I’ve written before about my frustration with the lack of diversity in books. (Click here to read my post on the #WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign.) My family is multi-racial, and would love to share stories with my kids that have families that look like ours. I’d also love to expose my girls to a wide range of characters, cultures and lifestyles. Unfortunately, families like mine (and others) are woefully absent from most of the books published each year. As, it turns out I’m not alone in my observations.
According to this info-graphic by Lee & Low Books (an awesome publisher of diverse books!) roughly 37% of the U.S. population is made up of people of color, while only 10% of books have characters with people of color.:
Many publishers explain their reasons for not publishing books with characters of color: white characters appeal to a larger audience. It’s all about the market, they say.
I call BS. I am a mixed-straight-middle-aged-“able-bodied” female who enjoys reading about all sorts of characters, whether they be: Asian, white, Latina, old, young, gay, transgendered, use a wheelchair, twins, mermaids, or even cats. I love seeing myself and my family reflected in books. I ALSO love learning about people who are different than me. That’s the beauty of books!
That said, I was happy to read this great article, by Miriam Zoila Pérez via Color Lines, a daily news site which features cultural analysis on racial justice issues. In the post, she talks about similar concerns finding storybooks that highlight LGBTQ families at all, let alone in a positive light.
New Children’s Book Series Highlights Queer Families of Color
“We take a chunk of time before bed to lay together and have a snuggle and read,” says S. Bear Bergman, describing his nightly routine with his 4-year-old son, Stanley. On one particular evening, they were pouring through a new stack of picture books that had arrived. Bergman’s husband and Stanley’s father, j wallace (who spells his name in lowercase letters), works for the Toronto school district. He is somewhat of an expert on children’s books—particularly those featuring LGBTQ2S (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Two Spirit) kids and families. This most recent stack was of that variety. “We were powering through them, diligently,” Bergman recounted, “and a couple of pages into the fourth book [Stanley] just went: ‘I don’t want this anymore. I don’t want anymore bully stories.’ I just started thinking—what are we sending our children to bed with?”
If you’re white, straight, middle-class and able-bodied, you may never have to ask yourself these questions about the literature available to your young children, because your lives are portrayed in a multitude of ways—many of them happy, explorative, inquisitive, joyful. There are literally thousands of books featuring families that approximate yours. If you’re queer or a person of color, the options available to you in the children’s book aisle severely shrink, especially if you’re looking for a story that includes a representation of you or your family. If you’re both queer and a person of color, there literally may only be one or two books that even get close to telling the story of your family.”
Read more of this great article here.
We should all be able to read books by and about people that reflect the diversity of our world. I don’t need to be gay, to appreciate great books by and about gay people. I am so happy that someone is doing something to improve GLBTQ representation in children’s books.
Legs Hernandez, a self described “queer single mama”, talks below about her involvement in a new project called the Flamingo Rampant Book Club. I can’t wait to read her book, “M is for Mustache” and the others in the collection. Listen to what she has to say about the project and her new book, and click on the link below to support the Kickstarter Campaign.
Author and educator S. Bear Bergman launches the LGBTQ children’s book subscription Flamingo Rampant Book Club – featuring celebratory picture books about kids in LGBTQ families – on July 15. Charter subscribers get a seventh book free.
I am proud to be one of the authors in this beautiful collection!
To support this awesome project, view the kickstarter page here: kickstarter.com/projects/310387180/flamingo-rampant-book-club
- How you can support the #WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign
- Celebrate Women’s History Month with Great Diverse Youth Lit!
- Let’s Talk About Race (Series) – Books that Get the Conversation Started
- Let’s Talk About Race (Series) – What Color Crayons are in Your Coloring Box?
Do you know of some great books that celebrate LGBTQ culture? Please share them in the comments below.
Ali Collins is an educator, community organizer and mom. She lives with her husband and twin girls in San Francisco, CA.
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