Gracias • Thanks by Pat Mora, illustrated by John Parra, has been awarded Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor!
Our thoughts and prayers are with those in Haiti, and those with family or friends there. Remember when giving to relief efforts that only nonprofits who already have operations in Haiti are situated to give immediate assistance. Aid Watch brings an explanation of why this is the case and suggestions for how to respond, and the U.S. State department is offering a super-easy way to donate: “text ‘HAITI’ to ‘90999’ and a donation of $10 will be given automatically to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts, charged to your cell phone bill.” Via Ta-Nahisi Coates, Haitian American Evan Narcisse writes about what Haiti means to him, and about its role as the first black republic and fusion of art forms that makes it an amazing place.
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.
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.
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?
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.
This has appeared around the ‘net in the last couple days:
If the video does not appear, you may need to download the latest version of Adobe Flash Player.
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.”
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.