About a month ago, an article that I worked on with two graduate, Yunying Xu and Myra Infante Sheridan, was published. We were asking a simple question: How is racial/cultural diversity evident or not in the awards representing Young Adult Literature. As we explored the question, we focused in on the first twenty years of the NBA. That provided us with 20 winners and 5 books that made the short list each year for a total of 100 books. Many of us who teach and research Young Adult literature advocate for diverse books. We know that the representation is improving since the early research in 1965 by Larrick's “The All-White World of Children’s Books." Are the statistics significantly better? There is a sense that the publishing world is doing better, but what are the numbers? Each year the Cooperative Children's Book Center posts information about this issue. However, there is very little actual documentation of the statistics as this issue directly relates to Young Adult literature. More has been done to document the disparity among children's literature.
After some trial and error, writing and rewriting the article was published in Taboo: The Journal of Culture and Education in Volume 16 issue 1, you can find the whole issue here. For direct link to our article, Where Are the People of Color? Representation of Cultural Diversity in the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature and Advocating for Diverse Books in a Non-Post Racial Society click here. Yes, it is a long title, but Taboo loves them.
Most of the post will be visual. Each cover image is link to Amazon where you can read reviews from readers and, in most cases, read excepts from reviews from professional review sources.
In the article we advocate for diverse books and state the data about how diversity is represented among the 100 books and the 20 winners. In this blog post, I focus on the 20 winning books. In this first section, I show the covers of the nine books that have diverse characters.
The point of the paper, however, is to focus on representations of diversity. All of the books above feature a diverse main character, but not all of them are written by diverse authors. There is a whole debate about how and if writers should represent characters beyond their own experience and ethnic background. Again, the point of the paper is not to argue that issue, but to simply report the facts. Below, are the five diverse authors who wrote one of the winning books. Each image below is linked to the authors webpage with one exception. Victor Martinez is no longer with us and his image is linked to a Wikipedia page.
Neither the paper or this blog post should be interpreted as a critique of the work of any of the committees. We respect the hard work that it takes to sort through all of the books and to collectively arrive at a winner. Hopefully, the data can serve as a place for the conversation to begin as we discuss the need for diverse books.
The blog post points briefly to the diversity among the 20 winners. The article deals with all 100 books and provides some context for the discussion around diversity in Young Adult literature and the a brief discussion about how diversity is being address in our current cultural milieu. In addition, to the discussion in the paper we have also provided a spreadsheet of all of the data that will be archive on the blog here for anyone who is interested.
In the final section of today's post you can find the current longlist for the NBA.
The 2017 longlist for Young People’s Literature:
What Girls Are Made Of by Elana K. Arnold (Lerner/Carolrhoda Lab)
Far from the Tree by Robin Benway (HarperTeen)
All the Wind in the World by Samantha Mabry (Algonquin)
You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum/Dlouhy)
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez (Knopf)
Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder (HarperCollins/Walden Pond)
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray)
Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia (HarperCollins/Amistad)
American Street by Ibi Zoboi (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray)
I think the committee has done a wonderful job and I look forward to the short list in a few weeks. May some of the blog's readers would like to send in their comments about this list and the short list when it is released.
Until next week.