This weekend, The NYU Institute of African American Affairs hosted the A is for Anansi Conference on Literature for Children of African Descent. It was a great conference and I was thrilled to be a part of it – it’s always exciting to be in a room full of people who care about books, kids, and social justice issues. A few of the highlights I caught:
Author and publisher Andrea Davis Pinkney started things off with a good news/bad news keynote, sharing a few reasons why some say we are in a “Golden Age of African American Children’s Literature” – a new generation of talented authors and illustrators, more award recognition, etc. – but also shared these dismal numbers that tell us that the number of books by/about people of color has not increased at all since 1994. 1994! In other words, we’ve got our work cut out for us.
I spoke next on a panel about publishing/selling literature about children of African descent. Just Us Books owner Cheryl Willis Hudson moderated, and agent and former bookseller Joe Monti started off with some anecdotes about the resistance big book buyers have to selling covers with people of color. Ultimately, he said, he doesn’t believe race really makes a difference in sales. “A good cover will sell books, and a bad one won’t,” he said.
Oh, Arizona. Why are so many things happening in your beautiful state lately that give us reason to talk about you in these roundups? This time around, it’s a mural featuring the faces of local schoolchildren—but the schoolchildren are a diverse crowd, the mural was drawing racist slurs, and the school’s principal asked for a prominent Latino face to be lightened on the mural. He’s since reversed the decision, and the mural will stay. The Atlantic Wire has a good summary of the situation and the response to it.
The repercussions of Arizona’s anti-immigration law are still rippling outward. RaceWire elaborates with a look at the disappearing schoolchildren, as parents, particularly illegal immigrants, are keeping their kids—often natural-born citizens themselves—at home to protect the family.
It’s starting to feel like summer, and that means summer movies! We start this week’s diversity linkup with a post from Feministing pointing out the whitewashing of Jennifer Lopez in The Back-Up Plan.
Speaking of beautiful women of color, the newly-crowned Miss USA is a Lebanese American immigrant, Rima Fakih! It’s not clear if she’s the first Arab American or the first immigrant to win, but it is a movement toward a society in which all little girls can dream of being crowned for their beauty. Of course, we’re not there yet.