I'm pasting that reflection here today, and I've added some images. It captures my thoughts of ten years ago, and there are things in it that I want to respond to. For now, here's that essay.
Thoughts on Not Seeing Oneself
I grew up on a small Indian reservation in
Twenty-five years later, I was teaching first grade for the public school district that eventually consolidated
Five years later, I moved from the
During my second semester, I took a course in multicultural children's literature and slowly became aware of why I felt I was in a dream world. It became clear that I was finally in the place Tip took me to. Those images I saw in Tip represented something I did not have as a child, but had found and embraced joyfully as an adult.
The feelings of joy became bittersweet as I realized that I treasure the two and three story houses and the huge piles of leaves because those images were connected to learning to read. I began to wonder - what if my basal reader had contained illustrations of brown
Of course, this is an unanswerable question, but it does speak to the need we recognize in the 90's, for children to see themselves in their books--to see their life experiences validated in the books they read, be they basal readers or children's literature. This means that we need to give children books with characters that look like they do. We say it is necessary for their self esteem.
I don't know if my childhood self esteem was hurt by not seeing myself in my books, but I do know my heart soars today when I see my culture in the pages of Dianne Hoyt-Goldsmith's Pueblo Storyteller or Marcia Keegan's Pueblo Boy, or Michael Lacapa's Less Than Half, More Than Whole. I suspect this is true for all of us, with different books and in other media. Aren't we all thrilled when we see national magazines do a feature story on a small town near our own? Don't we all sit up straighter and grin?
Multicultural literature is suffering a sort of backlash as the 90's draw to a close. Some critics attack multiculturalism as an effort to balkanize