Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created or recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.
–Rudine Sims Bishop
via Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors.
Similarly, Karen Katz’s young protagonist gets ready to paint her friends, and focuses on color: “I think about all the wonderful colors I will make and I say their names out loud. Cinnamon, chocolate, and honey. Coffee, toffee, and butterscotch. They sound so delicious.”
–The Colors of Us by Karen Katz
via Diversity 101: The Multiracial Experience | CBC Diversity.
I love this. I am trying to piece together my thoughts on being a young reader and defaulting the characters in my head to white, but in reading more books with characters of color in my adulthood, I am loving finding new ways writers are able to describe characters with darker skin. Usually characters are “fair” or “pale” or “creamy” when reading white characters, but it can be more fun to think of ways to describe darker skin tones.
It’s often a joke (that treads a fine line) to figure out what shade I am. I’m not really brown, I’m one of the lightest non-mixed black people I know. I’ve recently turned to “honey” as the color of my skin tone, but I’ve gone with “peanut”/”peanut butter” in the past. Somewhere around there. Introducing characters of color to books can add more flavor to your descriptions (or illustrations if you handle it correctly in a children’s picture book).