Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Why Topics Of Social Justice Belong In Children's and Young Adult Books

So I've officially received my first book review troll.

Maybe the term "troll" is a bit harsh. Let's just say, in my 2-3 years of book blogging and reviews, I received my first disagreement for a review I left.

While I considered replying to their comment, I thought against doing so. Why? Because I respected their opinion, despite it being much different than mine. 

What didn't sit well with me, was that this stranger did not respect mine.

To give you more clarity, I'll tell you a little more about the book. I will not name it, as I would not want to discourage anyone from reading it, as that is never my intention. I understand how hard authors work to become published, and the book is very cute, and well written.

But the book centered on a young girl of color(Middle Grade) whom is raised by her white mother. She didn't know her father, but for medical reasons, learns her father is one of the biggest celebrities in India.

I for one can still enjoy a form of media but also point out when it is being problematic. My review in question, pointed out the many examples of privilege the main character's mother faced, and the main character herself faced upon traveling to India, and seeing how impoverished it's citizens can be.

I took issue with this person's comment, mainly because they stated that my review was not actually a review, but the perceived motivation of fictional characters regarding social issues.

I held my breath too.

As a person of color, I cant help but feel as though I've had this conversation before. You know? The one where topics such as social in/justice or social issues have no place in a children's book.

As a woman, a person who grew up impoverished and a person of color, I cant help but respectfully disagree. Themes of social in/justice and issues are exactly where they should be.

Parents, caretakers, or even educators want to shield children from the isms of social issues affecting people who are not like them face, but this does a huge disservice to children. Your heart could be in a good place, but I have to say, you're protecting children from the wrong things.

Refusing to talk about privilege, or racism, sexism, homophobia, able-ism and any other topic that affect those of the lucky folks like me, not born with privilege you have naturally, only intensifies the problem, and the feelings or angst, those of us hold, with it.

It silences the voices who don't get to see themselves on books. It makes children who are not of color, queer, Christian, boys, or any other default our society has decided to make human while leaving the rest of us less than human, empathize less to our pain, makes them less sympathetic to our struggles. and allows them to disconnect themselves without even attempting to connect in the first place.

Yes I pointed out that I didn't like that the parent couldn't be bothered with teaching the main character about herself, which in return made the main character less bothered with it. This goes for anyone who has children outside of their culture, not just Caucasians, but the act of simply not caring is extremely selfish.

Maybe it isn't convenient to seek out community centers or places of interest that could help a child connect with their other culture, but allow them to connect some way. Don't just rob them of ever knowing about themselves. And no Bollywood movies should not be their only window.

There are thousands, probably millions of things that make culture beautiful, unique and amazing. To denote everything interesting down to Bollywood is insulting.

It reminds me a bit of a book being released this year. I wouldn't throw shade on a book unless it was extremely problematic, but I'm sorry guys, it looks cool, but it is not for me. 

It's called "Hello, I Love You" and it's about a White-American teenager who leaves to live in South Korea. I haven't read the book myself, but having some awesome sources in the publishing industry, I definitely know, that I can not support this title.

It takes Korean culture, twists it, and dwindles most of it down to a mere genre of music. It's not only disrespectful, but it's lack of research from experts of the culture, makes it that much more insulting.

It relies on terrible and racist(not to mention lazy) character tropes, not to mention, ignore girls of color.

Now, I have absolutely no issue with Caucasian heroes and heroines. I read them all the time and write them all the time. What I don't like, are for characters of color to be props to further a story, we're only allowed to be apart of, to make what we've allowed too long to be a "default", to make them look better.

Comments and books like this are why We Need Diverse Books. They also show how little people care about cultural accuracy, and why social justice and issues should be present in children's and young adult titles.

If we are so afraid to teach children about these injustices, and issues that marginalized groups face, they will learn much too late to understand why it's a problem, or worse, turn out like this.

Maybe this is uncomfortable for you, but guess what? Its not any less comfortable for every person of color, person who identifies as queer, disabled, or poor. We have to experience these micro-aggressions EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

I'm sorry, but not really sorry this is inconvenient for you.

I'm sorry, but not sorry you're tired of hearing about it.

And I'm definitely not sorry that we refuse to further silence our pain, or our struggles, just because you don't experience them yourself.

If you're tired of hearing about social issues, or about racism, or privilege, why don't you help break down the system that disadvantages many of us in the first place.

This is not something that just started yesterday, and it will not stop tomorrow if we keep avoiding these topics.
We need diverse books. Every time you wish to silence that, you prove more and more why...


  1. Those post kills it and says everything that needs to be said about diversity in books!

  2. @Janiera Eldridge, Thank you so much for taking the time to read it. It gets frustrating when we keep saying the same things without being heard. Kids unfortunately suffer the most from it, then become teens and adults who care very little about social issues.


Thanks for leaving awesome comments!We appreciate and reply to everyone!