While Gary Soto seems a bit of a fragile flower in this essay about why he’s been scared off writing for children, I have sympathy for him. If your book is sexy or foul-mouthed or anti-authority, you have no better friends than the American Library Association and its adjacent professions. They will–and they should–stick up for you. But get accused of racism (or, more euphemistically, “cultural insensitivity”) and you’re on your own. The circles I run in tend to talk about censorship, racism, and sexism as evils of the same class, but abhorrence of the first means you have to develop some tolerance for the second and third. AND, we have to stop being so quick to label as “inauthentic” any character who doesn’t behave the way we want them to. Marisol’s mother’s decision to move the family to the suburbs does not make her a race traitor.
Still, you need to stick up for yourself, too, and rather than refusing to answer phone calls from his critics in 2005 when his book was published, Soto waits seven years (when the book is out of print and the doll discontinued) to pick up his marbles and go home? I feel like I’m missing a part of the story.