Are Asian Students Smarter?

A CNN report looks at the success of Asian American students in high school:

There are a few good things it brings up, in addition to looking at nurture (culture, parental influence) instead of just nature (genetics, biology), like the fact that test-taking and intelligence aren’t perfectly correlated. Perhaps most importantly, it points out the vast diversity with the group we call “Asian American”; Asia is huge, and Asian Americans come from a variety of cultures with their own expectations, priorities, and assumptions. It’s a helpful reminder that labels tell part of the story but never the whole story.

A Different Kind of Book Art

We talk a lot about art in books and on books—covers, more covers, and illustrations. Art that’s part of the book. But what if we go in the other direction?

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This Week in Diversity: Here, There, Everywhere

Welcome back! We’re still getting used to writing “2010” instead of “2009,” but it’s time for the year’s inaugural issue of This Week in Diversity.

Harlem and its demographic shifts have been the talk of the town lately, starting with a NYTimes piece, “No Longer Majority Black, Harlem Is in Transition,” looking at Harlem’s history from 1910 through recent changes. That’s followed by “#gentrification,” in which a former urban planner for Manhattan Community Board 10—Harlem, basically—talks about Harlem in the ’90s, the difference between the neighborhood of Harlem and the idea of Harlem, and the good side of gentrification. Ta-Nahisi Coates agrees, and goes on to discuss African Americans deciding how and where to live.

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Westerns and Modern Movies

Here’s a great look at the portrayal of Native Americans in classic Hollywood movies:

They do a great job highlighting the portrayal of American Indians as violent, uncivilized, and animalistic, and the effect that has on Native American moviegoers. I did notice, though, that all the movies they showed were fairly old, and that such blatant racist rhetoric would have a harder time now. But does that mean the problem has actually gone away, or has Hollywood just stopped portraying Indians at all, negatively or positively? Or have more subtle, insidious stereotypes slipped in to take the place of what we see here?

Black OR White Covers

In August 2009 there was a controversy over a novel with cover art that showed a white face even though the main character of the story was black. The main argument for featuring a white face instead of a black face seems to be a belief that readers are more likely to buy a book with a white face on it. The cover was changed by the publisher because of the uproar it caused on the web, but the incident got me thinking about the images on the covers of our own books, especially since we are a publisher that focuses on diversity.

One hundred percent of the time diverse faces stare out from the covers of our books. Does this mean that only Asian American readers buy Asian books and African Americans only purchase our African or African American titles? If this were the case, we would have been out of business a long time ago. Our publishing mission is based on the idea that the universality of themes contained in our books appeal to a wide audience. A book that takes place in Southeast Asia, for example, should capture the imaginations of both a white child in Minnesota and a child of South Asian descent because of the common themes that bind us together.

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Frosty Sighted on Park Avenue

snowman spotted in the city
snowman spotted in the city

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Eyes Lazy and Colorblind

This has appeared around the ‘net in the last couple days:

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HP’s response partially explains what’s going on: “The technology we use is built on standard algorithms that measure the difference in intensity of contrast between the eyes and the upper cheek and nose. We believe that the camera might have difficulty “seeing” contrast in conditions where there is insufficient foreground lighting.”

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This Week in Diversity: Covers, Cultures, and Cares, Oh My!

We get a lot of bookish news and links from librarian Betsy Bird’s blog, A Fuse #8 Production, and its Fusenews collections of literary links. This week, she brought us a couple stories of covers that we’re happy to pass along. First, we have the cover to PW’s Trends in African-American Publishing issue causing a bit of controversy. Frolab looks at the arguments and asks us to Pick Fros Not Fights!. Second, she leads us to Stacked, where they’re taking a look at a different sort of diversity—or lack thereof— on covers: Where have all the fat girls gone? “Think about all of the covers you see: they’re ALL thin. Every. Last. One. Of. Them. Even if the book doesn’t talk about the weight or shape of a character, the cover makes him/her thin.” Well, not every cover, but she’s got a point.

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“White Beauty”

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There are four more segments, but I think we all know how it’s going to go: the (already) beautiful Indian woman will use the Magical Whitening Cream, gaining a “pinkish white glow”; the European woman will reveal her inner petty, jealous self; the Indian woman’s new, whiter skin will re-catch the man’s eye, and they will be passionately reunited. In an airport.

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Holiday Traditions

Winter brings with it a slew of holidays, and most of us have holiday traditions—for holidays we celebrate and, in many cases, for those we don’t. (I am Jewish and do not celebrate Christmas, but woe betide any who come between me and my Christmas Eve French Onion Soup, a tradition my family inherited from a French exchange student). Our authors and illustrators have shared their holiday traditions and memories, and now it’s your turn!

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Exploring Children's Books Through the Lens of Diversity