Sunday, July 26, 2009

Publishing Meets Marketing Meets Racial Politics

I first read about this on the School Library Journal blog by the prolific Elizabeth Bird. It seems that I am not imagining things when I notice that it is very hard to find books for my African American students with covers they can relate to. This is particularly true for the middle grades. This issue has come to light with Justine Larbalesiter's recent book, Liar. The US edition has a white girl on the cover of novel that is about a girl "who is black with nappy hair which she wears natural and short" despite Larbalesiter's objections. You can read all about it here.
So which books can African American students pick up and see a person of color on the cover? Pretty much anything by Walter Dean Myers, Sharon Draper, Jacqueline Woodson and Sharon Flake. Christopher Paul Curtis of course, although his characters are most often set in the past. There are more out there I know, and there are some great resources for finding books about students of color, but as The Brown Bookshelf put it "You can’t buy a book you don’t see on the shelf. And it’s awfully hard to buy a book you’re not even aware is available". The Brown Bookshelf spearheaded a campaign called 28 Days Later that showcased African American authors. There are lots of great suggestions from The Brown Bookshelf linked directly to Click here for the middle readers page although I know most of my 5th and 6th graders would probably be more interested in the titles on the Poppin' Black Teen Books. Oh, dear. No classroom budget this year, but as a teacher I feel it is my duty to get as many of these books in my classroom as possible. There's always the tax rebate!

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