With all of the rich conversation going on right now on the CCBC listserv, I wanted to voice my own vision– both connected to the conversation and entirely separate (… I have come to love blurred lines and paradoxes).
We know that, like Megan Schliesman so beautifully stated, THE ONE answer to problems of representation of race and ethnicity doesn’t exist. If there are plural answers, we are all going to have varying opinions about which are correct, which are valid and valuable.
Here’s one thought, among the many:
Let’s do everything we can to let every human being know that THEIR STORY MATTERS. I think if we shift the conversation a bit– from who is publishing or not publishing certain material, who or who is not represented, and blame (the stem and the leaves of the tree)– to a sense of self-ownership and each of us belonging and being valued (the root of the tree), we might get somewhere.
All people have hard issues, deep sensitivities, and a plethora of identities. Each of us wants to be treated as the multi-dimensional person that we are; I definitely want to be seen as more than my physical appearance, more than my cultural identity, more than my age or religion or gender or sexual orientation or my hobbies. But those things ARE me; I can’t separate them out from my story.
So I should tell my story. You should tell your story. You should convince everyone– your friends, your family, your library patrons, the kids in storytime, the people you meet on the train or at the grocery store– to tell their stories. This doesn’t mean that every story will be published as a book for kids (it’s not easy to publish a kid’s book!). But it DOES mean that more people will BELIEVE that they can do it. They can tell their story orally to their grandchildren, they can journal, they can blog about their experiences, they can share anecdotes with friends and family and strangers and their stories will go into the air and might change something. It could change anything! Maybe your story will convince someone else to write something, maybe your story will give someone confidence to get the education they deserve or ignite them to research the publishing industry and how to develop a manuscript and submit. It may sound spiritual, or “self-esteemy” or “woo woo new age let’s go light some incense,” but so much of the stories we hear now are built on shame (think reality TV, magazines, social media, negative self-talk) that it’s no wonder people think their stories are unimportant!
My point is: If more people believed that their story is important, our literature would be a more accurate representation of our diverse world. Sharing story is HARD. It opens you up to vulnerability, possible rejection (think of how many times authors get rejected before getting published!), and critique.
YOUR STORY MATTERS (tell it).