“Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books?” Walter Dean Myers’ article in the New York Times makes an interesting point:
“Of 3,200 children’s books published in 2013, just 93 were about black people, according to a study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin.”
His article is thoughtful, insightful, personal and touching. His article takes you on his personal journey through life, which is at times troubled and painful. Finding characters to identify with in literature (or indeed film, music, art…) is not often questioned in this way. How many classic children’s books are about white people? “Snow White”, “Alice in Wonderland”, the C.S. Lewis Narnia stories… It’s not a criticism, more an observation.
Myers cites Joe Morton, the actor who starred in “The Brother From Another Planet,” who said that “all but a few motion pictures being made about blacks are about blacks as victims. In them, we are always struggling to overcome either slavery or racism. Book publishing is little better. Black history is usually depicted as folklore about slavery, and then a fast-forward to the civil rights movement. Then I’m told that black children, and boys in particular, don’t read. Small wonder… There is work to be done.”
How timely given the current films in the cinemas… I hadn’t really heard of Walter Dean Myers until I read this article, but now I’m going to search out his books and his artwork that he also mentions. This is something for me to think about more deeply as a creative artist. I hope you might too.