The very talented father and son, Walter Dean Myers and Christopher Myers have both written separate pieces in the New York Times on the need for more children’s books to be written featuring children and people of color. Both pieces are powerful and vital.
Walter Dean Myers writes of his own complex relationship with books and then his own role as a writer:
When I was doing research for my book “Monster,” I approached a white lawyer doing pro bono work in the courts defending poor clients. I said that it must be difficult to get witnesses to court to testify on behalf of an inner-city client, and he replied that getting witnesses was not as difficult as it sometimes appeared on television. “The trouble,” he said, “is to humanize my clients in the eyes of a jury. To make them think of this defendant as a human being and not just one of ‘them.’ ”
I realized that this was exactly what I wanted to do when I wrote about poor inner-city children — to make them human in the eyes of readers and, especially, in their own eyes. I need to make them feel as if they are part of America’s dream, that all the rhetoric is meant for them, and that they are wanted in this country.
Christopher Myers writes so poetically of the children we are not supporting and instead are abandoning:
We adults — parents, authors, illustrators and publishers — give them in each book a world of supposedly boundless imagination that can delineate the most ornate geographies, and yet too often today’s books remain blind to the everyday reality of thousands of children. Children of color remain outside the boundaries of imagination. The cartography we create with this literature is flawed.
My hope is that their voices are heard, that we move beyond platitudes to true inclusion of people and children of all sorts of diversity. In the meantime, I will do my small part of selecting books for my community that show the rainbow of diversity that we serve and also blogging here and featuring books about diverse people. We can make a change!