Black Literature Matters

BLM

On Saturday, March 4,  Sara Hines (co-owner of Eight Cousins) and I hosted “Black Literature Matters: A Book Talk”. The event was a huge success and our thanks go out to everyone who braved the cold to hear about these important titles. As a part of a larger series entitled, “Books Build Conversations,” we focused on #ownvoices books. #OwnVoices is a hashtag coined in 2015 in order to highlight stories written by authors from marginalized communities featuring protagonists who are also a part of those same communities. For our purposes, we chose books by black authors with black protagonists.

A few days ago, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center released a graph on their blog chronicling the rise and fall of children’s books with black protagonists both by non-black authors and #ownvoices authors.

This graph would have been perfect to include in our talk. As the author of the blog points out, authenticity matters: books about black characters written by non-black authors, while well-intentioned, may fall into the problematic tropes and reinforce stereotypes and negative ideologies. Also, as the author of the blog states, black authors and illustrators need to be “given the same opportunities to tell their own stories”.

In order to give attendees the opportunity to really connect with each title, Sara and I limited our scope by each selecting one book from four categories: picture book, middle grade, teen/young adult, and non-fiction. We committed to reading each other’s selections to ensure an in-depth conversation. During the talk, we shared background on the #ownvoices hashtag, the need for diverse representation in children’s literature, and described how books serve as windows or mirrors depending on the reader. In addition, we dialogued about each of our eight selections, discussing the stories and our thoughts about them.

Each attendee was given a pamphlet that included all of the books highlighted during the talk, as well as additional recommended #ownvoices titles. You can view and print the pamphlet below and if you click on the booklist link, you will find a list with additional titles that feature black protagonist by authors/illustrators that may or may not be #ownvoices. All books are available within the CLAMS system. Both the pamphlet and the list are free and may be reproduced. If you have any questions, please feel free to email Sara (sara@eightcousins.com) or I (sseales@falmouthpubliclibrary.org) directly.

–Stephanie Seales
Falmouth Public Library Children’s Room

Click here to view the handout

Click here for the booklist

 

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