I had an interesting discussion the other day. Let me just start off by saying that I feel pretty strongly anti-censorship and would never advocate the banning of books. But I was speaking with a friend about the second Twilight installment and how uncomfortable it made me. At the beginning, Vampire Edward leaves Bella, after which she spends a year putting herself in all kinds of danger just to bring him back. She actually comes close to killing herself so he’ll come back to her. That is not OK with me. I said to my friend, “I’m afraid that teen girls will look at Bella as a role model and see this as an ideal relationship,” and it seemed to me that this was a story that could do real damage to readers.
Before we launch into this week’s roundup of race and diversity links, I’d like to make a plea: help your local library. Many around the country are facing massive budget cuts, so let your elected officials know that your library is important. New Yorkers, NYPL has a handy form to help you contact your City Council member and the mayor, in the hopes of preventing massive service cuts, including closing ten branches and limiting the library to four open days per week.
Now, to diversity!
White people adopting children of color is discussed relatively often, but Charles Mudede looks at the other side: what it says when a black person adopts a white child.
Anyone who loves books loves libraries, and even though they’re worth celebrating year-round, it’s especially important now. Why? Well, for one it’s National Library Week. Ironically, we’re also in the midst of a huge round of budget cuts for libraries all over the country. Time’s growing short, but it’s not too late to let your public officials know how important libraries are to all of us! The ALA has a quick and easy way to show your support:
1. Please go to http://capwiz.com/ala/ and click on “call your senators now to support library funding.”
2. Scroll down and customize the sample email message as you see fit — remember, a brief but personal story on how your library helps your community matters the most! Change the subject heading to “please sign the Dear Appropriator letter for libraries.”
3. Enter your contact information.
It’s bitterly cold outside (at least here in New York), so stay inside and read! Here’s this week’s selection of articles and essays.
Last month we shared an Indian ad for White Beauty, a skin-lightening cream. Now, a study is highlighting the dangers of these types of products, many of which contain steroids or mercury. A NYTimes Op-Ed looks beyond the products and into the roots of their popularity with an exploration of colorism, the tendency to be biased towards people with lighter skin, even within one’s own racial or ethnic group.
We get a lot of bookish news and links from librarian Betsy Bird’s blog, A Fuse #8 Production, and its Fusenews collections of literary links. This week, she brought us a couple stories of covers that we’re happy to pass along. First, we have the cover to PW’s Trends in African-American Publishing issue causing a bit of controversy. Frolab looks at the arguments and asks us to Pick Fros Not Fights!. Second, she leads us to Stacked, where they’re taking a look at a different sort of diversity—or lack thereof— on covers: Where have all the fat girls gone? “Think about all of the covers you see: they’re ALL thin. Every. Last. One. Of. Them. Even if the book doesn’t talk about the weight or shape of a character, the cover makes him/her thin.” Well, not every cover, but she’s got a point.
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.
A few nights ago I was having dinner with a friend who doesn’t work in publishing, and I was talking about how I think librarians are really great and I’m always impressed by the thoughtful ways in which they grapple with some truly tough issues.
“Er…like what?” he asked.
So I gave him this example from the NY Times about the Brooklyn Public Library’s recent decision to basically quarantine Tintin au Congo, a 70-year-old picture book with some pretty racist cartoons:
Click for a larger image. If you can’t read it, it says (grammar and capitalization intact): “was just thinking. my sister does -alot- of reading, and spends like $1000 a year on just books alone. most of them she reads once and never looks at again. is there some kind of like…video rental store but for books? would make things alot cheaper, plus once one person has read one the next person could get enjoyment from it etc.”