Since this weekend, I’ve been reading some of the tributes to children’s book author Norma Fox Mazer, who passed away this weekend. And with my sadness that a woman who was by many accounts a wonderful person and writer is with us no longer, there is another emotion: guilt. Because I haven’t read a single one of Norma Fox Mazer’s thirty-three books. Not the Newbery Honor book, not the National Book Award Nominee, not the Edgar award winner.
We’ll start things out with the bad news: a justice of the peace in Louisiana refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple. His justification? That any children the couple had might suffer discrimination. A quick history review: it was 1967 when the U.S. Supreme court ruled in the case Loving v. Virginia that race-based legal restrictions on marriage are unconstitutional. In other marriage-relate news, same-sex couples can still only get married in six states.
Saturday is Black Poetry Day! And while sometimes these super-specific holidays can be a mixed blessing (if October 17 is Black Poetry Day, what are the other 364 days of the year?) I just can’t be against any holiday that celebrates poetry. Here are a few of my favorite poems by African American writers. Er, top five, let’s make it, otherwise I’d just go on forever. . .
I was talking to a friend recently about why we read. When she reads a book, she’s looking for plot: a good story that grabs her and pulls her headlong through the book. When her boyfriend reads, he’s looking for interesting use of language and, most of all, characters: realistic, interesting people whose psychological depths are plumbed. There isn’t much overlap in their favorite books; not because one of them has bad taste in books, but because they want something very different out of the books they read.
Another Friday, another batch of links relating to diversity and race.
The Horn Book has been host to a debate on risk-taking, trouble-making, and realism in YA novels with black protagonists. Teacher Lelac Almagor starts us out with an essay on books for black kids teaching them to stay out of trouble and author Sharon G. Flake follows it up with an essay on the value of those books . It’s interesting reading, and both essays reinforce the idea that we need more books for and about African American youth.
This morning, we went up to the Bank Street College of Education for the announcement of their Best Children’s Books of the year list—and to celebrate, with cake, the centennial of the Children’s Book Committee.
Every year for the last one hundred years, The Children’s Book Committee—then of Child Study Association of America, now of the Bank Street College of Education—has recommended books that are good for children. They read thousands of books, they share books with children and ask for their opinions, and then they make recommendations to teachers, librarians, and parents. They have good taste—they included Alicia Afterimage, Bird, Honda, Horse Song, No Mush Today, and Seven Miles to Freedom on their list of the best books published in 2008—and they love books.
Riding on the subway over the past few weeks, I kept coming across ads for ABC’s new “Comedy Wednesday” sitcom lineup: Hank, The Middle, Modern Family, and Cougartown. Now, aside from my personal feelings about some of these shows (Courtney Cox, what happened to you?) what struck me was how white–and I mean WHITE–the lineup looked, at least from the ads.
The lack of diversity in network programming isn’t anything new, but this fall it really bothered me, especially after reading this great article over at Movieline called “Who Is Killing the African American Sitcom?” Why is a comedy labeled as an “African American sitcom” as soon as it includes more than one black person in the cast? And why don’t sitcoms about people of color make the lineups of major networks anymore?