Was the Cat in the Hat Black?: The Hidden Racism of Children’s Literature, and Why We Need Diverse Books

Here’s some news I’ve been itching to share: Oxford University Press will publish my next book, Was the Cat in the Hat Black?: The Hidden Racism of Children’s Literature, and Why We Need Diverse Books. Also, this coming Monday, I will be turning in (to Oxford) the complete manuscript of the book. Though it’s too…

Disagreement, Difference, Diversity: A Talk by Christopher Myers

This is not the title of the talk that Christopher Myers gave here on Thursday. It was called “Please Don’t Agree with Me: the Need for Disagreement in Debates About Literature for Young People.”  However, I’ve aligned these three words — disagreement, difference, diversity — in my title because one of Myers’s central points is that…

Created Equal: The Planned Integrated Community of Village Creek, Conn.

For America’s Independence Day, here’s a little-known chapter in the history of American anti-racism. Following the Second World War, progressives founded a dozen planned integrated communities across the country. While working on my biography of Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss, I learned about one of those communities — a section of Norwalk Connecticut directly adjacent to where Johnson…

Five reasons to get One Word from Sophia

Jim Averbeck and Yasmeen Ismail’s One Word from Sophia (2015) was published this month. Here are for reasons you should get (buy, borrow, barter) the book for the young people in your life — or for yourself. (Grown-ups can read children’s books, too, you know.) It’s funny. Sophia wants a giraffe for her birthday. So, of…

Charleston, Family History, & White Responsibility

In response to concerns expressed by some members of my family, I have removed this blog post. This marks the first time that I’ve removed or changed something for reasons other than finding an error or a typo. This post will not reappear here.  But nor will it completely disappear.  I plan to revise and…

Notes on Selma (the film)

As you’ve likely heard already, Selma is a powerful film. See it. I cried a fair bit. The violence is palpable. Gunshots, people being gassed, the soggy crunch as truncheon strikes human beings, the murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson. The visceral brutality of the whites in power. Watching the film, I kept thinking Ferguson, Ferguson, FERGUSON! And all Ferguson has…

The Archive of Childhood, Part 2: The Golliwog

The second in my “Archive of Childhood” series. Trigger warning: images of a racist doll appear below. I’ve included it because this post is about racism, and I didn’t feel I could talk about the racism without displaying the doll in question. NOTE. A revised and expanded inquiry into this subject forms the Introduction (“Race, Racism, and the Cultures of…

#BlackLivesMatter — A Twitter Essay

1. #Ferguson. #MikeBrown #EricGarner. #TrayvonMartin #BlackLivesMatter. #BlackLivesMatter. #BlackLivesMatter. — Philip Nel (@philnel) December 3, 2014 2. We can tweet #BlackLivesMatter all day. And we should. And we should ask why killing a person of color doesn’t even warrant a trial. — Philip Nel (@philnel) December 3, 2014 3. There’s actually video of #EricGarner saying #ICantBreathe…

On Reading the Expurgated Huck Finn; or, Why We Should Teach Offensive Novels

As you may recall, three years ago NewSouth Books published an edition of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Adventures of Tom Sawyer in which editor Alan Gribben replaced the n-word with “slave,” and the in-word (“Injun”) with “Indian.” Many (including yours truly) criticized Gribben’s decision, and most critics focused on Huckleberry Finn. But…

Ferguson: Response & Resources

This post has two parts: my response and some resources for teaching about Ferguson. Feel free to skip ahead to the resources section. My Response For two weeks now, I have been wanting to write something about the state-sponsored terrorism in Ferguson — and all that it represents (structural racism, police brutality, militarized cops, etc.). But it makes…