You do not self-destruct when your fears come to pass. Things are replenishable that you thought were not: your savings, your opportunities, your pride. Your life can be stripped very close to the bone, and you can begin again. –Michelle Wildgen in the April 2014 issue of O Magazine
Ever since I was little I have always wanted to write two children’s book series– one about squirrels and the other about goldfish. Do not ask me why. My imagination is just that: mine. I still intend to write these two books, but this recent article in the New York Times about diversity in children’s books really made me stop and think about the importance of teaching little kids diversity, not just morals, through picture books. When I was little I was more concerned about colorful cover art than a good story. It saddens me that this is even a thing, because many of the experiences of childhood are the same, irregardless of race. Every child, not matter who/where they are, is trying to learn who they are and what they are good at. That is the work of childhood. The work of adulthood is to accept who you are and to stay true to what you are good at.
What the article does not address is book awards and book sales for children’s books with authors and protagonists who are black, brown, red and yellow. I would be curious to know how many parents, if any, choose their children’s books based on the races of the protagonists or the perceived race of the author. Do those books experience lower sales? I have often thought about using a pseudonym when I publish my series, because who would trust “Kelundra” with their children? When I was 10 and under everyone was into Stellaluna, Where the Wild Things Are, Goodnight Moon, Dr. Seuss, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and as I got older, the Triplet Trouble series, The Boxcar Children series, The Baby-Sitter’s Club, and The Cheetah Girls. It never occurred to me the amount of effort my mother must have put in curating my literature. I had lots of books with people who looked lime me as the main characters. I have even kept some of those books with the hope that I will be able to read them to my children someday. Here’s a list of some of my favorite children’s books with characters of color:
- At the Crossroads by Rachel Isadora
- Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
- Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
- Saturday at the New You by Barbara E. Barber
- Aunt Flossie’s Hats and Crabcakes Later by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard
- The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles
- Abuela’s Weave by Omar Castaneda
- All of the American Girl books
This one’s for all of the women like myself whose names make people uncomfortable.