Read for Equality

Regular followers know that I sometimes list books or reminders meant to promote equality in publishing and reading. Well, here’s one that I want to highlight: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I chose to read this book because it will be featured at a book club this week in Boulder. By the time I finished reading and went to sign up, the discussion was already full. That’s a little frustrating but a good sign that adult readers have plenty to say about what is touted as a YA novel. That’s not half of it. This story takes us into the life of sixteen-year-old Starr, a black girl attending a primarily white school and managing to fit in, although at times she feels invisible and divided, her diction tailored, one vocabulary at school and another in her neighborhood. Quickly, we get in deep, as there is a white-cop-black-victim shooting, and Starr is the only witness. Add gangs, drugs, and poverty. Enough excitement yet?

From this point on the narrative tears through racial tensions, including Starr’s attachment to her white boyfriend and to her radical black father who loves her but opposes the romance. And that’s just part of the story. What I most appreciate is the view of family life, complexity of community, and character development as Starr wrestles with opposing decisions, to speak out about the shooting or to maintain a polished image in her affluent white school despite her impoverished home neighborhood. Additionally, the writing is fine, well developed and perfectly plotted. If this is YA, good for the young people who will read it. Better still for the adults who might not notice it without prompting.

 

Read for Equality

It’s past time to think about inequality in the publishing business, the people of color under-represented in libraries, bookstores, on school reading lists, and in kiddie lit. The problem lies partly with white editors who “can’t identify” with characters of color. And then there’s the Market Effect. Publishers too often assume that only people of color will buy books written by blacks, Asians, or other non-white authors. Well, even those white readers who would read these books cannot buy what is not available.

And more than ever the U.S. public needs the Other Voice in order to humanize rather than demonize the rich cultures that lie outside the pale. Yes, the pale. Too many white readers, agents, editors and the like have walled themselves inside a white-literature ghetto. Like Plato’s cave people they see a shadowy reflection of a reality more diverse and textured than they can imagine.

One meaningful action all readers can take in these divisive times is to READ FOR EQUALITY. Learn about the black lives that we say matter. And if the bookstore or library has a sickly white pallor, say something. If the reading list a child brings home from school is mainstream white, suggest colorful additions or substitutions. Browse reviews of books from outside the knee-jerk best seller lists.

I won’t take to the streets and I have too few black neighbors to make face time a positive choice, but I have some control over what I read. And now I have the hot links I’ve posted below to help educate me about those who don’t look like me, who may not live as I do, but who can tell a good story, write a good poem or memoir and show me what matters in black lives.

http://blog.leeandlow.com/2015/03/05/the-diversity-gap-in-childrens-publishing-2015/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_African-American_writers

http://www.pbs.org/black-culture/explore/10-black-authors-to-read/#.V7xfNpMrJrI

https://aalbc.com/tc/forum/4-african-american-literature/

https://aalbc.com/enewslet.htm

http://aalbc.com/authors/top50authors2.php

https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/top-50-black-authors