Tuesday, October 13, 2015

An Open Letter to People Who Are Not "Fans" of "Call Out Culture" on Social Media

Dear People Who Are Not "Fans of "Call Out Culture" on Social Media,

Today (October 13, 2015), The Guardian ran an article on Meg Rosoff's "row" over her remarks on Edith Campbell's Facebook page. There, Rosoff wrote that there are thousands of books out there where kids can see themselves. In The Guardian, writer James Dawson said that he disagrees with Rosoff's remark that there are thousands of books, saying there are "numerous" books and that they're hard to find. Then, he said this:  

Just in case you didn't realize it, Mr. Dawson and others who aren't fans of "call out culture," you're asking me to shut up with my critiques of the ways that Native peoples are depicted in children's and young adult books. 

Some of you are like Dawson, and think that buying books by diverse writers is enough. You think the mirrors in those books are enough.

But you forget, don't acknowledge, or maybe you don't even know, that the mirrors that Native kids get in classic, popular, and award-winning books aren't those nice shiny things you have in mind.

Far and away, what Native kids get are fun house mirrors* like the ones we see at carnivals, fairs, and theme parks. The ones that take your image and distort it. That make it look funny. Or uber cool. Or scary. Or stupid.

Source: http://www.dianasprinkle.com/2011/12/funhouse/

We have to call out these distortions, and you should, too. Lift books that give kids accurate representations of Native people, but call out the ones that are not ok, too, so that your buds will know those books are not ok. So they won't be put onto those school reading lists.

I'm talking about Ghost Hawk. And Island of the Blue Dolphins. And Little House on the Prairie. And Brother Eagle Sister Sky. And The Education of Little Tree. And Walk On Earth A Stranger. And... I could go on and on and on.

Your silence affirms their existence. Your silence harms what Native kids get, and what non-Native ones "learn" from those distorted images.

Join me. Call out the bad. You're not being a "fan" of call out culture. You're being a person who cares about what kids get in books.

Debbie Reese
American Indians in Children's Literature

*Update on Friday, Feb 25, 2022: In searching for something else, I came across Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop's use of the phrase "fun house." In Shadow and Substance: Afro-American: Afro American Experience in Contemporary Children's Fiction she wrote that "black children exploring the world of children's books found themselves looking into a kind of distorted fun-house mirror that resisted sending back reflections at all..."  

Sunday, October 11, 2015

About Meg Rosoff's next book...

Eds. note: Edith Campbell's Facebook page where Meg Rosoff went off on diversity is now set to public view. At the bottom of this post, I am adding links to responses to Rosoff.

Last night, friend and colleague Edith Campbell's page on Facebook had a visit from writer, Meg Rosoff, who objected in shameful ways to calls for diversity. Rosoff said kids who are looking for representations of themselves should "read a newspaper" and that people calling for diversity should "write a pamphlet" about it. She said that books don't have agendas. She said a lot of things.

Edi wrote it up at her site. Go read it. It sparked a great deal of conversation on Twitter.

Are you wondering what Rosoff's response to all of this is? Here you go:

God, Rosoff, you are something else. Last year, I started to read her Picture Me Gone. It was on the short list for the National Book Award. I got to this part and quit reading:

"Indian squaw"? At that point in Picture Me Gone her characters are in a cafe. Items on the wall are what look very old. She didn't need that line about that painting in her book. Removing it wouldn't change the book at all. Having it there, however, is a microaggression. She's using a slur.

I wonder what words she uses to describe that "native American woman" in her next book? I have lots of questions about that plot. Why is the black kid in love with that woman? What is her nation? What is her name?

She hasn't written characters like this before. My guess is she's trying to cash in on the call for diversity. But, as her remarks on Edi's page show, she is no ally to the call for diversity.

I'm hitting the upload button on this post. I may be back with updates...

Update, Oct 11, 2015, 4:27 PM
Back to add links to blog posts in response to Rosoff.

October 12, 2015, 10:22 AM
More posts:

October 14, 2015, 3:35 PM
More posts:

October 15, 2015, 2:25 PM
More posts:

October 16, 2015, 8:45 AM