As last week’s failed attempt at diversifying classic literature recedes in your memory (the pace of news can overwhelm, I know), over at Oxford University Press’ blog today is a piece I turned in on Friday. I offer five better ways that publisher might bring diversity to the classic novels. Here’s an excerpt:
Publishers and booksellers might — as the We Need Diverse Books organization suggests — champion “new editions of classic books by people of color and marginalized people, particularly if those books have been largely ignored by the canon.” Need recommendations? Instead of consulting the company’s chief diversity officer, ask experts. Marilisa Jiménez García, a scholar of Latinx literature at Lehigh University, recommends the Nuyorican writer Nicholasa Mohr’s Nilda (1973), “the first novel by a Latina.” Professor Sarah Park Dahlen, co-editor of the journal Research on Diversity in Youth Literature, suggests Yoshiko Uchida’s Journey to Topaz (1971) “for the important work it does to inform young readers of the racist incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.” Katharine Capshaw, a scholar of African American children’s literature at the University of Connecticut, proposes June Jordan’s His Own Where (1971), “a poetic young adult novel about two teenagers in love, which was nominated for a National Book Award.”
Read the rest at Oxford UP’s blog! Comments & critique welcome, of course — preferably at their blog. Thanks!
And particular thanks to Marilisa Jiménez García, Sarah Park Dahlen, and Kate Capshaw for responding to my query so swiftly!
UPDATE, 12 Feb 2020, 2:10 pm:
The lists in the Oxford UP blog post are suggestive, not exhaustive. There are many more complete recommended lists out there. I gestured to one of those in the post: Christina Orlando and Leah Schnelbach’s “23 Retellings of Classic Stories from Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors.” But there are many other titles that could be included! If you send them to me, I’m glad to include other titles here, on this blog!
I’ll start with a recommendation I received this morning from Debbie Reese: Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Hearts Unbroken, which (in Dr. Reese’s words) “does critical work on Baum by making his desire to exterminate Native peoples part of the story.”
Cynthia Leitich Smith's HEARTS UNBROKEN does critical work on Baum by making his desire to exterminate Native peoples part of the story. Highly recommend it! Can you add it to your article, Phil?— Dr. Debbie Reese (tribally enrolled, Nambé Pueblo) (@debreese) February 12, 2020
Other suggestions? Make ’em below, and I’ll add the titles here. Thanks!
Related writing (by me) on this blog and elsewhere
- A Manifesto for Radical Children’s Literature (and an Argument Against Radical Aesthetics) (Barnboken: tidskrift för barnlitteraturforskning/Journal of Children’s Literature Research, 42, 2019).
- Migration, Refugees, and Diaspora in Children’s Literature (ChLAQ) (11 Dec. 2018)
- Context, Privilege, and Pain (26 Nov. 2018)
- What to do with Dr. Seuss? (2 Mar. 2018)
- Was the Cat in the Hat Black? (Talks @ Google) (25 Sept. 2017)
- 7 Questions We Should Ask About Children’s Literature (Oxford University Press Blog, 19 Sept. 2017)
- Racism & Seuss: It’s not a bug. It’s a feature. (A Twitter Essay) (12 Aug. 2017)
- Refugee Stories for Young Readers (Public Books, 23 Mar. 2017)
- The Archive of Childhood, Part 2: The Golliwog (13 Jan. 2015). A revised version of this blog post appears as part of the introduction (“Race, Racism, and the Cultures of Childhood”) to Was the Cat in the Hat Black?: The Hidden Racism of Children’s Literature and the Need for Diverse Books (Oxford UP, 2017).
- “The Boundaries of Imagination”; or, the All-White World of Children’s Books, 2014 (17 March 2014). On the occasion of the New York Times pieces by Christopher Myers and Walter Dean Myers, a collection of information and essays about the fight for diversity in children’s literature.
- Disagreement, Difference, Diversity: A Talk by Christopher Myers (24 Oct. 2015). A few thoughts and notes on an excellent talk by Christopher Myers. I quote from his talk in the book.
- Regarding the Pain of Racism (4 Apr. 2015). Reflections on an observation by Naomi Murakawa, and on my challenges as a White male scholar writing about oppressions I have not experienced. A few slivers of this appear in “A Manifesto for Anti-Racist Children’s Literature,” which is the Conclusion to Was the Cat in the Hat Black?: The Hidden Racism of Children’s Literature and the Need for Diverse Books (Oxford UP, 2017).