I spent an hour today in a twitter chat hosted by First Book. The chat was part of the We Need Diverse Books campaign.
In the chat I advocated for authors who are Native.
Right away--as usual--a white writer posed a question about white writers, asking the First Read host if authorship of a book matters.
Not surprisingly, First Book said that authorship does not matter. Diversity of characters is what they're after. That's the answer you get from, I'd guess, every publisher.
I persisted, though, because I do think it matters. Here's why:
Just about every book a kid picks up has white people in it. And, just about every book is written and illustrated by a white author or illustrator. For literally hundreds of years, white kids have seen themselves reflected in the books they read, and they've had the chance to see people who look like them as writers and illustrators of those books. By default, they've been able to see a possible-self. By default, they could imagine themselves as the writer or illustrator of that book. It may not have been a conscious thing, but it was the norm. The default. The air they breathe. Every day.
I want that for Native kids. I want them to see books written and illustrated by people who look like them. I want them to be able to think "Hmmm... I could be a writer, too, just like Cynthia Leitich Smith!" or "Hey! I could be an illustrator, too, just like S. D. Nelson!"
I understand that white authors and illustrators feel threatened by my advocacy, but my advocacy is for Native children who deserve the same affirmations white kids get all the time.
I'm closing this post with a tribute to Native writers and illustrators of books I've recommended on AICL. That tribute is photos of them. They are in no particular order. I'll keep adding to this gallery, because I don't have time right now to be comprehensive. I'll do my best, and I welcome you to write to me to let me know to add someone I've missed. Each person's tribe is beneath their name. If there are errors, I apologize, and please let me know.
|Cynthia Leitich Smith|
Image source: Cynsations
Image source: Northern Arizona Book Festival
Image source: Milkweed
|Nicola I. Campbell|
Nlel7kepmx, Nsilx and Metis
Image source: The Word on the Street
Image source: My Very Own Book
|Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve|
Image source: Native Daughters
|Richard Van Camp|
Image Source: Zimbio
Image source: Starrwatcher Online
Standing Rock Sioux
|Lee DeCora Francis, and her boys|
|Jan Bourdeau Waboose|
Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe
Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe
White Earth Anishinabe
|N. Scott Momaday|
|Leslie Marmon Silko|
|Heid E. Erdrich|
Turtle Mountain Chippewa