When I thought about writing a blog, I imagined that I would write quite a lot about my reflections on being a multiracial family and multiracial issues today. I still intend to, but for the last few weeks I have been describing the early days of our younger son’s introduction into the family.
As he was nearly four years old at the time, I found that there was a lot I wanted to say and the feedback is that people have been interested. I shall resume the story in the next blog post.
However, an issue has come up in an internet discussion group that I feel I want to comment on. It relates to a question I have been asking myself and others for decades – namely Where are the books that feature black and mixed-race children?
Please believe me that I am not the only person concerned about this.
The flurry of correspondence that arose on this matter all began when somebody quoted an article published in the New York Times
“According to a study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin, of the approx. 5,000 children’s book published in 2013, just 93 were about black characters, 57 were about Latinos.” She commented “Thanks to the New York Times for putting this on the front page of the Sunday Review”.
The view among British contributors to the discussion is that the situation is no better in the UK.
I know that there are some excellent black and ethnic minority writers. There are also other authors who have written about characters from diverse backgrounds. Since the writers and books exist, is the problem with the bookshops? Why don’t they stock such books? Our Willesden Independent bookshop certainly did stock them, but sadly it had to move to another area when their rent was greatly increased.
OR is the problem that there are not enough ethnic minority writers?
OR is it that such books would not sell? If so, why not?
Way back in the 1970s and 1980s we felt concerned about the lack of books portraying black or mixed-race children. We searched everywhere for such books to share with Sam and Jah. We found one or two, mostly from The USA.
I kept searching. It was obvious to us that the boys needed to see children like themselves in books. If not, what is the unspoken message? Is it that they are not important enough to feature in stories? It is depressing to realise that this is still the situation today in 2014! The current Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman uses the phrase “A mirror to every child’s life”. She has mentioned that when she was growing up, she longed to see a child in a book who looked like she did. She herself has written books for children of most age groups and is truly an inspiration to all.
The lack of representation of children from all ethnic groups is not only a problem for children from ethnic minority backgrounds. I am sure that good books portraying children of every race and colour and background should be available for everybody to read, not only for children who are from ethnic minorities themselves. We are all human beings and we live in an inter-connected world.
Here – as a shameless plug – are two of my books that are still available.
This book was inspired by Jah who always wanted to keep up with his older siblings.
This book was inspired by Sam’s school friend who frequently had to look after his little sister. I remember one day, when both boys said to me rather sheepishly “We have to take N. to the park to see the ducks”. As teenagers, they thought that they had left such childish behaviour behind them. In the end I think they quite enjoyed the experience.
The topic of books for children of all colours and creeds is one I shall want to return to. For now I’ll give you a link to the Letterbox Library. This is a marvellous resource of books that celebrate equality and diversity.
Here is another important resource. Tamarind Books, set up by the visionary Verna Wilkins
(Next blogpost will be “Back to reality after the long summer holiday. Return to our Leicester home.”