Category Archives: race & representations

Diversity + Publishing: #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Image via WeNeedDiverseBooks.tumblr.com

Each month I receive 10-20 advanced copies of young adult fiction books in all genres (mostly geared towards teen girl readers) per month from various publishers.  I can count on ten fingers the amount of those books that have featured a protagonist of colour. Even fewer of them feature a protagonist of colour also written by a person of colour.

That’s where We Need Diverse Books comes in.

Responding to the call for more diversity in children’s literature and the recent announcement of the all white all male panel at the upcoming BookCon in NYC, the movement’s organisers are urging readers to take over Twitter today. The hashtag #weneeddiversebooks is already in wide use, but the campaign is asking for even more support starting at 1pm EST:

  • Take a photo holding a sign that says “We need diverse books because ___________________________.” Fill in the blank with an important, poignant, funny, and/or personal reason why this campaign is important to you.
  • The photo can be of you or a friend or anyone who wants to support diversity in kids’ lit. It can be a photo of the sign without you if you would prefer not to be in a picture. Be as creative as you want! Pose the sign with your favorite stuffed animal or at your favorite library. Get a bunch of friends to hold a bunch of signs.
  • However you want to do it, we want to share it! There will be a Tumblr at http://weneeddiversebooks.tumblr.com/ that will host all of the photos and messages for the campaign. Please submit your visual component by May 1stto weneeddiversebooks@yahoo.com with the subject line “photo” or submit it right on our Tumblr page here and it will be posted throughout the first day.
  • Starting at 1:00PM (EST) the Tumblr will start posting and it will be your job to reblog, tweet, Facebook, or share wherever you think will help get the word out.

The efforts are set to continue through May 3rd:

On May 2nd, the second part of our campaign will roll out with a Twitter chat scheduled for 2pm (EST) using the same hashtag. Please use #WeNeedDiverseBooks at 2pm on May 2nd and share your thoughts on the issues with diversity in literature and why diversity matters to you.

On May 3rd, 2pm (EST), the third portion of our campaign will begin. There will be a Diversify Your Shelves initiative to encourage people to put their money where their mouth is and buy diverse books and take photos of them.

While the campaign won’t officially start until later today, there’ve already been several great posts flying around the tag. Below are a few of the best, showing several reasons why we really do need diverse books.

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Being Lakota, Becoming Greek

By Guest Contributor Megan Red Shirt-Shaw

When I first stepped onto the University of Pennsylvania’s campus, I vowed I would never join a sorority. I had seen the process happen before – girls were made to parade in the streets during rush and at the time, I could think of nothing less mortifying. Yet when my group of girlfriends decided to rush (and I realized I might be friendless for a week), I found myself standing outside during rush in a line of girls wearing a dress in the Philadelphia slush.

I was skeptical throughout. I felt ridiculous coming into every house with a line full of girls waiting to talk to me. The houses were perfectly polished – immaculate, really – and I had the same conversation over fifty times. Where was I from, did I like the punch, I like your shirt, I like your dress, I like your face, on to the next girl. I continued to wonder throughout whether or not I would feel like any of these places were right for me. The thought of peppy girls and peppy events – I couldn’t wrap my head around it. But then I walked into a house called Sigma Kappa.
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Quoted: The Worst Justification Ever For Not Casting People Of Color

From the beginning, we were concerned about casting, the issue of race. What we realized is that this story is functioning at the level of myth, and as a mythical story, the race of the individuals doesn’t matter. They’re supposed to be stand-ins for all people. Either you end up with a Bennetton ad or the crew of the Starship Enterprise. You either try to put everything in there, which just calls attention to it, or you just say, ‘Let’s make that not a factor, because we’re trying to deal with everyman.’ Looking at this story through that kind of lens is the same as saying, ‘Would the ark float and is it big enough to get all the species in there?’ That’s irrelevant to the questions because the questions are operating on a different plane than that; they’re operating on the mythical plane.

– Ari Handel, screenwriter for “Noah,” as told to The High Calling

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Heidi Klum’s Redface Photo Shoot

By Guest Contributor Ruth Hopkins, cross-posted from Last Real Indians

All images via Facebook.

Heidi Klum, I’m so disgusted with you. I can’t even look at you right now.

I’ve been a fan of Heidi Klum’s show Project Runway since episode one. I’ve seen every single season. As a Native woman who loves fashion, I was elated when Taos Pueblo fashion designer Patricia Michaels was selected for the show, especially considering how Native appropriation has run rampant in the fashion industry over the past several years. Patricia made it to the series finale and finished as the season’s runner-up. Heidi was supportive of Patricia too. She complimented Patricia’s designs and showed what appeared to be sincere appreciation for Native culture.

As a result, I never could have imagined that Heidi Klum would promote redface. Nay, I was sorely mistaken.
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On #CancelColbert And The Limits of ‘Liberal Pass’ Humor

By Arturo R. García

One of the arguments surrounding the #CancelColbert campaign has been that it has effectively given some white people “passes,” among them the target of the Stephen Colbert “Foundation” bit that inspired the tag in the first place, NFL owner Dan Snyder.

And that’s a fair point. But it’s also inaccurate to suggest that the campaign did not deal with “real racism.” Because, as we’ve seen over the past few days, a quite verifiable strain of hatred — at times veering into racism and misogyny toward activist Suey Park, as well as others discussing the issue — on the part of people who claim they’re not just defending Colbert, but comedy itself.

(Note: This post is image-heavy, with coarse and NSFW language under the cut.)
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A Storm Brews Around Lupita Nyong’o

By Arturo R. García

Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o. Image via her official Facebook page.

As Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o’s career prospects seemingly expand by the day, so, too, do the discussions surrounding her, with some fans imagining the sight of her stepping into some iconic franchises, and others side-eyeing the increased attention she’s been getting.
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So Funny It Hurts

By Guest Contributor Eric Anthony Glover, cross-posted from Midnight Breakfast

Some months after I’d come out as queer to my friends and family, I happened upon a Louis C.K. meme about anti-gay rights advocates—particularly those who argue they shouldn’t have to expose their children to same-sex marriages. The meme’s caption read, “Two guys are in love but they can’t get married because you don’t want to talk to your ugly child for f*ckin’ five minutes?” As much as I’d like to tell that you that straight allies don’t deserve cookies and congratulations for exhibiting the bare minimum of human decency, I’d be lying if I said C.K.’s words didn’t move me. After years of shaming from straight people, whether in purposely oppressive ways or indirectly cruel ones, it always strikes me as miraculous when some of them support my cause—especially if they’re cultural icons. And given the thousands of Likes and Shares the Louis C.K. meme received, I’m guessing his words touched a few others, too. Thing is, I doubt it would have gotten as much mileage if the caption had included C.K.’s full quote: “… Who f*ckin’ cares about your sh*tty kid? He’s probably a faggot, anyway.”

On the one hand, I personally find the punchline funny: it subverts the sentimental direction of the setup, makes fools of the people he’s frustrated with, and arguably turns the word “faggot” into a weapon against them. On the other hand, it’s not the only time C.K. has used the slur for a laugh, and he hasn’t always been so progressive while doing it. Louis C.K. follows a similar pattern with the word “nigger,” insightfully addressing the horrors of racism in some of his stand-up, but gluttonously employing the epithet for amusement in other instances. And it’s not as if he does so without racial awareness, either; despite being half-Latino, C.K. has publicly acknowledged looking white, identifying as white, and benefiting from white privileges — such as never being marginalized enough for slurs like “cracker” to truly hurt him. As a black man with the opposite experience, I find myself on edge whenever I hear him speak. Although I haven’t forgotten his beautiful bits bashing racial prejudice, I have to remember that he’s prone to blurting “nigger” at whim, and doesn’t always care to add a constructive reason.
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Open Thread: The 2014 Academy Awards

By Arturo R. García

Best Supporting Actress Winner Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years A Slave”)

Well, that was a lot to take in. Some of the highlights:

  • Maybe the night’s sentimental favorite, Lupita Nyong’o, won the Best Supporting Actress award for her work on 12 Years A Slave, which went on to win Best Picture.
  • John Ridley also won Best Adapted Script for his work on 12 Years, though … was it us, or was there some shade going between him and director Steve McQueen?
  • Robert Lopez, a Filipino-American, won Best Original Song along with his wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez for “Let It Go,” from Frozen.
  • Mexican-born Alfonso Cuarón, who some felt was snubbed for the Best Director award after Children of Men, made good Sunday and won for Gravity. 
  • Cis-hetero actor Jared Leto won Best Supporting Actor for playing a trans woman in Dallas Buyers Club, and seemed to omit mentioning the trans community during his far-flung acceptance speech. As Autostraddle notes, it’s not like he can claim ignorance of his actions at this point.

Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments and check out the full storify below, but under the cut, some video, and some more observations from the evening.

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