Lest you think I think the Children’s Book Council is just a big bunch of dittoheads, I want to tell you about another CBC event that was going on at the very same time Rush and the Disney Princess were having their moment. Last Wednesday night, the Horn Book, along with Simmons and Children’s Books Boston, co-sponsored a program assembled by CBC Diversity, “A Place at the Table: Speed-Dating with Children’s Book Creators.” Not THAT kind of dating; instead, there were six round tables with about eight people seated at each, along with an author known for the themes of cultural diversity/inclusion in his or her work. We’d go around the circle, each of us answering a question such as “What are the barriers for diversity books that may prevent them from getting into reader’s hands?” After ten minutes were up, the author would move to another table and we’d get a new one, and go around the circle once again, with a different question (“Who has access to power in your field? Which voices are denied access? Why?”). The structure-to-substance ratio was a little high, but better that than the banal “who can write about whom” free-for-all that these discussions too often devolve into (because that’s the easy question).
However truncated, the conversations were great. We talked a lot about how reading can and should enable one to “see oneself,” but at the same time it’s a great opportunity to see what other people look like, too. It seems to me that a push to increase the numbers of books about non-white cultures won’t happen without attention to both these benefits.