More on Race-Neutral Characters

Don’t miss Linda Sue Park’s thought-provoking response to the notion of a “race neutral” character.

This issue first came up for us at the CCBC back in July of 2001 when we discussed Virginia Euwer Wolff’s Make Lemonade and True Believer on CCBC-Net. We hosted quite a lively discussion about the race of the main characters — it’s never specified in the books but many readers assumed that LaVaughn was African-American, and argued the point quite assertively.

Asian American Writers Take on Race

It’s something we’ve been wondering about here at the CCBC for the past year or so, ever since we noted that our statistics reveal that fewer Asian American book creators write and illustrate books about Asian characters than they do about white (or animal) characters.  With such a dearth of books with Asian main characters, why don’t more Asian authors and illustrators create them?

Role Models

Shannon Hale recently commented on a school visit experience she had in which boys were not invited to the event. She rightly decries sexism in our thinking about youth literature and in our role as gatekeepers.

Hale is commenting specifically about the assumption that boys don’t want to read books with girls as main characters: what I think of as the “genderizing” of literature.

But the issue she describes is not unlike adults—from parents to professionals in the fields of libraries and education—who assume white kids don’t want to read about kids of color. Who assume that readers are only interested in characters who look or talk or behave like them.