Walter Dean Myers asks a good question

Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books? –

You absolutely have to read this essay. Followed by Christopher Myers’s equally thought-provoking piece, The Apartheid of Children’s Literature.

I can’t answer this question, except to say that I’ve noticed the same problem. But I do know that part of it is the recent and frequent insistence that only writers of color can successfully write about characters of color.  Ezra Jack Keats, anyone? His picture books were the first, I believe, to portray children of color routinely in their own homes and neighborhoods, without the prejudice that sadly prevailed at the time.

Why can’t we do the same? So many fantasy and dystopian novels could easily have protagonists of color – but they don’t. Rae Carsons’ heroine in Girl of Fire and Thorns was not lily-white, and I enjoyed her book that much more for the ways in which her heroine was atypical. (She was chubby, too.) Or perhaps, even better – why do we have to describe the ethnicities of our characters? Why can’t we allow the reader to make their own judgments? Dark hair, dark eyes, tanned skin – these could apply to children all over the world?

As a reader, I enjoy reading about characters of all races, ethnicities, religions, etc. But as a writer, I feel constrained. Constrained to write about what I know, so I don’t inadvertently offend someone. Perhaps it’s time for me to step outside those bounds and experiment more. Starting with my latest protagonist…


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