Category Archives: The Diversity Gap

Lee & Low’s Diversity Gap studies about the lack of representation in various industries.

How Diverse Were This Year’s Tony Awards?

Last year, we shared an infographic and study on diversity (or the lack thereof) in the Tony Awards and theater. Here’s what it looked like:

Tony Awards Infographic

An interview with award-winning writer, actor, and filmmaker Christine Toy Johnson illuminates some of the challenges that actors of color often face on and off Broadway:

No Asian American female playwright has ever been produced on Broadway. Ever. . . . 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.

Continue reading

Reaching All Readers: New Multicultural Books for Children & Teens

Looking for new diverse books for your collection? We’re doing a webinar this afternoon at 2:00 pm EST with Booklist and several diverse publishers – don’t miss it! Sign up free here.

Continue reading

We Need Diverse Books Because…

It’s no secret that here at Lee & Low Books we value diversity – it is literally why we are in business. But we don’t always get down to the basics. Sharing the low numbers of books by/about people of color is not the same as convincing people we need more of them. Just dip your toes into the comments section of any major article about diversity in children’s books and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

When you don’t convince people that the lack of diversity matters, what you get is more of the same. And in publishing, more of the same pretty much looks like this: BookCon, a major one-day event for readers in New York City, releases a lineup of 31 participating authors…and all of them are white.

BookCon is the latest example and certainly a frustrating one, but it is by no means an isolated incident. It’s heartening to see so many recent articles covering the lack of diversity in children’s books, but the question is how that discussion can be turned into action on a large scale to change things. The status quo – massive underrepresentation of people of color – is like a huge, heavy boulder that needs to be moved. Awareness alone will not move it an inch. What’s required is a lot of people to give it a push.

That’s why I love the new #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign happening this week. Here’s your chance to share with the world why diversity in books matters to you and why you want more of it:

Continue reading

Interview with a Librarian for Incarcerated Youth

Amy CheneyAmy Cheney is a librarian and advocate who currently runs the Write to Read Juvenile Hall Literacy Program in Alameda County, CA. She has over 20 years experience with outreach, program design, and creation to serve the underserved, including middle school non-readers, adult literacy students, adult inmates in county and federal facilities, students in juvenile halls, non-traditional library users and people of color.

Cheney was named a Mover and Shaker by Library Journal, has won two National awards for her work, the I Love My Librarian award from the Carnegie Institution and New York Times, and was honored at the White House with a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award. Her six word memoir: Navigator of insanity, instigator of enlightenment. Her theme song is Short Skirt, Long Jacket by Cake. 

Thank you for being with us, Amy! Let’s start with the basics: how would you describe your job, for someone who has no idea what you do?

Entrepreneur, innovator and relationship builder. But my overall job title would be Schlepper.

How did you become a librarian for incarcerated youth? Was it something you always knew you wanted to focus on, or did you begin your career with a different focus?

When I was a teen, a neighbor was friends with Maya Angelou, and they invited me to hear her speak in a church basement.  I remember clearly not wanting to be there, and then as Maya Angelou spoke with such passion and intensity, I felt the hard armor around my heart begin to crack. I remember the struggle to hold onto what I thought was me, or at least my I am constantly trying to advocate and educate for the library to be a right, and not a privilege that can be taken away.protection: the rage, indifference and sullenness. I recognized that if I was struggling with it, then I wasn’t a fundamentally hateful person. That was life changing for me.  I felt such a deep connection with her as a result of this inner experience, I read every book she wrote as it was published.

It took me a long time to realize that this experience is the basis of my passion for bringing in speakers and activities to stimulate the minds and hearts of those incarcerated. From Shakespeare to Cupcake Brown to Ishmael Beah to MK Asante (wonderfully, one of Maya Angelou’s protege’s), I see kids feel encouraged, enthusiastic and interested in a place that tends to dampen all of that.

In the 80’s I was a part of the anti-nuclear protests – when my friends were released from jail I was horrified to hear there were no books where they had been housed. I immediately started a book drive for the jail and that ultimately led to employment at the library serving those incarcerated in Alameda County.

Continue reading

The 86th Annual Academy Awards Wins for Diversity

The glitz, fashion, and the glamorous parties are over, but we at LEE & LOW BOOKS are still thinking about the 86th Annual Academy Awards. We were excited to see our infographic on the diversity gap in the Academy Awards shared in several places, including the New York Times Carpetbagger blog, MSNBC’s The Grio, and Colorlines. Even Ellen started off the night with a joke about diversity (“Possibility number one, 12 Years a Slave could win. Possibility number two, you’re all racists. Now please welcome our first white presenter…”). But the highlight of this year’s ceremony was seeing some big wins in diversity:

lupita nyong'o and cate blanchett
2014 Oscar winners Lupita Nyong’o and Cate Blanchett

Continue reading

Lee & Low Likes… Cheryl Boone Isaacs

Since the diversity pieces out there today can be rather disheartening (like our Diversity Gap in the Oscars infographic), we decided to take a look at things that are a bit more positive. And as the 86th Academy Awards are on Sunday, this “Lee & Low Likes” honors Cheryl Boone Issacs, the first African-American president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. It’s important to note that she’s just the third woman to be elected; Bette Davis served for just two month in 1941 and screenwriter Fay Kanin held the position for four years in 1979-1983. Sadly, it’s been 30 years since a woman has held the president position in the Academy.

Continue reading

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

Note: This infographic was updated to reflect winners through 2015.

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, US politics, and Silicon Valley where we analyzed yearly/multi-year samplings and found a disturbingly consistent lack of diversity. Continue reading

Where’s the Diversity? The NY Times Top 10 Bestsellers List

As we near the end of the 2013, we enter the season when major newspapers and magazines release their “Best of [enter year] lists”. So naturally we were curious about the level of representation of authors of color in last year’s New York Times Top 10 Bestsellers list. We chose to look at their most general bestsellers list, Combined Print & E-Book Fiction (adult), and looked at the top ten books for all 52 weeks of 2012. The results were staggering, if not surprising in light of our past Diversity Gap studies of the Academy AwardsThe Tony Awards, The Emmy Awards, the children’s book industry, Sci-Fi and Fantasy Films, US politics, and Silicon Valley where we analyzed yearly/multi-year samplings and found a disturbingly consistent lack of diversity. Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Why Sleepy Hollow is both the Silliest and Most Important Show on TV Right Now

Shana MlawskiGuest bloggerShana Mlawski is a native New Yorker who writes educational materials and tutors middle and high school students. She has written more than a hundred articles for the pop culture website OverthinkingIt.com, some of which have been featured in The Atlantic Monthly, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and Ms. magazine. Her first novel, Hammer of Witches, was published by Tu Books in 2012.

Bring up FOX’s Sleepy Hollow and you’ll probably get one of two reactions. The first is, “OMG, guys: black people! On network television! And there’s a Hispanic guy! And John Cho! It’s almost like TV has finally entered the twenty-first century.”

The second, more common reaction goes thusly: “Wow. This show is COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS.”

Both reactions work for me. Sleepy Hollow does have an impressively diverse cast: of the eight major characters in its lineup, five are people of color (POC). More importantly, the main character is a woman of color.

As for the claim of ridiculousness… well, watch this:

What’s most interesting to me is how the two reactions intersect. That Sleepy Hollow is racially diverse doesn’t make it unique. Want a show that isn’t all white people all the time? You can watch Scandal or Elementary. But Sleepy Hollow is something different, something rarely seen on mainstream television: a program with a non-white lead that is also a work of camp.

Camp Defined!

In her famous “Notes on Camp,” Susan Sontag defined the genre as “art that proposes itself seriously, but cannot be taken altogether seriously because it is ‘too much.’” Not a bad definition for a show that features a Headless Horseman carrying a machine gun. Sleepy Hollow takes itself seriously enough that it can quote Milton and Edmund Burke with a straight face, but its heroes also exclaim things like, “The answers are in George Washington’s Bible!” It may not be John Waters, but that sounds campy to me.

Continue reading