White-Default Mentality Makes Our Brains Lazier

Rosse • Writing Characters of Color (Erasing White-Default Mentality).

Rosse writes regarding explaining cultural terms in her writing. Terms like “mami” or “papi” and the idea that constantly explaining them makes them “other” while things in British jargon, for example, are just quirks of being British–they don’t need to be explained. The reader will either figure it out or look it up.

I am currently reading Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson. It’s cool so far, a mixture of technology, romance, and Middle Eastern culture. There might be a jinni soon! In the novel, Wilson uses Middle Eastern terminology regarding clothing, food, and even insults or praises between characters. Because I am reading the hardcopy and not an e-book, looking up things takes more effort (just saying that my vocab skyrockets when I can press and hold a word and the definition comes up–a point in favor of e-books from my hardcopy loving self). I have looked up a few things, but either you can figure them out or it’s there to lend authenticity but not knowing precisely what it is doesn’t hinder from the reading experience. If it comes up twice and you still don’t know, look it up.

I think some of the problem we have to day is that we are lazy. I know I can be. I will move on rather than look something up. But if Wilson had replaced or explained the cultural terms she uses, I would be even lazier and it would bog own the narrative of the story. I wouldn’t use context clues to figure out a definition or an insult. And I wouldn’t learn something new about a culture that isn’t my own. In America, where so many people are different, we sure do want to homogenize everything. We accept different European cultures and traditions as being the norm (Halloween but not Dia de Meurtos, Christmas but not Kwanzaa), but don’t even want to learn about the traditions of other cultures.

It’s a common argument that diversity in children’s literature will make them more aware of the larger world and knowledge of how to accept and interact with people of different backgrounds, but it also will help them be smarter. Learn from context clues, research definitions, learn about cultural traditions, and/or delve into new histories and world facts. Get those gears working.

[R]ight now, we are so underrepresented that we have to announce our presence, so we are no longer invisible. When enough of us do so, and seeing a Person of Color in a book, or movie, or TV show is no longer an event, but just normal, completely ordinary, then our ultra-visibility will become another kind of invisibility, but a good kind of invisibility, born of equality instead of otherness.

–Rosse Raith

10 Great Women of Color Whose Stories You Should Know

10 Great Women of Color Whose Stories You Should Know via Lee and Low book blog

All of these books are presented as children’s books and they look fun and fantastic. Two I’d love to check out are

10 Great Women of Color Whose Stories You Should Know

Pura Belpré, The Storyteller’s Candle / La velita de los cuentos – New York City’s first Latina librarian

and

10 Great Women of Color Whose Stories You Should Know

Zora Neale Hurston, Zora Hurston and the Chinaberry Tree – renowned African American writer

You know, when I finally finish the 4 books I’m reading now and the 2 others I have from the libraries. #raremomentofoveracheiving

Also check out: 25 Empowering Books for Little Black Girls.

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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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