Friday, October 10, 2014

Why We Need Diverse Books

I grew up in a mixed-race home, though I've never thought about it that way until just now. My dad puts the Anglo back in Anglo-Saxon, and I'm not far behind (though I do have enough Filipino and Hawaiian blood in me to work up a nice tan). My mom is half Filipino, but even that's understating it, since her dad was actually Filipino, Chinese, and Spanish. My sister is half Guatemalan, so between the four of us, we represent four of the six populated continents.

I was a teenager before it occurred to me that my sister didn't look like I did (or my mom, for that matter). We grew up in a very white community a few miles north of Salt Lake City, but for some reason, she never stood out. She was just Heather, whirlwind toddler, pint-sized playmate, and occasional stealer of my stuff.

That said, I think my experience was unusual. Most kids do notice race. The schools in our town are forty-five percent white, forty-five percent Hispanic, and ten percent everything else, and I-gots noticed the texture of his African-American classmate's hair on the second day of kindergarten. Luckily, he asked about it, which gave us an opportunity to explain that, even though this boy's hair was different, it had nothing to do with whether he'd make a good friend.

White parents might think it's enough to stick their kids in multicultural settings and expect them to be colorblind, but I don't think anyone is truly colorblind. We're different, we notice, and that's okay. The trick is to talk about the differences so they don't seem so different after all. That's the great thing about diverse books--they allow us to get outside ourselves and see the world for what it really is: a beautiful ocean of diversity, beautiful in many ways precisely because it is diverse.


Rebecca Gomez said...

You're right, Krista. Sometimes I have to remind myself that not everyone grows up around such varied people as I did, and still am. Books are often a child's main window to the world beyond what's next store or across town, a window from which they can see that those who are different from them are really basically the same at heart.

Laura Moe said...

Good post, Krista. Diversity comes in all shapes and forms, and the differences make us more interesting.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Where did you grow up, Rebecca? I'm glad we live in a more racially diverse area. It's good for my kids to see the world from different perspectives.

Thanks, Laura!