in moving to a new culture and new school, helping their families adjust, and juggling their home culture with a new culture.

1. A Movie in My Pillow/ Una película en mi almohada

Poet Jorge Argueta evokes the wonder of his childhood in rural El Salvador, a touching relationship with a caring father, and his confusion and delight in his new urban home.

2. Amelia’s Road

Amelia longs for a beautiful white house with a fine shade tree in the yard, where she can live without worrying. In this inspirational tale, Amelia discovers the importance of putting her own roots down in a very special way.

 

3. First Day in Grapes

Chico and his family move up and down the state of California picking fruits and vegetables. Every September Chico starts at a new school again. Often other children pick on him, but Chico’s first day in third grade turns out to be different.

4. From North to South/ Del Norte al Sur

José loves helping Mama, but when Mama is sent back to Mexico for not having proper papers, José and his Papa face an uncertain future. Author René Colato Laínez tackles the difficult and timely subject of family separation with exquisite tenderness.

5. Home at Last

Ana Patino is adjusting well to her new life in the United States, but her mother is having a difficult time because she doesn’t speak English. After mama agrees to take English lessons, her sense of confidence and belonging grow.

6. My Diary from Here to There/ Mi diario de aqui hasta allá

Amada overhears her parents whisper of moving from Mexico to the other side of the border—to Los Angeles. As she and her family make their journey north, Amada records her fears, hopes, and dreams for their lives in the United States in her diary.

7. The Storyteller’s Candle/ La velita de los cuentos

The award-winning team of Lucia González and Lulu Delacre have crafted an homage to Pura Belpré, New York City’s first Latina librarian. Through Pura Belpré’s vision and dedication, the warmth of Puerto Rico comes to the island of Manhattan in a most unexpected way.

8. The Upside Down Boy/ El niño de cabeza

Juanito is bewildered by the new school and everything he does feels upside down. But a sensitive teacher and loving family help him to find his voice and make a place for himself in this new world.

9. When This World Was New

It is Danilito’s first day in America and he is scared. He has heard that some Americans are not friendly to foreigners. In addition, he does not speak any English. Danilito’s worries disappear when Papa leads him on a magical trip of discovery.

10. Xochitl and the Flowers/ Xóchitl, la Niña de las Flores

Miles away from their home in El Salvador, Xochitl and her family make a new home in the United States, but nothing is the same. It is not until her family decides to start a flower nursery in its backyard that Xochitl begins to learn the true value of community in their adopted country.

11. Calling the Doves/ El canto de las palomas

Poet Juan Felipe Herrera shares the story of his migrant farmworker childhood. The farmworker road was the beginning of his personal road to becoming a writer.

Jill_EisenbergJill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 


Filed under: Common Core State Standards, Educator Resources, ELL/ESL and Bilingual Books Tagged: children's books, close reading, diversity, Educators, events, Immigration, Latino/Hispanic/Mexican, Race issues, Reading Aloud, reading comprehension

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16. Diversity Panel: Sharon Flake & Adriana Dominguez

Sharon Flake is the multi-award-winning author including The Skin I'm In, Money Hungry, Begging for Change, and many others.

Sharon went to the library and read a lot as a kid, but she says, "My first books were my parents. My parents told me stories about family and situations and they showed me that I was okay."

Disliked stereotype: That black fathers are absent.

Sharon believes that hopefully with all this discussion about diversity, people will start to come up with different models and ways of doing things.

Sharon has been telling diverse students that they have a seat at the table (in writing, marketing, publishing). She hopes we all help to make sure that comes true.




Adriana Dominguez is an agent with Full Circle Literary agency with a commitment to getting diverse books published.

Adriana hears from readers (at conferences) that they have not read a book with someone like them in it until college. This is the reason Adriana does what she does and is so passionate about it.

There's been a profound change in submissions, though there still are those that approach culture as food, etc. Now, Adriana sees books that approach the culture at a much greater depth in ways they haven't in the past.

Disliked stereotype: That all Latinas move the same.

Adriana likes to tell editors and agents to advertise their interest in diversity in books. She gets a lot of diverse submissions because she advertises her interest in getting them.

Lee & Low Books sponsors the New Voices Award which is given to an author of color with a promising manuscript which has launched many careers and books which have gone on to win awards.

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17. Diversity Panel: Linda Sue Park

Linda Sue Park
Linda Sue Park is the Newbery Award-winning author of
A SINGLE SHARD. A recent title, A LONG WALK TO WATER, is a New York Times bestseller, and her picture book XANDA'S PANDA PARTY received three starred reviews. She's a master of both forms.

In 2003, Linda Sue was asked by School Library Journal to list three children's books that had meant a lot to her when she was a child. One of the books had an African hero, one had an African American boy as a hero, and the third was set in India. It had been 40 years since she'd read them, but the came back to her immediately.

"What these books showed me was that you didn't have to be white to be a hero." 

Linda Sue thinks anybody can and should be able to write about anybody or anything. But not all viewpoints are created equal. "If you are a member of the minority group, you are intimate with the dominant culture," she said. "You live in it. The reverse isn't necessarily true."

To write about something, you need a "passionate, personal stake" in it. Study a culture deeply. Learn a language (one writer she knows has learned 14 languages in the course of his research). There might be months or years of research into the culture, where you immerse yourself in it. Good intentions don't go deep enough. Not researching enough demonstrates a lack of respect. "That is what you are doing if you are not putting the time and the work and the passion into the story you want to tell."

When we write incorrectly about cultures, people feel disrespected, and readers get wrong information in their heads—and sometimes this wrong information never comes out. 

Also, when it comes to the sales potential of books with non-white characters, Linda Sue doesn't buy the notion that non-white people aren't a viable market. If they're not reading, then they are a huge, untapped market.

"Go hire whoever marketed 'Dora the Explorer,'" she said.

She had a plea for people who've read a diverse book they like: Even if you can't buy it, tell a librarian you loved it. That librarian will buy it and tell others, and that will really help a book succeed.




Learn more about Linda Sue Park
Follow her on Twitter

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18. Meg Medina: The Diversity Panel

Meg Medina is an award-winning author of picture books, middle grade and YA fiction. Her work examines how cultures intersect through the eyes of young people. Her latest is the Pura Belpre Award and the 2014 CYBILS Award for fiction, "Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass."




Meg speaks of how, growing up, she was embarrassed by her mother's accent. What helped turn that around for her, and helped her believe she could be an author?

She was 20 when she read Sandra Cisneros' "The House on Mango Street" and it came as a shock - to see people who looked like her aunt and mother, people eating what her family ate. Realizing that they were worthy of a story "gave me permission to tell the stories I could take from my own life… and re-work into fiction."

She also shares that if you're outside a culture and writing about that culture, it's important to have people of the culture read your work to make sure you have "real people in your novel who we care about, not plastic."

There's lots more discussed, from the over-sexualized stereotype of Latina women to Publishers' approaches to finding new voices and diverse stories.

An excellent and important discussion!

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19. BOOM: And we are LIVE!

Registration is OPEN. Call for session proposals is OPEN. The 2014 Kidlit Con, BLOGGING DIVERSITY: WHAT'S NEXT?, to be held at the stunning Tsakopoulos Library Galleria in Sacramento, California, October 10-11 is only EIGHTY-SEVEN DAYS AWAY.Rumor... Read the rest of this post

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20. if we want to see more diversity in literature, we have to buy the books

school library journal graphic

School Library Journal came out with their Diversity Issue a few months ago and it’s been on my “to read” pile since then. Their lead article Children’s Books: Still an All-White World? tells a depressing tale of under-representation of black children in US children’s books (they are the only ethnic group mentioned, I am presuming this goes doubly so for groups with smaller representation in the US) and ends with a call to action for librarians to make sure they are creating a market for these titles to encourage more books by and about all kinds of people.

I grew up in a Free to Be You and Me sort of world where my mother actively selected books for me to read with a wide range of ethnicities represented. I had dolls representing many backgrounds. My mother wrote textbooks where there were strict rules about being inclusive and representative and, living in a small town, I assumed this was the way the rest of the world worked. Not so. Reading this article drove home the point that while I may have been a young person during a rare time of expansion of titles and characters of color, that expansion slowed and the situation is still stagnant even as the US is becoming more diverse than ever. Another article in the Diversity Issue highlights research which indicates that “the inclusion of these cross-group images encourages cross-group play“. Sounds like a good thing. We should be doing more.

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21. Modern First Library: more from Cyn, and from Books on the Nightstand

Modern First Library

Cynthia Leitich Smith has a second guest post for BookPeople’s new Modern First Library program, and it’s about the one negative experience she’s had in the store. Check it out.

And then check out the latest episode of the Books on the Nightstand podcast, in which hosts Michael Kindness and Ann Kingman discuss which picture books they’d include in their own Modern First Library. Thanks for featuring the program, Ann and Michael!

Besides, if you like books (and I’m pretty sure you do), and you like podcasts (I know I do), why wouldn’t you want to listen to a podcast about books? I just this moment subscribed to Books on the Nightstand, and I can’t wait to hear more.

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22. Talking to Kids about Current Events and Conflicts

block quote for jill (1)Breaking stories, developing crises, and unexpected catastrophes often involve more than one country, community, and culture. As our children listen in to the radio while stuck in traffic or the evening news program over dinner, it can be easy to think that if we don’t explicitly bring up the news story, then our children don’t know it’s happening.

In fact, children are incredibly perceptive when their parents and adults close to them are distracted by news or alarming events. Many children also pick up information from their peers.

While we don’t want to overwhelm or scare our children, it is important to discuss what is going on. Children need honest portrayals of a community at its best during a time we might be seeing it at its worst.

How do we talk to children about these events and use these moments as opportunities to have respectful, honest (albeit age-appropriate) discussions?

Picture books are invaluable conversation starters. Conflicts and disasters have complex origins and multiple players. Issues of race, class, religion, and gender are often entangled in the events or portrayal of the events. Children’s books dealing with conflict or natural disasters can frame the event in contexts and meanings suitable to their developmental stage. Stories with children as the main characters allow children to identify with the characters over universal themes.

When a “newsworthy” event happens, this may be the first time the child learns of this country, group of people, or culture. By the same token, the conflict or event may involve the child’s own heritage or culture. Using picture books to talk about a current event or conflict can be an opportunity to learn about a new region and help children see the culture and people beyond this event.

Instead of allowing the media to define the group of people involved, we should seek out and read a book showcasing and reinforcing the positive aspects and pride of the featured group of people and region. In doing so, we present a broader perspective of the community, culture, or people that media coverage is portraying in a negative, humiliating, or victimized light.

In selecting the right book to foster respect and provide an honest portrait of a community in the news, consider:

Books that champion human dignity:

Books that exhibit the strength, courage, and resilience of children:

Books that depict a community’s capacity to endure, love, and give:

“Age-appropriate” can mean truthful, thoughtful conversations. When talking to children, let them guide the discussion. Opening conversation starters include:Going Home, Coming Home

  • What questions do you have? What have you heard?
  • What do you know about the situation or group of people/foreign country involved?
  • Who are the countries or communities involved?
  • How are different communities and countries coming together over this issue?
  • What would you like to do to help?

For further reading:

Jill_EisenbergJill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

 


Filed under: Diversity, Race, and Representation, Educator Resources Tagged: children's books, diversity, Educators, Multiracial, Race issues, Reading Aloud, reading comprehension

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23. A Preview of the #LA14SCBWI Diversity Panel

I connected with panel moderator Suzanne Morgan Williams to get the scoop:



Whether or not you're able to attend the sold-out SCBWI Summer Conference that starts this Friday, you can be part of the online river of information and inspiration by visiting The Official SCBWI Conference Blog and following our conference hashtag, #la14scbwi, on twitter. Oh, and by watching videos like the one above!

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

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24. Where’s the Diversity, Hollywood? Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blockbusters Overwhelmingly White, Male

Summer blockbuster season is in full swing. For many moviegoers, that means escaping to a galaxy far, far away—or perhaps just a different version of our own planet Earth—through science fiction and fantasy movies. As fans clamor for the latest cinematic thrills, we decided to focus our next Diversity Gap study on the level of racial and gender representation in these ever-popular genres that consistently rake in the big bucks for movie studios. We reviewed the top 100 domestic grossing sci-fi and fantasy films as reported by Box Office Mojo. The results were staggeringly disappointing, if not surprising in light of our past Diversity Gap studies of the Tony Awards, the Emmy Awards, the children’s book industry, The New York Times Top 10 Bestseller List, US politics, and the Academy Awards, where we analyzed multi-year samplings and found a disturbingly consistent lack of diversity.

Infographic: the Diversity Gap in Sci-Fi and Fantasy Films

The Diversity Gap in Sci-Fi & Fantasy Films infographic (click for larger image)

Among the top 100 domestic grossing films through 2014:

• only 8% of films star a protagonist of color
• of the 8 protagonists of color, all are men; 6 are played by Will Smith and 1 is a cartoon character (Aladdin)
• 0% of protagonists are women of color
• 0% of protagonists are LGBTQ
• 1% of protagonists are people with a disability

The following interviews with two prominent entertainment equality advocacy groups shed more light on the subject.

Marissa Lee
Marissa Lee is co-founder of Racebending.com, an international grassroots organization of media consumers who support entertainment equality. Racebending.com advocates for underrepresented groups in entertainment media and is dedicated to furthering equal opportunities in Hollywood and beyond.

Imran Siddiquee


Imran Siddiquee
is Director of Communications at the Representation Project, which is a movement that uses film and media content to expose injustices created by gender stereotypes and to shift people’s consciousness toward change. The Representation project was the follow-up to the critically acclaimed documentary Miss Representation.

 

Jason Low: Do these statistics surprise you? Why or why not?

Marissa Lee: The statistics are certainly striking, especially since sci-fi and fantasy belong to a genre that prides itself on creativity and imagination. These statistics aren’t necessarily surprising, since lack of diversity in Hollywood films is a well-known problem. There have been enough studies and articles, and any moviegoer can pause to notice there is a disparity. . . . Hollywood can’t go on pretending that this isn’t a problem.Hollywood can't go on pretending like this isn't a problem.

JL: Do you think the American movie-going audience would support a big, blockbuster sci-fi/fantasy movie with a diverse protagonist if a studio made it?

Imran Siddiquee: Yes, definitely. But I think an important thing to understand about Hollywood blockbusters is that they are almost never flukes; they are preordained. Sure, we have the occasional surprise indie hit, but you need a lot of money and marketing behind you to become a blockbuster. Just look at the top ten films in each of the last five years: nearly every single one had a budget of more than $100 million (a lot of them were also sci-fi/fantasy films).

Meanwhile, there hasn’t been a single film released this year starring a person of color with a budget of more than $50 million, let alone a sci-fi film, which is naturally going to be more expensive. The same goes for most of the last decade. So for anyone who might say “people just don’t watch sci-fi movies starring people of color,” or “there’s no evidence that this would work,” the truth is that we have no evidence that it wouldn’t work.

Studios take a couple of massively expensive chances every year on mostly unknown actors or directors—aka giving the Spider-Man franchise to Marc Webb and Andrew Garfield in 2012—but they just don’t take those kinds of chances on people of color. In other words, if Hollywood wanted to make a blockbuster sci-fi/fantasy film starring a woman of color, they definitely could.

ML: I think American audiences would support a film with a diverse protagonist, because we already have. One pullout statistic from your infographic is that Will Smith leads six of the top 100 big sci-fi/fantasy films. His race wasn’t a huge impediment to box office success and may have, in fact, been part of what made him all-American and relatable. That was back in the late 1990s, but since then, Hollywood hasn’t tried to find a new Will Smith. This is kind of ironic, given that Hollywood likes to stick to formulas and sequels! They could push forward another actor—or actress—of color with Smith’s charisma. They haven’t.

The American movie audience supports any movie that Hollywood successfully markets well, especially—but not always—if the film is well produced. Hollywood has managed to market some weird stuff, like a tentpole movie about talking teenage turtle martial artists, or cars that change into space robots, and so on. I don’t buy that when it comes to marketing diverse leads, suddenly this giant industry can’t do it.

So for anyone who might say “people just don’t watch sci-fi movies starring people of color,” . . . the truth is that we have no evidence that it wouldn’t work.I’d be interested in seeing how many of these top 100 grossing sci-fi and fantasy films star non-human leads. I wonder if there are more films with non-human leads than minority human leads on the list!

(Side note: Does the infographic count Keanu Reeves as white or as a person of color? I think he has more than one movie on this list given The Matrix trilogy…)

Editorial note: Yes, Keanu Reeves is counted as a PoC and did make the list for The Matrix. The second Matrix film, The Matrix Reloaded was the only installment of the trilogy to make the top 100 list.

JL: What challenges have you faced or seen peers facing as a woman/person of color, etc.?

ML: There are films with built-in audiences that Hollywood still insists on whitewashing, which has a very adverse effect on actors of color. Let’s be honest, audiences would have still flocked to see The Hunger Games or Twilight if characters like Katniss or Jacob had been cast with people of color as they were written in the books. An actor with a disability could have played the protagonist in Avatar—if we have the technology and imagination to animate a fanciful world populated by blue cat people, we could have cast an actor with a disability similar to the lead character’s in that role. As a result of these casting decisions, up and coming actors from underrepresented groups were deprived of career exposure from being a part of these established franchises, making it harder for Hollywood ever to try and launch a new franchise with an actor from an underrepresented group.

Every single Marvel Studios movie has centered around a presumably straight, white, male protagonist, even if white women (mostly love interests) and men of color (support roles) have played roles in the film. The franchise is a box office juggernaut and has a ton of movies on this list, but we’ve gotten two to three movies about each of the men on the Avengers and there’s yet to be a film about Black Widow. Both of Marvel’s ensemble films—The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy—trimmed down the superhero teams for their film adaptations, and the women characters, save for one, were the first to be cut. Most moviegoers will never know that women of color and LGBTQ characters were cut from Guardians of the Galaxy, but audiences will get to relate to the talking raccoon and the talking tree.

More recently, the Divergent franchise cast Naomi Watts to play a character who was a woman of color in the books. It’s a supporting role for an already established franchise, and for whatever reason the production still couldn’t bring themselves to cast an actor of color.

Trends that fans have noted in the media include that in big blockbuster sci-fi and fantasy films, the presence of a straight, white, able-bodied, cis male in some central role in the story is almost guaranteed, while the presence of characters with “minority” identities (e.g. LGBTQ folks, people of color, people with disabilities, women, etc.) is not. Even when a character who isn’t a straight, white cis male is centered in a story, there’s probably a straight, white, cis male character playing second, if not lead, billing. For example, while we can reasonably assume that the next few Star Trek and Star Wars movies will have some diverse characters, we can guarantee that at least one of the leads will be a straight, white man. If The Hunger Games or Twilight had cast actors of color for Katniss or Jacob, there would still have been plenty of lead roles filled by white actors. DC is including Wonder Woman in an upcoming movie, but the film will also feature Batman and Superman.

This means that someone with a lot of intersecting privileged identities (especially straight, white men) will always be able to walk into a multiplex and find a sci-fi/fantasy movie starring someone who shares those identities. If you have a lot of marginalized identities, then representation is a sometimes thing, never a solid guarantee. There is a very small but vocal minority of people who want to maintain this status quo, and Hollywood seems to cater toward them due to institutionalized racism, fear, and habits. But there are just as many, if not more, people who are willing to support, vociferously, films with diverse leads. I wish our money was as good as theirs.There is a very small but vocal minority of people who want to maintain this status quo, and Hollywood seems to cater toward them due to institutionalized racism, fear, and habits.

JL: How can consumers encourage more diversity in movies? 

IS: Avoid buying tickets to films which clearly rely on stereotypes or demeaning portrayals of people based on gender, race, class, age, sexual orientation, ability, or circumstance. And anytime you do watch a film, give it The Representation Test afterward. The test grades films on their inclusiveness pertaining to all those above categories. When a movie scores really low on the test, use #NotBuyingIt on Twitter to let the filmmakers and all your friends know how you feel. Since so much of this industry is based on money, this is one way we can express our discontent and get the attention of the studios.

ML: Media literacy is a huge start. As media consumers, we should feel empowered to critique the media we consume, and to decide what media we choose to consume. Beyond helpful steps like going to see movies that feature diverse leads, it’s just as important to start conversations in our own communities and with our friends and family (the people we consume media with!) to raise awareness about diversity and representation. Even if we don’t go to see movies that whitewash or exclude or present discriminatory content, people we know will. One way we can help change things is by continuing to start conversations. We need to create an environment where it is safe to criticize popular franchises for lacking diversity. We also need to keep drowning out the malcontents who cannot even handle actors of diverse backgrounds in supporting roles. Social media has really knocked down barriers when it comes to communicating our opinions with Hollywood brass. It’s also given us several spaces where we can discuss the media we consume with our friends and family. In addition, the internet has really changed how we access and consume media. There are Kickstarters and indie channels and online comics and other outlets so we don’t have to be reliant on big production studios or publishers as our only sources of entertainment.

JL: How close or far do you think we are from getting these statistics to change?

IS: When you’re talking about representation that is this low, it’s hard to go anywhere but up. For instance, 0% for women of color in top sci-fi films means I’m being honest when I say things will certainly improve soon, but that’s not saying much. I think we are pretty far away from true equality, or a cinema that reflects and includes the broad diversity of human experiences in the real world.

When you’re talking about representation that is this low, it’s hard to go anywhere but up.Too many wealthy, white men still run Hollywood, and their decisions still have too much power. As I mentioned earlier, these kinds of movies are very expensive, and so it’s hard for independent or upstart filmmakers to break through or compete.

That being said, the slight increase in success for white women in blockbuster sci-fi movies, such as Gravity, The Hunger Games, and Divergent, means change is possible. And it’s hard to overstate the importance of the Oscar wins for 12 Years a Slave last year, because while it wasn’t a blockbuster, it is a film that everyone in the industry now knows about and has probably seen. And the whole reason we’re even talking about representation in movies right now is because we know how much seeing different experiences on screen can impact people’s real world thoughts and attitudes. So films like 12 Years a Slave are part of the gradual shifting of consciousness that has to happen in Hollywood to get to a point where studios are consistently greenlighting big-budget films starring people of color.

ML: As budgets for tentpole science fiction and fantasy movies have soared, studios have been more reluctant to take a chance on actors or characters that they perceive as risks. Because people of color and women are also already more likely to consume movies than white people and men, maybe they don’t feel an incentive to change what they are doing because, from their perspective, minorities are perfectly willing to watch films starring white guys. Hollywood is pretty stubborn, especially when it comes to tentpole movies. We are seeing more diversity in television, particularly in children’s television, as well as in online content. The establishment will change when someone influential in Hollywood decides to take the risk and make an effort to diversify their film offerings. The stats in this infographic are focused on profit, not art. For things to change, Hollywood needs to believe that diversity can be profitable.

***

This is not an isolated incident, but a wide reaching societal problem.
Read more Diversity Gap studies on:

The Academy Awards
The Tony Awards
The Emmy Awards
The children’s book industry
The New York Times Top 10 Bestseller List
US politics

Further resources on how to teach content and visual literacy using Lee & Low Books’ infographics series on the Diversity Gap:

Using Infographics In The Classroom To Teach Visual Literacy

CONTACT: For more information or to request permission to reprint, please email hehrlich[at]leeandlow[dot]com


Filed under: Diversity, Race, and Representation, Guest Blogger Post, The Diversity Gap Tagged: African/African American Interest, Asian/Asian American, diversity, Latino/Hispanic/Mexican, LGBT, Middle Eastern, Multiracial, Native American, Race issues, Science Fiction/Fantasy, whitewashing

1 Comments on Where’s the Diversity, Hollywood? Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blockbusters Overwhelmingly White, Male, last added: 7/29/2014
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25. Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: August 1

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include authors and illustrators, book lists, diversity, growing bookworms, events, summer reading, summer slide, literacy programs, kidlitcon, writing, movies, and schools.

Authors and Illustrators

Wild Things! Funky Buddha Parties to Children’s Books: Before They Were Authors + Illustrators http://ow.ly/zLu55 @SevenImp @FuseEight

Fun! Books the @growingbbb family's favorite Children's Authors Liked When They Were Kids http://ow.ly/zG4qs #kidlit

Book Lists

A timely list! 3 on a YA Theme: Summer Camp | @catagator @bookriot http://ow.ly/zB0pU #yalit

100 Children's Books to Read in a Lifetime from @Amazon is a pretty nice list http://ow.ly/zJ66c via @PWKidsBookshelf

A Tuesday Ten: SF-based Time Travel in #kidlit | Views From the Tesseract http://ow.ly/zLujJ #BookList

Books to Help Your Child With Common Kid Problems | @BookishHQ http://ow.ly/zL2xS #BookList #kidlit

From @CoffeeandCrayon | A List of Books About Starting Kindergarten http://ow.ly/zLtEQ #kidlit

New #BookList from Stacked: #YAlit involving Hacking, Gaming & Virtual Reality http://ow.ly/zIkwh

Picture Books for Young Writers | Lit For Kids Blog via @ChoiceLiteracy http://ow.ly/zGeOb #kidlit

A Top Ten Featuring the Coretta Scott King Book Awards by @medinger @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/zG9wo #kidlit

Nice list of Middle Grade titles for #WeNeedDiverseBooks from @girlsincapes http://ow.ly/zG8aO via @charlotteslib

Stacked: Censorship, Challenges, and Other Forms of Protest: A Reading List from @catagator http://ow.ly/zG6hd

Diversity

Congratulations to #WeNeedDiverseBooks for incorporating + having a great advisory board http://ow.ly/zOh8A @sljournal

Go Doc McStuffins! Race in Toyland: A Nonwhite Doll Crosses Over @NYTimes http://ow.ly/zJ5G6 via @PWKidsBookshelf

Sigh! Infographic: The Diversity Gap in Sci-Fi & Fantasy Films. @bkshelvesofdoom @leeandlow http://ow.ly/zJ5aI

Events, Programs, and Research

Very cool! School Librarian Fights Summer Slide with School Bus-Turned-Bookmobile | @sljournalhttp://ow.ly/zOh3J

FirstBookSummer_ReadingEncouraging news from @FirstBook blog: How Kansas City Kids Beat Summer Slide http://ow.ly/zAYTP #SummerReading

Neat idea! Richmond mom brings literacy to laundromats | @KALW in SF http://ow.ly/zJ6do via @PWKidsBookshelf

"This summer, the streets of London have been filled with 50 book-shaped benches, celebrating a range of books" http://ow.ly/zB11c

Mind the Gaps: Books for All Young Readers | @HornBook Colloquium sounds neat http://ow.ly/zOhGA #HBAS14 http://ow.ly/zOhP1

Press Release: A Conference on Censorship in #kidlit and a Call for Proposals @fuseeight http://ow.ly/zG5Nv @ArneNixonCenter

Learning To Read May Take Longer Than We Thought @NPR via @PWKidsBookshelf http://ow.ly/zJ5Xd #literacy

Growing Bookworms

This is awesome! I want one! Sneaking Books in at breakfast: toast racks as book storage | @playbythebook http://ow.ly/zOz5C

The Maze Runner: Hooking Teachers + Reluctant Readers Since 2009 – Review by @shkrajewski @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/zLtQZ

Keep calm + read to your child, @JGCanada advises parents worried about their kids not yet reading http://ow.ly/zLte8

Don't miss: Getting Boys Excited About Reading: Ideas & Resources from @TrevorHCairney http://ow.ly/zAZw0

Kidlitosphere

KidlitCon2014_cubeWendie Old has all the links you need to learn about this year's #KidLitCon http://ow.ly/zIkPb #kidlit #yalit

#KidLitCon 2014 Still Wants YOU! says co-organizer @aquafortis | She just registered. How about you? http://ow.ly/zGsup

Children's + YA BOOK blogging friends! This is the last week for Session Proposals for #KidLitCon14 http://ow.ly/zGczI

Lots of good stuff in this week's Fusenews, including a plug for #KidLitCon14 from @fuseeight http://ow.ly/zIfpG

A Little Shout-Out to #KidlitCon from co-organizer Tanita Davis: The more we talk about things like #diversity... http://ow.ly/zG9ec

"My best memories of #KidLitCon are getting to meet people in real life" | @LizB on why you should attend http://ow.ly/zG79Q

How I presented at #Kidlitcon, and how you can too! from this year's Program Organizer @charlotteslib http://ow.ly/zG6LI

What Do We Mean When We Talk About Diversity + How Can YOU Contribute to the Conversation at #KidLitCon http://ow.ly/zAWvU Tanita Davis

On Reading, Writing, Publishing

Middle Grade and YA: Where to Draw the Line? (+ where to shelve the books in the store) http://ow.ly/zJ5qf @PublishersWkly #kidlit

I feel like this too: Books as Traveling Companions through life by @AmericanClassrm @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/zG5op

"Read-alouds can sometimes be just as important to the teacher in the classroom" @rantryan @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/zG8GC

I collect bookmarks, too. Loved: Handmade Mini Bookmarks + Books About Reading from @momandkiddo http://ow.ly/zAZzz

Movies and Video

I am intrigued... The Famous Five are headed to the big screen, via @bkshelvesofdoom http://ow.ly/zIdfY

Wild Things! Tar Babies + Cannibals: Children’s Literature + Problematic Cinematic Adaptations http://ow.ly/zIkcm @FuseEight + @SevenImp

#KidLit Film Adaptations: The Good, The Bad, and the Traumatizing at Wild Things! http://ow.ly/zG63c @SevenImp @FuseEight

Who would have thought? 8 Reasons Why @momandkiddo Loves Pokémon http://ow.ly/zIean

Schools

At Literate Lives, suggestions from a dad to his daughter, a first-time first-grade teacher http://ow.ly/zLtmw

The plot to destroy education: Why technology could ruin American classrooms — by trying to fix them @salon http://ow.ly/zODY5

An idea for teachers: Battle of the Books by Sherry Gick @LibraryFanatic @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/zAZWV

Summer Reading

RT @ErinMargolin: SO GOOD! 10 Tips on How to Avoid the Summer Slide http://www.bonbonbreak.com/avoiding-summer-slide/ … via @bonbonbreak

National Book Foundation Launches New #SummerReading Program in NYC http://ow.ly/zODjU via @PWKidsBookshelf

#SummerReading Tip33 @aliposner | Have a lemonade stand…and, tie it to #literacy! | http://ow.ly/zG9DI

#SummerReading Tip35 from @aliposner | Parents, participate in a READING IN THE WILD scavenger hunt! | @donalynbooks http://ow.ly/zLvcE

Nancy Howe and Rosanne Macek: Keep our kids off the summer slide w/ #SummerReading programs @MercuryNews http://ow.ly/zAPIA

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.

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