Highlights from #WeNeedDiverseBooks

I went through the #WeNeedDiverseBooks tag on Twitter (which is trending, by the way) and picked out some of my favorite posts to share. It’s one thing for me or any blogger to write a post about the need for diversity, but it’s a whole other thing to have so many people to come together to speak up about it. This is one of the greatest things about social networking. Even five years ago, having this much attention brought to the problem wouldn’t have been possible. 2 3

 

4 5 11  Twitter   Search    WeNeedDiverseBooks

Advertisements

LGBTQ Young Adult novels

#GayInYA - An infographic created by the @EpicReads community!

I’ve previously talked about the importance of representation in books, but I know my own personal repertoire of books could use some diversifying. So, here is a list of Young Adult books that have a LGBTQ character as the protagonist. While a good amount of these books are your typical “struggling with accepting yourself” type books, there are also quite a few fantasy and sci fi books that seem really interesting. I would definitely like to read some of these books, and if you have any suggestions for other LGBTQ books, please leave a comment!

Perhaps this exclusivity, in which children of color are at best background characters, and more often than not absent, is in fact part of the imaginative aspect of these books. But what it means is that when kids today face the realities of our world, our global economies, our integrations and overlappings, they all do so without a proper map. They are navigating the streets and avenues of their lives with an inadequate, outdated chart, and we wonder why they feel lost.

The Apartheid of Children’s Literature Christopher Myers.

When I read as I was growing up, it never occurred to me to question why nearly all the kids in the stories looked like me. Why wouldn’t they? I’m normal, right? That’s what I learned from the heroes I looked up to in the books I read, anyway. . Boy protagonists may out weigh heroines, but Hermione Granger taught me that I could be smart and brave despite being (much like Hermione) a small, some what bossy, girl with messy brown hair.  It never occurred to me that there might be girls who wouldn’t learn that they could be smart and brave because when they looked at Hermione they didn’t see themselves. Now, as a young adult I realize how privileged I am to have had so many role models that I could easily identify with, because they were important to me.

As a child born into an entirely white family it didn’t seem out of the ordinary to me that the worlds I read about were almost entirely white, even though people around me were of all different colors. It’s obvious that over time I’ve been trained by various media to picture the default character as white, because (I’m rather ashamed to say) for example, it wasn’t until the movies that I realized the Rue in the Hunger Games was black. She’s explicitly described as having dark skin, yet for some reason that didn’t make her not-white in my mind. Looking back, I can’t believe I was so naive and I can’t believe that I considered it to be perfectly normal for there to not be a single person of color in my imagined reality of this book I was reading.  The consequences for me is that it gave me a skewed view of reality and has kept me shielded from the reality of others oppression, but how has it affected my peers who are of color? I’ve had the privilege to see myself everywhere I look in media, so I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to not be represented in the books I read. But I also can’t imagine what my life would be like now  with out those role models, both real and fictional.

There are a lot of different things we can blame for the lack of representation of minorities in fiction, such as lack of minority authors or demographics. All of those things are factors to be sure, but the main culprit is our culture. There are plenty of women and men of color who are authors, but white men are still over represented in the New York Times best seller list. Are the publishers biased? Are the publishers biased because they are reacting to a perceived to be biased audience? It’s a very complicated situation, and I don’t think there is any way to find a singular cause other than simply hundreds of years of prejudice. Representation is important in all media, but I think it’s especially important in children and young adult literature, because those are the stories and characters that will truly stick with a person as they grow up.

Think about all of your favorite novels and stories from when you were young and count how many people of color were in them. Did you ever notice how few there were before?

Disney’s Relationship With Literature

I co-wrote this blog post with FearlessFanGirl

Disney movies are a well beloved past time for many people of all ages, but most fans have no idea what the origins are of their favorite Disney stories. While most know that things like Snow White and Cinderella are based off of fairy tales, but most don’t realize that every classic animated Disney movie was based off of some other work until the Aristocats in 1970. Some of the novels and short stories that Disney used as source material are still pretty well known, like Alice in Wonderland (Lewis Caroll’s, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) and the Jungle Book (Rudyard Kipling’s book by the same name) but did you know that Bambi was originally Bambi, A Life in the Woods by Felix Salten and is considered the first environmental novel and a classic? Or that the Black Cauldron was based off of a whole series of books by Lloyd Alexander called The Chronicles of Pyridian. Then of course there’s Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne, Mary Poppins (all eight of them) by P.L. Travers and the Fox and the Hound by Daniel P. Mannix. All of the books were relatively popular and well liked at the time of their publication and are considered classic children’s literature, now most people have never even seen a copy of these books because the Disney Films have overshadowed them. While there’s nothing wrong wtih loving Disney movies or other films based on previous works, I do think we need to look at the repercussions of film taking away credit from the source material in the public memory.

 

The Disney fandom on tumblr is incredibly large, however after looking through tumblr and other sites not many members of this fandom know about the original stories that these popular disney movies draw inspiration from. In some cases that may be good for younger children as many of the stories can be graphic, but as these kids grow older they never learn the origins of these stories or pick up the books that started it all. With this happening, we may end up seeing the Grimm’s tales as well as others, disappear. The Disney fandom on tumblr is an interesting one to look at, they are ready to criticize and analyze all the new movies that come out. While this is good in some cases, in other’s it’s not. Parts of the fandom criticize the graphics while others criticize the story line. Some people even sympathize with the villains, but while the fandom does this they tend to over look what the orginal version of these stories had. It’s pretty common to hear fans complain or point out the graphic nature of the ‘original fairy tales’ but most have never read the original literature, especially the ones that aren’t based off of fairy tales. Because most of the classic princess stories are based off of folklore, many films are misattributed to fairy tales. For instance, The Little Mermaid was an original tale by Hans Christian Anderson not a recorded folk tale like the others that were based off of Grimms Fairy Tales. It’s pretty common for fandoms to jump on board criticizing the movie and other fans for not knowing original fairy tales, but at the same time they may not even be aware of the classic children’s literature that it was based on. The fact that these novels and subsequently their authors are being lost into the ether is in away even more of a shame than the original fairy tales being forgotten because with out the movies these novels may have still been read by children today.

 

Also, the Disney Fandom seems to leave out important characters and overshadow them with the Disney Princesses. For example, if you try to look up Mary Poppins or The Jungle Book in the Disney Fandom on tumblr you will find incredible difference between how many posts and items talk about these stories verses something like Tangled or Beauty and the Beast.  In fact, if you search for Mary Poppins in tumblr’s tags you will get a few things from the original movie and from Saving Mr. Banks, but you will also find many of the disney princesses, and strangely enough the Phantom of the Opera. However, if you wanted to look up Sleeping Beauty, you will get more results where it’s just Princess Aurora.  A theory for the reason why these movies are being over shadowed is because they were not in the “Disney Renaissance Era” which was from the mid 80s to 1999. However, that doesn’t explain some movies like the Hunchback of Notre Dame and many others that came out in that time period didn’t make it as big as the princess movies. In fact there are many lists of Underrated and overshadowed disney movies, most of these lists have the Aristocats, Robin Hood, Hunchback of Notre Dame, and the Black Cauldron. All of which are being overshadowed by the princesses and are losing their original stories. Without meaning to, we as a people are losing folklore and a culture that no one can restore. This is exactly what the Brothers Grimm and other authors tried so desperately to avoid, they wanted these tales to live on long after their generation and now we are losing them without meaning to.


Another thing to consider is that the fandoms may not know the original story because these stories are not taught in the same way. The Original fairy tales and folklore had meanings as to why people shouldn’t go out into the woods alone or why they shouldn’t only marry for looks or money. While they still hold some of that today, fairy tales and legends were a teaching tool back then today they are just something that children can enjoy and vent their imaginations on. Maybe we should go back to teaching through legends at times, because there are things you can learn from Robin Hood, the Black Cauldron and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Like Merida said in the movie Brave, “ Legends are lessons. They ring with truths.”