Friday, August 05, 2016

When We Was Fierce + A Birthday Cake for George Washington + A Fine Dessert...

It has been a landmark year in children's literature. I don't mean the calendar year of 2016. I mean the year marked by August 4th, 2015 and August 4th, 2016, where depictions of African Americans in two picture books and one young adult novel were the subject of conversations that prompted responses from their creators, editors, or publishers.

This timeline is just the key moments. Elsewhere I've curated links to discussions of A Fine Dessert and A Birthday Cake for George Washington. Edith Campbell has links to discussions of When We Was Fierce

August 4th, 2015
Elisa Gall, librarian, posted her concerns about problems in A Fine Dessert. 

November 1st, 2015
Emily Jenkins, the author of A Fine Dessert issued an apology (scroll down; her apology is the 9th comment, submitted on Nov 1 at 9:48 AM).

January 4, 2016
Vicky Smith, editor at Kirkus, pointed to the forthcoming A Birthday Cake for George Washington.

January 17, 2016
Scholastic, publisher of A Birthday Cake for George Washington, announced they were stopping the distribution of the book and that people could get a refund for it if they'd already purchased it.

July 21, 2016
KT Horning, director of the Cooperative Children's Book Center at the University of Wisconsin, gave a lecture in School Library Journal's summer course designed to increase their reviewers skills in recognizing problematic depictions. In it she spoke at length about When We Was Fierce.

August 4th, 2016
Kelly, an editor at Book Riot, tweeted that she'd received an email from Candlewick (publisher of When We Was Fierce) indicating that the book, scheduled for release on August 9th, was being postponed.

I attribute this year to the power of social media. With its many platforms for reaching a wider audience than was possible before, more people are reading, listening--or rather, hearing--and responding. I hope this marks lasting change. We've been here before, many times. In the 1960s, for example, the people at the Council on Interracial Books for Children, pushed publishers very hard. What we've seen in this past year, however, is unprecedented, and I believe it speaks to the power of speaking back to misrepresentations.

No comments: