…to discover new allies. I’ve been enjoying the posts over at Amy Reads—my last paper addressed the different understanding of multiculturalism in Canada and the US, and I concluded that Canadians suffer from an unwarranted superiority complex when it comes to recognizing and respecting difference. I often find that when I raise the issue of inequity, Canadians (and not only whites) insist that I’m “obsessed” with race and simply imagining things. So it’s refreshing to meet a blogger who’s not afraid to grapple with these issues AND is thoughtful enough to offer solutions:
Wondering what you can do? I’ve pulled together a short list of suggestions, please add more in comments!
- Find books that are coming out by authors of color or who are gay, as well as books featuring characters of color and of varying gender and sexual persuasions, and request a review copy. If we show that we are interested in them, the industry might listen.
- If you focus on young adult literature, join the Diversity in YA Challenge hosted by Malinda Lo and Cindy Pon.
- Read Zetta Elliott’s post and help out in any way you can to make equity in publishing a priority in North America.
- Pick at least one other country a month and try to learn more about it online and also learn something about authors from there. Read one or two if you can. As citizens of the world we should be informed about issues around the world. Knowing about other cultures shouldn’t be a luxury it should be a requirement. Let’s make it cool to learn more about those global voices!
- Think about and discuss diversity in publishing and reading and realize why it is important.
And speaking of allies, I’ve been meaning to write about the ChLA conference for some time now but as soon as I got back from Roanoke I had to prepare for an interview in Atlanta. I have another interview next week and so I’ve been thinking a lot about the academy, its pros and cons. There was a moment in Roanoke when I felt like I was in the company of kindred spirits—and that doesn’t often happen in my professional environments, which is probably why I generally keep a low profile. Back in May I considered pulling out of the conference; it was a considerable expense and I’m not really a children’s literature scholar. I suspected I’d show up and spend the day alone, feeling very much on the outside of things. But the exact opposite was true: as soon as I arrived at the airport, I met two graduate students who had come from California and were trained by my co-panelist, June Cummins. We shared a cab and talked about the job market and the need to professionalize early on, to get out into the field, attending and presenting at conferences, publishing and networking with other scholars. I never did any of that as a graduate student because I never truly believed I’d enter the academy. Now I’m more committed to an academic life, but can’t find a school that values both my creative writing and “nontraditional” scholarship. But as I delivered my paper on Thursday morning and felt the positive energy from the audience, I realized that it *is* possible to be who I am in the academy. My fellow panelists, June and Uma Krishnaswami (Abbie Ventura was unable to attend so her paper was read aloud), presented fabulous papers that were also warmly received by the audience. Our panel co-Chairs, Sarah Park and Thomas Crisp, were welcoming and organized and facilitated a good discussion afterward. Then they shifted seats and read their own amazing papers for the panel, “Sliding Doors in a Pluralistic Society: Reframing Images of America and Inclusion.” I should have taken notes but I was so absorbed in their papers! Sarah presented on “Mis/Understanding the ‘Angry’ Adoptee”—for once, someone was talking seriously about RAGE and the ways in which marginalized and/or mistreated people are too often dismissed as “hysterical” or “irrational” when they challenge dominant practices or perceptions. I have a close friend who’s a transracial adoptee, and through her have done some reading on the subject; it’s unreal how she’s expected to always be happy and grateful for her adoption, how she’s expected to put the feelings of her adoptive and biological parents ahead of her own…Sarah then read Debbie Reese‘s part (ETA: Debbie was in New Orleans at ALA) of a dialogue with Thomas about “Identity, Representation, and Cultural Change Across Fields and Genre.” As scholars in American Indian Studies and Queer Theory, Debbie and Thomas reflected on the moments when they felt alienated and accepted by other professionals, and their decision to become allies in the fight for social justice. What do you do when you’re trying to create change—when it’s a matter of life or death—and those around you refuse to be moved? The conversation following that panel (which also included Anna L. Nielsen’s presentation on the representation of the Muslim experience) was also engaging and when it ended, I felt as though I’d found even more allies—I met Michelle Martin, the first black president of ChLA, and Jeffrey Canton, a Canadian scholar who boldly asked, “Why aren’t we talking about the role publishers play in all this?” I had lunch with Sarah, talked more with Jeffery and Michelle and Lissa Paul, and met other folks who said they’d really enjoyed my presentation. I was only at the conference for half a day, but I left feeling it had been totally worthwhile. Will I ever find an academic job where I can feel as accepted and validated? I don’t know. But conferences don’t just advance your career—they connect you to a community of allies, which is what matters most.