Tag Archives: LGBT

Mix it up! 15 Books about Kindness and Giving

Today is Mix It Up At Lunch Day, an annual day started by Teaching Tolerance over a decade ago to encourage kindness and reduce prejudice in schools by encouraging students to sit and have lunch with someone new, one day out of the year. Teaching Tolerance offers some great resources to help schools celebrate Mix It Up At Lunch Day, and we thought we’d add our own list of recommended books that encourage kindness, giving, bravery and open-mindedness!

15 Books About Kindness and Giving

  1. Lend a Hand: Poems About Giving written by John Frank and illustrated by London Ladd- A collection of poems showing the many ways individuals can make differences.
  2. Antonio’s Card written by Rigoberto González and illustrated by Cecilia Álvarez – Antonio’s classmates make fun of Leslie, Antonio’s mother’s partner because of her paint-spattered overalls. Antonio decides to make a card for his mother and her partner.
  3. First Come the Zebra by Lynne Barasch –  Abaani, a Maasai boy, sees a Kikuyu boy, Haki, tending a new fruit and vegetable stall alongside the road and they take an immediate dislike to each other.  A short while later, a dangerous situation arises near Haki’s stall and Abaani and Haki must overcome their differences and work together.
  4. King for a Day written by Rukhsana Khan and illustrated by Christiane Krömer – Malik wants to become the king of the kite festival, Basant. Using his kite Falcon, Malik becomes the king of Basant! When he sees a bully take a kite from a girl, Malik uses Falcon to give her a nice surprise.
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Where’s the Diversity, Hollywood? Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blockbusters Overwhelmingly White, Male

Summer blockbuster season is in full swing. For many moviegoers, that means escaping to a galaxy far, far away—or perhaps just a different version of our own planet Earth—through science fiction and fantasy movies. As fans clamor for the latest cinematic thrills, we decided to focus our next Diversity Gap study on the level of racial and gender representation in these ever-popular genres that consistently rake in the big bucks for movie studios. We reviewed the top 100 domestic grossing sci-fi and fantasy films as reported by Box Office Mojo. The results were staggeringly disappointing, if not surprising in light of our past Diversity Gap studies of the Tony Awards, the Emmy Awards, the children’s book industry, The New York Times Top 10 Bestseller List, US politics, and the Academy Awards, where we analyzed multi-year samplings and found a disturbingly consistent lack of diversity.

The Diversity Gap in Sci-Fi & Fantasy Films infographic (click for larger image)
The Diversity Gap in Sci-Fi & Fantasy Films infographic (click for larger image)

(see end of post for a list of included movies in each category)

Among the top 100 domestic grossing films through 2014:

• only 8% of films star a protagonist of color 

• of the 8 protagonists of color, all are men; 6 are played by Will Smith and 1 is a cartoon character (Aladdin)

• 0% of protagonists are women of color. 14% of protagonists are women 

• 0% of protagonists are LGBTQ

• 2% of protagonists are people with a disability

The following interviews with two prominent entertainment equality advocacy groups shed more light on the subject.

Marissa Lee Marissa Lee is co-founder of Racebending.com, an international grassroots organization of media consumers who support entertainment equality. Racebending.com advocates for underrepresented groups in entertainment media and is dedicated to furthering equal opportunities in Hollywood and beyond.

Imran Siddiquee

Imran Siddiquee is Director of Communications at the Representation Project, which is a movement that uses film and media content to expose injustices created by gender stereotypes and to shift people’s consciousness toward change. The Representation project was the follow-up to the critically acclaimed documentary Miss Representation.

Jason Low: Do these statistics surprise you? Why or why not?

Marissa Lee: The statistics are certainly striking, especially since sci-fi and fantasy belong to a genre that prides itself on creativity and imagination. These statistics aren’t necessarily surprising, since lack of diversity in Hollywood films is a well-known problem. There have been enough studies and articles, and any moviegoer can pause to notice there is a disparity. . . . Hollywood can’t go on pretending that this isn’t a problem.Hollywood can't go on pretending like this isn't a problem.

JL: Do you think the American movie-going audience would support a big, blockbuster sci-fi/fantasy movie with a diverse protagonist if a studio made it?

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Where’s the Diversity, Hollywood? 85 Years of the Academy Awards

The Academy Awards will soon unveil the very best in filmmaking in 2014. As the prediction chatter ricochets around the web, our curiosity about the level of racial and gender representation of the Academy Awards is the focus of our next Diversity Gap study. We reviewed the Academy’s entire 85-year history and the results were staggeringly disappointing, if not surprising in light of our past Diversity Gap studies of The Tony AwardsThe Emmy Awardsthe children’s book industry, The New York Times Top 10 Bestseller List, Sci-Fi and Fantasy Films, and US politics, where we analyzed multi-year samplings and found a disturbingly consistent lack of diversity.

Academy Award infographic
Academy Award infographic (click for larger image)

Since the Academy Awards was founded 85-years ago:

  • Only one woman of color (1%) has ever won the Academy Award for Best Actress
  • Only seven men of color (9%) have ever won the Academy Award for Best Actor
  • Only one woman (1%) has ever won the Academy Award for Best Director

An interview with independent filmmakers helps give a glimpse of the current climate of Hollywood today.

Gina Prince-Bythewood
Gina Prince-Bythewood
is a writer/director for television and film. Her credits include Love and Basketball, The Secret Life of Bees, and the upcoming film Blackbird, which will be released November 14, 2014.


Iyin Landre is an American actress/filmmaker currently living in Río de Janeiro, Brazil. Her first feature film, Me + You, is now in pre-production.

Jason Chan

Jason Chan is an Australian actor/writer/director and one of the founding partners of BananaMana Films, a creative production company based in Singapore. BananaMana recently completed its first thirteen-episode TV drama, What Do Men Want?, and is gearing up to start season two and a film in 2014.

Kelvin YuKelvin Yu is a Taiwanese American writer currently working on the Fox animated series Bob’s Burgers. A Los Angeles native, Yu studied theater and communications at UCLA. His acting credits include Milk, Star Trek, Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip, and The Shield. He also has a small white dog named Yuki that used to live in New York. Neither of them is fixed.


Jason Low: Gina, since writing and directing your independent film Love and Basketball, how has the climate of filmmaking changed? Is it easier or more difficult to get a film made that captures your ideals AND that is more accurately representative from a gender and minority perspective? 

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Whitewashing Book Covers: A Trip to Barnes & Noble Part II

Allie Jane BruceAllie Jane Bruce is Children’s Librarian at the Bank Street College of Education. She guest bloggerbegan her career as a bookseller at Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, DC, and earned her library degree from Pratt Institute. She tweets from @alliejanebruce and blogs at Bank Street College.

Part 1 | Part 2

Students contemplated book covers
Students contemplated book covers

Over the course of the last academic year, I co-taught a year-long unit that allowed a sixth-grade class to explore prejudices in books and the book industry. After studying how book covers and content can marginalize groups (we studied treatments of race, ethnicity, gender, body image, sexuality, class, ability, and more), we took a field trip to Barnes & Noble—by far my favorite piece of the project. The kids exited the store with steam issuing from their ears.Society is almost afraid of putting a dark-skinned or Asian character on the cover of a book.

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Whitewashing Book Covers: What Do Kids Think? Part I

Allie Jane BruceAllie Jane Bruce is Children’s Librarian at the Bank Street College of Education. She guest bloggerbegan her career as a bookseller at Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, DC, and earned her library degree from Pratt Institute. She tweets from @alliejanebruce and blogs for Bank Street College.

Part 1 | Part 2
In my first year as Children’s Librarian at Bank Street, I worked with two teachers on a project that allowed sixth-graders to explore implicit and explicit biases in publishing. Using book covers as a starting point for discussion, we engaged in conversations about identity, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, body image, class, and ability as they relate to books and beyond.It started when my co-worker, Jamie Steinfeld, asked me to booktalk some realistic fiction for her sixth-grade Humanities class. A girl asked a question about Return To Sender“Why is there a bird on the cover?”—and we were off. Good question! Yes, the hardcover does have a bird. And does anyone notice anything about the paperback? See how the boy has his face turned toward us, and we can see his blond hair, but the girl from Mexico has her back to us and we can’t tell what race she is? What’s up with that?

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Literary Agents Discuss the Diversity Gap in Publishing

Literary agents make up a big part of the publishing machine. Most publishers no longer consider unsolicited submissions, so an agent is a must if you even want to get your foot in the door. Each year, agents review many promising manuscripts and portfolios so it is safe to say they have a good sense of who makes up the talent pool of children’s book publishing. So what kind of diversity are agents seeing? Being that the number of diverse books has not increased in the last eighteen years, in order to understand why this problem persists we decided to ask the gatekeepers.

Adriana DomínguezAdriana Domínguez is an agent at Full Circle Literary, a boutique literary agency based in San Diego and New York City, offering a unique full circle approach to literary representation. The agency’s experience in book publishing includes editorial, marketing, publicity, legal, and rights, and is used to help build authors one step at a time. Full Circle works with both veteran and debut writers and artists, and has a knack for finding and developing new and diverse talent.

Karen GrencikAbigail  SamounKaren Grencik and Abigail Samoun own Red Fox Literary, a boutique agency representing children’s book authors and illustrators. They offer a dazzling array of talents among their roster of clients, including New York Times and Time magazine Best Book winners, and some of the most promising up-and-coming talents working in the field today. The agency is closed to unsolicited submissions but it does accept queries from attendees at conferences where they present or through industry referrals.

Lori NowickiLori Nowicki is founder of Painted Words, a literary agency that represents illustrators and authors in the children’s publishing marketplace and beyond. Their goal is to provide the utmost in representation for illustrators and writers while placing a unique emphasis on developing characters, books, and licensed properties.

Do you receive many submissions from authors and illustrators of color? Overall, what percentage of authors and illustrators who submit to you are people of color? Note: Estimations are fine.

AD/Full Circle: I honestly wouldn’t know about percentages, but our agency receives a good number of submissions from authors of color. Proportionally, our agency represents more authors of color than most others. Authors and illustrators who are familiar with our work and/or visit our website know that we welcome diverse points of view, and see that diversity represented in our client list. I will say that I have personally felt for a very long time that there are simply not enough illustrators of color in the marketplace, and I am not quite sure why that is. I am usually very enthusiastic when I receive a query from a talented author/illustrator of color—I wish we received more of those! As a general rule, our agency represents illustrators who are also writers, and such people are difficult to find under any circumstances, as not everyone is equally good at both.I would estimate that perhaps 10–15% of my submissions are from people of color

AS/Red Fox Literary: It’s hard to tell how many submissions come from authors and illustrators of color. Most of the time, I haven’t met these authors and illustrators in person so the only way for me to tell what their ethnicity might be is by their name and their choice of subjects, but these can be misleading. I once made an offer on a picture book about an African American family, told in language with a jazzy rhythm, by an author with an African American sounding name and she turned out to be a white librarian. I’d made the assumption, based on the subject and the author’s name, that she would be African American.

Oftentimes, the question of the author’s ethnicity doesn’t enter my mind—unless the subject relates to race, in which case I’ll wonder if the author will have the life experience that can provide a genuine insider’s point-of-view. I would estimate that perhaps 10–15% of my submissions are from people of color.

KG/Red Fox Literary: I have four authors of color on my list of 38 authors, but like Abi says, we never know the ethnicity of an author when they submit to us. The only way I could imagine to gauge it would be by determining how many authors of color attend an SCBWI conference at which I present, comparing that number to the total number of attendees, and then assuming the ratio of submissions to be a similar percentage. At the recent summer conference in LA, I would guesstimate that authors of color made up about 35% of the total number of attendees.Less than one percent of the submissions I receive reflect people of color in the samples.

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Where’s the Diversity? 5 Reasons Why the US Government Isn’t More Diverse

In our previous diversity studies on the Academy Awards, the Emmy Awards, the children’s book field, The New York Times Top 10 Bestseller List, Sci-Fi and Fantasy Films, and the Tony Awards, we interviewed people who actively work in television, publishing, and the theater. We attempted to duplicate this approach for our diversity study on US politics, but with the government shutdown, none of the twelve Congresspeople we contacted responded to our efforts to reach out to them. However, we think the numbers speak for themselves:

Diversity Gap in American Politics infographic
Diversity Gap in American Politics infographic (click for larger image)

So we have applied a different approach for this study. We have identified five main obstacles standing between the diverse US population and a government that is more representative of the actual population. If you can think of other reasons, please leave them in the comments section below.

1. Gerrymandering
We live in an era in which both political parties are becoming more extreme and states are becoming more and more polarized. In the House of Representatives, gerrymandering, the process of dividing an area into districts to give one political party an electoral advantage over the other, is partly to blame. Both parties have played around with district borders countless times, producing polarized voter blocks.

“We are a complex country,” says Rob Richie, executive director of FairVote.org, but the current system creates “a funhouse mirror distortion of who we are that channels us into two narrow, doctrinaire groupings.”
{Read full article}

Gerrymandering
Gerrymandering example from print edition of Rolling Stone Magazine-10/10/13

“Lawmakers no longer need to appeal to the political ‘middle’ to try to win general elections, but must instead deliver only to their own party’s true believers,” writes Luisa Ch. Savage in Maclean’s, a Canadian current affairs magazine.

However, many political experts say that the polarization goes much deeper. Gerrymandering doesn’t affect Senators (you can’t redraw state lines), but the Senate is just as polarized as the House. This points to increasing polarization of states. “There used to be a great many states that were very competitive in national elections. In 1976, almost half the states in the union came within 3 points of the nationwide vote in the presidential election. A more impressive 30-plus states were within 5pt. Today, the numbers aren’t even close to that,” writes Harry J. Enten in The Guardian.

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True or False? Multicultural Books Don’t Sell

We Are the Problem, We Are the Solution

Elizabeth BluemieElizabeth Bluemle is the co-owner of the Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne, VT.

As an independent bookseller, former school librarian, and lifelong avid reader, I crave the day when publishing lists are as Guest Bloggerdiverse and rich as the playgrounds of our nation, and the conversation about representations of diversity in children’s literature is as unnecessary as the question of whether or not women should vote. Until that happens, there is no discussion more vital in the children’s book world than how to bring our industry at every level in line with America’s diversity.

I’ve written about this subject often over the last several years, for Publishers Weekly’s Shelftalker blog and the CCBC Diversity Committee blog, and while it seems we are, as a whole, talking a lot more about these issues within the field, and while there have been some increase in the number of mainstream children’s books featuring kids of color, we are still so far behind.

The problem is systemic and deeply rooted and requires change at every level, from the publishing houses to artists and writers to booksellers, educators, and [A]dults make all kinds of erroneous assumptions about what will and won’t interest children.consumers. We booksellers have more opportunity to effect change than we might imagine. People entrust us with book recommendations from individual purchases to helping plan school curricula on a grand scale, and this affords us the most amazing opportunity to be aware of what we are recommending. One of the challenges inherent in selling children’s books is that we usually have to go through one or two levels of gatekeepers to reach a book’s intended audience, the child reader. We are selling to teachers and librarians, and to parents and other adult family and friends.

In my seventeen years as a bookseller and three years as a school librarian before that, if there’s one thing I have noticed, it’s that we adults make all kinds of erroneous assumptions about what will and won’t interest children. Time and time again, at the bookstore and at children’s book festivals, I have observed white children picking up books with kids of color on the cover, and heard adults express surprise at the choice. “Are you sure you want that one?” they’ll ask. Or, “Wouldn’t you like this book instead?” It’s not the kids who are the problem. Kids really, really, really only care about a great story. In twenty years of connecting children with books they love, I have only seen one child—ONE!—balk at a book cover because the main character was a different race from her own. It’s the adults who underestimate a child’s ability or desire to see beyond race.

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Why Hasn’t the Number of Multicultural Books Increased In Eighteen Years?

Since LEE & LOW BOOKS was founded in 1991 we have monitored the number of multicultural children’s books published each year through the Cooperative Children’s Book Center’s statistics. Our hope has always been that with all of our efforts and dedication to publishing multicultural books for more than twenty years, we must have made a difference. Surprisingly, the needle has not moved. Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, children’s book publishing has not kept pace. We asked academics, authors, librarians, educators, and reviewers if they could put their fingers on the reason why the number of diverse books has not increased.

The Diversity Gap in Children's Books
The Diversity Gap in Children’s Books (click for larger image)

KT HorningKathleen T. Horning, Director of Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC), School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison: I think we saw the numbers of multicultural books flatlining when school and public libraries began to get funding cuts, so that publishers came to rely more on bookstores for sales. At around that time, we also saw the rise of Amazon, Borders, and B&N. I’ve heard many times from publishers that the “buyers at B&N” believe multicultural books don’t sell. When they are not stocked in these bookstores, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.I’ve heard many times from publishers that the “buyers at B&N” believe multicultural books don’t sell. When they are not stocked in these bookstores, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Librarians and teachers will tell you that the demand is there, at least in the institutional market. I think the answer is to work to restore funding to school and public libraries so that we return to a position of prominence in the market.

Nikki GrimesNikki Grimes, Poet/Author: I’m not sure I know the full answer to that question, but I do think the changes in the industry have affected authors of color disproportionately. With the shift from backlist to frontlist, and from school and library markets to blockbuster-craving bookstore markets, fewer authors of color have been able to secure contracts. Wonderful poets like Janet Wong, for example, have shifted to self-publishing alternatives for precisely this reason. I, myself, am finding it exceedingly challenging to sell at the level I was even five years ago. There are still too few people of color represented in the decision-making positions in publishing, as well. But I think it’s more than that. I think authors of color who do not produce manuscripts that fit an expected demographic, who, for example, are writing books featuring characters who are middle class, instead of poor, or characters who live in two-parent households, instead of single-parent homes, are finding it difficult to place their manuscripts. That, of course, speaks to the perception that only people of color will want to purchase books by people of color, and so publishers want to play to the audience which they believe—wrongly or not—is the average, or the norm.

Rudine Sims BishopDr. Rudine Sims Bishop, Professor Emerita, The Ohio State University: I suspect that, at bottom, there is a concern among large publishers, in spite of the success of publishers like Lee & Low, that multicultural books will not sell as well as they would like. If my closest big chain bookstore is typical, it seems that even the books about people of color that are published are not marketed heavily or well. I have trouble finding children’s books about people of color on their shelves. If I want a specific book I have to order it. I find that my local independent bookstore is the best source, because it is owned by knowledgeable persons committed to selling high-quality literature, including books that reflect America’s diversity. And we know what’s happened to many independent bookstores nationwide.I, myself, am finding it exceedingly challenging to sell at the level I was even five years ago.

On the other side, there may be factors that give the impression that the market for such books is small. There may be a perception among some teachers and others whose job it is to connect children and books that “multicultural books” are only for or mainly for so-called minorities, rather than for all children. Therefore, they may not be in widespread use in classrooms, which could be one potential market. In perusing journal articles on children’s literature in the classroom, one finds few mentions of so-called multicultural books as part of literature or literacy lessons, unless that is the specific focus of the piece. And in my experience, parents and others who seek books about people of color for the children in their lives have a difficult time even knowing what’s available. So they don’t ask for such books at their chain stores and the stores think there is no demand for them.

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Where’s the Diversity? The Tony Awards Looks in the Mirror

Though we are a publisher of children’s books, part of our mission is to look at diversity issues with a critical eye and see whose stories are not being told. As part of that mission, over the next several months we will be looking at several different arenas and talking to experts to see if patterns of inequality repeat themselves in different places. We hope our research will cast a light on the challenges – and opportunities – facing women and people of color today.

The Diversity Gap in the Tony Awards infographic
The Diversity Gap in the Tony Awards infographic (click for larger image)

Since the Tony Awards will be presented on June 9, 2013, we decided to collect some data to see if a diversity gap exists in the theater. See our infographic above. While we cannot claim expertise in other fields outside of children’s books, we were fortunate to receive valuable insight from playwright/actor Christine Toy Johnson, who has spent the last fifteen years conducting dialogue with the entertainment industry to increase diversity in the theater and beyond.

Christine Toy JohnsonCHRISTINE TOY JOHNSON is an award-winning writer, actor, filmmaker, and advocate for inclusion. Member: BMI Workshop, Dramatists Guild, ASCAP, AEA, SAG-AFTRA, Asian guest blogger iconAmerican Composers and Lyricists Project (founder), executive board of Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts, elected leadership of Actors’ Equity Association (and co-chair of the union’s EEOC), founding steering committee member of AAPAC. {Read  more}

How old were you when you knew you wanted to perform onstage?
I can’t remember an age when I didn’t want to perform onstage. I was the kind of kid who made my parents’ holiday guests watch my dramatization of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” every year. I started working professionally (and joined Actors’ Equity Association) the summer I graduated from high school, and against all odds, I have made my living in the arts ever since, as both an actor and a writer.

Since you have been involved in the theater for so long, how have you seen the theater world change? Do you feel that the number of roles available to people of color has increased over the years?

Things have gotten better for people of color, for sure, but there is obviously a lot of room for improvement.

I want to preface all of this by saying that I can only really speak from the perspective of being an Asian American actor and writer. I can’t presume to know what it’s like to be African American, Latina, Native American, etc., but the stats I’ve included from AAPAC (see below) will be able to address this question from a more objective point of view.

Back in 1991, I got a chance to play Julie Jordan in a production of CAROUSEL at the Hangar Theatre in Ithaca, no asian american female playwright has ever been produced on Broadway. Ever.New York, which was a watershed moment for me. Not only was I shocked that I was being given the opportunity to audition (back then, a rare occurrence), but after I booked the job, working with a director and company of actors that supported me and believed in my ability to transform into a non-Asian character in a classic golden age musical gave me the confidence to go for and go on to play many, many more classic non-Asian leading lady roles. The power of encouragement and affirmation from your peers cannot be underestimated.

As a playwright/librettist/lyricist, I am also acutely aware of the number of writers of color that are being produced, which is a key part of this puzzle. (More on that in a later question.) Personally, I am conscious of always either including an Asian American actor in my written work or telling an aspect of an Asian American character’s story. I believe that the only way we’ll see our roles increase is if more of our stories are produced (written by and/or about us), and/or if more playwrights/directors/producers are open to having people of color play non-race specific roles they write/direct/produce.

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