Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors

When there are enough books available that can act as both mirrors and windows for all our children, they will see that we can celebrate both our differences and our similarities, because together they are what make us all human.

Rudine Sims Bishop

via Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors

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NBC Interview with Dr. Zetta Elliott

NBC Interview with Dr. Zetta Elliott

I can’t seem to embed the video. But click through for the interview. Dr. Elliot talks about her struggles publishing books with characters of color and editors telling her “there’s no market for this.” Only about 5% of books published are written by people of color, but we are about 40% of the population. Dr. Elliot says that children of color are already the majority (which supports claims I’ve heard where PoC will be the majority by 2020). It’s crazy how the media doesn’t reflect reality at all, then get all affronted when PoC ask for more representations of themselves. No one believes in our buying power, but it is there. And we are so starved for representation now, that we go out in droves to see films, and watch TV shows, and read books with PoC as the main characters. Look at the success of Scandal or Kevin Hart’s films from last year. We want representation and we want it in our children’s literature too.

Dr. Elliot also says “Books can be windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors. If you don’t see a mirror, you start to feel invisible.” Which I believe I’ve also heard author Junot Diaz say something similar. What he says, and I’m paraphrasing, is that a lot of monsters in folklore don’t have reflections–vampires are the most well known for this–and if you don’t see your reflection, you can begin to view yourself as a monster. Elliot says that when she was writing in high school and when she sees young black kids who present stories to her, it is white characters at the center of those stories. I am working on a piece for the website Black Girl Nerds that talks about my own experiences on the matter. Elliot says, “I had to dream myself into existence.” You have to undo years of conditioning to get yourself to write stories that are about people who are like you, rather than the people you’ve been reading about.

“Without a mirror it becomes difficult to see yourself in particular scenarios.” I didn’t know there were other “black nerds” besides me. I thought I was the only one reading mysteries and speculative fiction stories and wishing I could attend San Diego Comic-con. I couldn’t imagine that there were others like me. And there are so many fields and things that young people of color want to do and be and experience but don’t because they think that people of color don’t do those things. Books are a great way to show kids that they really can do whatever they want, because someone of their ethnic background has done it somewhere. Or they can read others’ stories of being the first [x] to do such and such a thing and be encouraged to do the same in whatever field they’ll be the first in.

Dr. Elliot also talks about the Diversity Gap and presents this fantastic image. I’ve read a lot of the books in the 93% but not a lot in the other percentages. This blog is helping me find those other 7%.

 

by Tina Kugler

Children’s Book Writing One Day Intensive

I took a one day intensive on Children’s Book Writing taught by Michael Leviton and it was a great! I learned about children’s books and got some delicious hot chocolate.

20140124_114409It was fun seeing how some aspects of writing children’s books remind me of screenwriting. Obviously storytelling in general follows similar patterns of introductions, inciting incidents, rising and falling actions, a climax, and a conclusion, but children’s books–specifically picture books–have some similarities with dramatic writing.

Read more at our Gotham Writers Intern blog: Children’s Book Writing One Day Intensive.

Taking the class, and seeing others interested in writing children’s books, kind of led up to me deciding to write this blog. Taking the class, loving my favorite books as a kid, and trying to decide what kinds of writing I want to do are all reasons why this blog exists and why I hope to continue keeping it up, despite having a million and one other things to do. If you have an opportunity to take Gotham Writers Workshop classes, do it. They have online classes too!

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“A False Conception of Growth” – CS Lewis

Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.

[…] They accuse us of arrested development because we have not lost a taste we had in childhood. But surely arrested development consists not in refusing to lose old things but in failing to add new things? […] I call this growth or development because I have been enriched: where I formerly had only one pleasure, I now have two. […] I think my growth is just as apparent when I now read the fairy tales as when I read the novelists, for I now enjoy the fairy tales better than I did in childhood: being now able to put more in, of course I get more out. But I do not here stress that point. Even if it were merely a taste for grown-up literature added to an unchanged taste for children’s literature, addition would still be entitled to the name ‘growth’, and the process of merely dropping one parcel when you pick up another would not.

― C.S. Lewis

A lot of the above are some of the themes of this blog. We focus so very much on the very adult and important things in life that we forget that our inner child is important too. We need to frolic and have fun and enjoy life and one way to do that is to read. Children’s literature gives us a child’s perspective on life, which gives us a renewed sense of joy and wonder in the world. So let’s read more children’s books and feed our inner child.

via Goodreads | Quote by C. S. Lewis: Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval….

 

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100 Great Children’s Books | 100 Years | The New York Public Library

100 Great Children’s Books | 100 Years | The New York Public Library.

It seems I’ve only read 16 of the books on this list. Time to find another list with more stuff I recognize! No, but some of these do post-date my childhood and some maybe I’ve read and merely forgot about?

How many have you read?

 

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Let’s Start with Harry Potter

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I won’t get into too much detail on this one, because there is enough Harry Potter on the internet to last a million lifetimes. But I did want to put on paper just some of the reasons why Harry Potter became so close to my heart.

I was a shy, nerdy child. I didn’t spend a lot of time with others or make friends easily–these are stories you’ve heard by other loner children. We came to Harry because we liked reading and felt lonely and longed for a world more magical than our own. But me and Harry had something in common. When I was six months old, my mother died. In order to raise myself and my only slightly older brother, my dad and my grandmother each took one of us. I lived with my grandmother. We mostly kept to ourselves and I was the skinny kid with glasses who didn’t interact too much with the other kids. Sound familiar? And my whole life, everyone has told me I look just like my mother, so when Harry in equal parts revels and groans in the statement “You look just like James,” I commiserated. We all know the story of JK Rowling writing a lot of this series in reaction to her own mother passing away and what that did to the themes of the series, so Harry Potter hit a lot of personal nerves for me in terms of dealing with loss early on, feeling like you’re haunting your loved ones by looking like those who are gone, and feeling like you have to live up to the standards of a parent that everyone misses but you never got to meet. And that’s just how I felt about Harry.

What young, nerdy girl with curly hair didn’t feel like Hermione?! Girls all over the world identified with Hermione, that doesn’t really need documenting, but I must say that when I first read her character descriptions (and pronounced her name wrong), I thought she might have been black. As a young brown girl (in the tan range, but African-American nonetheless) with curly hair, freckles, and teeth problems, some of Hermione’s early descriptions felt like a girl who looked, if only a litle bit, like me (me and Emma Watson look nothing alike).

And then there’s Ron. Who suffers constantly with insecurities because he’s surrounded by people who he deems better and more talented than himself. Been there, done that. Again, it’s rare that no one has. But you can’t help but be struck by his loyalty and his commitment to being the friend of the hero. I was constantly seen as the tag-along, the friend of the social butterfly. So Ron’s role was one I knew well.

These are some deep connections to the characters, and that’s just the Trio! This doesn’t even delve into my enjoyment of magical worlds and mysteries and Jo’s twisty-turny storytelling, or that fact that I could hardly escape Pottermania even if I’d tried. So I delved right in and never looked back. Midnight releases and online forums. I’ve seen all the movies, despite being a staunch book purist– many of the book-to-movie changes still irk me to this day. But I’ve still seen them all, haven’t I? I’ve been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I bought a wand. I tried and gave up on Pottermore like most of you probably also did. And I stuck with my love of this one “children’s” book series, even when I shunned other children’s literature (at least in public).

Harry Potter proved it wasn’t just for kids and it made me realize that the best children’s literature isn’t just for kids. It should speak to adults as well, and the child that lives within adults. Children’s literature helps us recapture the wonder and joy and magic that we often lose in adulthood–and I think that’s a beautiful thing.

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