Multiculturalism In Children’s Literature

The following are notes from the Kid You Not Podcast episode 12.

A criticism of literature, especially British literature, is that it’s predominantly white and doesn’t reflect the diversity of society.

 

NORMALISATION VS PROBLEMISATION

Artichoke Hearts is predominantly a story about love between a young protagonist and her grandmother. Another theme is that the girl is a school girl in London, going to a diverse London school. This book normalises multiculturalism, but what about stories which ‘problemise’ them?

 

A SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECY?

It is thought that because it’s predominantly white, middle-class people buying children’s books that this is the reason why children’s books are filled with white, middle-class characters. But could this simply be alienating for any potential reader who happens to be something other than white, middle-class?

Publishers are very keen to explore writing which stars more diverse characters and the reason they are keen to do that because they know there’s a market out there. The biggest growing population in England is ‘mixed heritage’.

 

A NO-WIN SITUATION?

If a (white, middle-class) writer includes (‘name-drops’) characters with diverse names then they are often accused of tokenism. Yet if they don’t, they are accused of exclusion.

May white writers create stories about non-white characters? This is the job of a writer: to imagine other lives. Can men write female characters? Are women allowed to write male characters? No one is a monolithic person. Everyone has a heritage made up of various parts. Characters don’t have to be autobiographical. But writing a main character from a different background from your own does require more confidence.

 

See also Diversity Related Links from Jen Robinson’s Book Page

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