Tag Archives: diversity issues

Lee & Low’s Favorite Banned Books

Banned Book Week started yesterday.

For those of you who don’t know,

“Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community –- librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types –- in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.” –American Library Association

Here at Lee & Low Books, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite banned/challenged titles (in no particular order).

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – banned for use of racial slurs and profanity.
  2. Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling – banned for depictions of witchcraft and wizardry/the occult.
  3. the absolutely true diary of a part-time indianThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie – banned for racism, sexually explicit language, and profanity.
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Tearing Down Walls: The Integrated World of Swedish Picture Books

Laura SimeonThe daughter of an anthropologist, Laura Reiko Simeon’s passion for diversity-related topics stems from her childhood spent living all over guest bloggerthe US and the world. She fell in love with Sweden thanks to the Swedish roommate she met in Wales while attending one of the United World Colleges, international high schools dedicated to promoting cross-cultural understanding. Laura has an MA in History from the University of British Columbia, and a Master of Library and Information Science from the University of Washington. She lives near Seattle.

As the Librarian and Diversity Coordinator at a school with a global population, my guiding vision is that the books I offer must be both mirrors that reflect children’s lives and windows that open up new worlds. This is a challenge when the small percentage of children’s books in English showing people of color is largely restricted to stories of oppression far removed from my students’ daily lives of homework, soccer, and wishing for a puppy. Of Maskerad by Kristina Murray Brodincourse it’s important to be aware of injustice, but it sends a powerful message if we only show racial diversity in settings of suffering and conflict.

While “diversity” is not generally the first word that comes to mind when Americans think of Sweden, today fully 20% of Swedes are either immigrants or children of immigrants, many from Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Combine this with Swedes’ commitment to children’s rights and a vibrant literary and artistic community, and you have the perfect setting for stimulating debates and boundary-pushing creativity.

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Join Us for a Diversity Discussion at ALA in Las Vegas

Last year at the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference, we had a great turnout and discussion during our book buzz event. If you’ll be at ALA, join us again this year to keep the conversation going:

ALA Book Buzz 2014

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Is My Character “Black Enough”? Advice on Writing Cross-Culturally

Stacy Whitman photoStacy Whitman is Editorial Director and Publisher of Tu Books, an imprint of LEE & LOW BOOKS that publishes diverse science fiction and fantasy for middle grade and young adult readers. This blog post was originally posted at her blog, Stacy Whitman’s Grimoire

I recently got this question from a writer, who agreed that answering it on the blog would be useful:

My hero is a fifteen-year-old African American boy [in a science fiction story]. A few of my alpha readers (not all) have said that he doesn’t sound “black enough.” I purposely made him an Air Force brat who has lived in several different countries to avoid having to use cliche hood-terminology. I want him to be universal.

Do you have thoughts on this either way?

Is there a possibility that my potential readers could really be offended that a) I am “a white girl writing a book about black people” and b) that my character doesn’t sound black enough? I’ve looked through your blog and website and haven’t found anything specific to my needs on this particular question. Perhaps I missed it?

…should I use Ebonics or not use Ebonics?

First of all, black people—just as white people or Latino people—are a very diverse group of people. There are people who speak in Ebonics (which I believe would be more accurately referred to as BVE–Black Vernacular English) and people who speak plain old suburban English, people who speak with any of a variety of Southern accents and people who have Chicago accents, people who speak with French or Spanish accents (or who speak French or Spanish or an African language). So the question of whether a particular character in a particular situation sounds “black enough” is a complicated question, one that even the African American community can’t necessarily agree on. Within the community (and I say this because I asked a coworker who is African American, who can speak with more authority on the subject than I can) it’s often a question that draws on complicated factors, such as money, privilege, “selling out,” skin tone (relative darkness or lightness—literally, being “black enough”), and hair texture, which all relate to how much a part of which community a person might be.

The question, then, is fraught with loaded meaning not only to do with stereotypes, but also socioeconomic meanings. The question can also tend to be offensive because of that diversity and the loaded meaning the question carries.

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Why is Black Barbie Less Important? Talking To Kids About Race

Howey MacAuleyGuest BloggerGuest blogger Howey McAuley graduated with a BFA in Surface Design from East Carolina University. The best job she ever had was managing school book fairs for an independent bookstore. These days most of her artwork centers around crafts with her children. You can find her on Twitter at @23catsinaroom.

Several weeks ago my daughter Boogie (who just turned 5) had a Barbie doll eaten by one of our dogs. Normally this would lead to a meltdown of epic proportions. This time, however, she shrugged nonchalantly and said, “She’s just the Black one.” Keeping my voice calm (while internally freaking out) I asked her if that made the Barbie less important. She said yes. YES. What?Black children, especially girls, need to be told that they are important. It isn't something they just assume. The racial bias is simply out in the ether.

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Why Multicultural Books Are For Everyone

Over at the book blog The Book Smugglers, Lee & Low is being highlighted today for the “Progressive Publishers Doing Cool Things” feature. Quite a nice honor!

In the guest post, I talk a bit about why Lee & Low was founded, what drives us as a company, and – most importantly – why multicultural books truly are for everyone:Rainbow Stew Cover

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10 Great Resources for Teaching About Racism

It’s been 59 years since Brown vs. Board of Education overturned the “separate but equal” doctrine in schools, but that doesn’t mean discrimination has disappeared from the classroom. Teaching children about race can be a tricky topic, but luckily, there are many great resources and books out there. Our new picture book,  As Fast As Words Could Fly, takes a unique look at school desegregation, following an African American family in North Carolina in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement. Based on the experiences of author Pamela Tuck’s father, it’s proof that just one young person could – and still can – make a big difference.

10 Resources for Teaching About Race
illustration by Eric Velasquez from As Fast As Words Could Fly

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