Beyond Craft: Reaching for Texts That Do Not Segregate


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Most often, when we talk about writing, it’s about craft. Tools. Techniques. Elements of fiction. For me, those things are inseparable from historical or psychosocial aspects of our field, e.g., the legacy of colonialism and how it lingers in children’s books, or the persistent representation (or non-representation) of characters of color. Just two examples but do they not, even now in the 21st century, still hold the power to stir conversations  to boiling point? And then there are the statistics.

Since last year, the Diversity 101 Posts on the CBC Diversity blog have offered us a refreshing forum for a thoughtful conversation on a variety of related subjects .  Quick peek:

None of us will ever have all the answers here. We all always need to remember that each character, author, and book is individual, and that each deserves our careful reading and consideration. But we hope this “Diversity 101” series will further the conversation with a little more information, and help all of us to write and publish the truest and best books.

And this from our own VCFA graduate Lyn Miller-Lachmann. Excerpt:

Even when the stereotypes are more benign, they serve to set people apart. Because emotional and developmental disabilities are usually invisible, it is tempting to exaggerate behavioral differences so that readers know a character has a disability.

The Sidekick Syndrome from Andrea Davis Pinkney.

It’s a common cliché, and it’s very subtle. In our ever-increasing commitment to include diverse characters in novels, we’ve also, at the same time, increased a stereotype ― that black kids (when they’re among an “ensemble cast”) don’t have much going on and aren’t worthy of the spotlight.
My own forthcoming CBC Diversity 101 post will be about interweaving “foreign” languages into English texts. Why does that matter? What are the alternatives to authorial translation? Oddly, that two-part post led me back to craft, to the details of words on the page in texts I loved as a child. But more, it led me to the truths about worldview that lie beneath a powerful, consistent, accurate voice. Accurate for a place and time and people, but more, accurate for a particular story. Good writing may equal craft but there’s something larger at work here. I think that something is an awareness of the moving, shifting forces that lie beneath craft choices.
In the end understanding our own sensitivities and biases can help us to create texts that do not segregate, texts that can instead reach the whole, rich, rainbow array of young readers for whom we write.


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2 responses to “Beyond Craft: Reaching for Texts That Do Not Segregate

  1. I’ll look for that post at CBC. I love the articles there!

  2. louisehawes

    Yes, Uma! I, too, am looking forward to your two-part post. And thanks for a perspective that looks beyond our own particular story. it’s both a privilege and a responsibility to be writing in a time when what we create touches the world community more often than we know.

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