Monday, June 11, 2018

Ellen Oh Answers Your Questions

Ellen Oh is co-founder, President, and CEO of We Need Diverse Books (WNDB), a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing diversity in children’s literature. She is also a former adjunct college instructor and corporate/entertainment attorney. She is the author of the YA fantasy trilogy The Prophecy Series and the MG novel Spirit Hunters: Book 1. Spirit Hunters: Book 2 will be published Summer 2018.

The following is a modified and supplemented version of several Facebook posts Ellen wrote last week.

I am going to be blunt. I am asking you not to get offended with what I have to say but to listen with an open mind and don't take anything personally. This is not personal to any one individual; it concerns the larger community.

When We Need Diverse Books launched, I received heinous death threats and rape threats on such a continuous basis I had to shut down all social media for awhile. At one point, I deleted my Twitter entirely and only came back because of the #whitewashedout movement. I still get accused of promoting White genocide and I have been called the c-word so often it doesn't even faze me anymore (and it used to make me livid). I've had emails from people who clearly knew where I lived and made comments about my children; I had to skip ComicCon due to specific threats that made me very uncomfortable. And all of this, for something I do on a voluntary and uncompensated basis.

And yet, here I am 4 years later still trying hard to teach people that diverse books are not a threat to anyone, but rather, that they make for a better world. So. Let’s talk about fear, confusion, and scarce opportunities that White writers have been complaining about. Let’s talk about how White writers are afraid of asking questions for fear of being labeled bad or racist.

Asking questions is part of the growing process. Being afraid to look bad, or racist, because you asked a question--this doesn't even make sense to me. Just ask me, or any of us who have shown a willingness to discuss this issue. Yes, we are tired of constantly talking about the same thing, but we would much rather answer questions than deal with misrepresentations and hostility. And, so what if your question makes you feel bad, or you are embarrassed? If those uncomfortable feelings are the extent of the problem, who cares? People ask me questions all the time. I have never threatened them with death, rape, or attacked their children for existing. But threats have become a part of my life solely because I advocate for diversity in children's literature. So to me, your uncomfortable feelings stem from a place of privilege that I and other IPOC have never had the experience of, and will not experience, in our lifetime. And I know that it offends people when we point this out. But I would much rather be offended than deal with threats of violence.

Let’s talk about the heart of the question. Do we want people to write diversely? Yes. We do. When you write your White main character stories, you should people those stories with lots of diversity that reflects the world around us. And that should be par for the course. Next question, should you write a main character who is an IPOC? The answer is: It depends. Will your story use a White lens to tell the story? Then NO. Will your story have a White savior theme to it? Then NO. Will your story exploit the pain of a marginalized culture to get you a paid writing gig? Then NO. Would your story be better told by a person writing from that marginalized community instead? All of these points are based on racism, colonialism, and the White lens and how it shapes the telling of IPOC stories. That's why when you do research to write your story, part of your research is to explore these very points to see if you even should tell the story. There are plenty of great writers who can write outside their lanes brilliantly. They don't ask these types of questions publicly, because they ALREADY know these issues, have already figured out if they can do the best job writing these stories, and then they just do it. And you know what? Sometimes even they will still get it wrong. But the difference is, they listen, they learn, and they do better.

I have never ever said that White writers should never write about IPOC. And in fact in every talk, every event, every workshop I have ever given I always repeat the same advice to writers who want to write a story about IPOC:
1. Do you need to tell this story?
2. If you really feel you need to tell this story, then get it right!
3. And be prepared for criticism if you don't.

It is amazing to me that I'm so often attacked as some kind of militant diversity police officer stopping White writers from writing about IPOC. Here's the blogpost that gets me in trouble all the time. I wrote it back when We Need Diverse Books first started, in response to a pattern of White writers calling diversity a "hot trend". They were trying to leverage the sudden interest in diversity to help themselves get published. This problem continues today. The CCBC's data doesn’t lie: There’s been an increase in IPOC books published, but they are mostly by White writers. That was the main point of my blogpost, which is from February 2016. The last paragraph of my post is a paragraph of Don'ts pointing out how not to use diversity to get published. For all those who seem to think this post was telling White people not to ever write about IPOC, try reading it again. And you will see that for every don't, there is a do.

Listen, I know criticism can hurt. My first book received reviews that said it read like a "bad translation of a Shlocky Chinese book". Reviewers also said, “don't read Prophecy for good Asian Fantasy, read Eon or Stormdancer or Across the Nightingale Floor” etc.--all books by White writers. Some bloggers trashed my book so badly that I actually received emails from several bloggers telling me that although they liked my book, they were afraid to say so publicly for fear of being mocked by these more influential bloggers. This broke my heart but it didn't stop me from writing. Receiving criticism--sometimes harsh--is not unique to White writers, but feeling entitled to no criticism--particularly criticism along racial lines--is unique to White writers.

People get so mad at Debbie Reese for criticizing bad Native American representation. They say she is tearing down people who are allies. Why does it matter if they are an ally if they made a mistake? If I messed up, I would thank Debbie for tearing me a new one and teaching me to do better and in the process teaching everyone else. It hurts. Yes. But it isn't about you as the writer, it is about the kids reading the book. And DAMN IT in a world where a major football franchise refuses to give up its racist name, and public schools across the country won't recognize the racism of their mascots, we need Debbie to keep us accountable and to remind us of the pain of an entire community of people.

So yes, ask questions. There are people who will answer them for you, if you just ask. And please don't get offended if we get cranky or short or if we aren't as nice or as polite as you would like us to be. Remember you are not the first, nor will you be the last, to ask us.

-Allie Jane Bruce helped edit this post.

Monday, June 4, 2018

On Owning It

A few years ago, in the early months of Reading While White, I wrote this post, about changing my mind about a book. In it, I asked, “What am I giving up when I can admit something may not be as wonderful as I originally thought?

My answer was nothing. And what I gain is greater understanding and insight. Something to carry with me moving forward, that I hope makes me better at the work I do. And better in the life I live.

Fast forward to now. To the recent discussions that have taken place on social media about critics and the “call-out culture” that devolved into a vulgar display of white-centered thinking.

And I truly wonder: What are people so afraid of? What do they have to lose in listening openly to what critics have to offer them when it comes to representation of lives and experiences beyond their own? To admitting that they might have things to learn.

I’m not naïve enough to think criticism doesn’t hurt. Of course it hurts. But does that mean people should stop criticizing?

Should social justice activists silence themselves, too, because they might hurt the feelings of police officers, or elected officials, or business owners or any of us? Should Black Lives Matter only if those proclaiming it do so nicely? Should DACA activists, or those speaking out against refugee children being torn away from their parents at our country’s borders, or the poisoning of tribal lands or the water in Flint, make sure they speak softly and kindly at every turn?

Racism is racism, whether rooted in government policy, corporate greed, or white-centric views of the work we do; whether found on the streets, at our borders, or in the pages of books for children and teens.

Silence does not equal change. Discomfort unsettles complacency.  

I’m not an author or illustrator. Neither my livelihood nor my sense of accomplishment/ pride/ self depends on what I create. I’m sure it hurts. I'm sure it feels awful, or even scary. It might be infuriating, too. 

Own everything you feel. And then decide what you're going to do with those feelings.

You can say you’re being censored, or silenced, and think of yourself the hero of your own story.

Or you can think about the children and teens audiences of the books you createnot just the reader you envision or the kids you know, but every child and teen. You can own that they're fragile, too. And that they're the point.

You can think about about the need for change in the world in which we live—change that cannot and will not happen if there aren’t those who can tell us from firsthand experience what is wrong with that world. Who is being hurt and how? Who is being left out, left behind, or boxed in? 

And you can think about both the risk and the responsibility that is part of creative work, of sharing your talent, and then ask yourself how you can be and do better.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Contemporary Colorblind Racism & White Aggression

There are many resources available that discuss the consequences of an ideology of racial colorblindness. Many White people in our industry, understanding that colorblindness is a damaging form of racism, have moved beyond “I don’t see color.” But we White people haven’t moved as far as we’d probably like to think. So how does colorblind racism in kidlit function today? 

To me, it looks like White people seeing and naming race, but refusing to acknowledge that race has meaning. For example, we White people have a vested interest in continuing to call for and champion books in which characters’ racial identities mean little or nothing (to us). Conversations and criticisms about what some refer to as “casual diversity” aren’t new, but I’ve seen them showing up more and more in conference sessions, book clubs, and other spaces in recent months. We need to ask ourselves: What is it about the idea of “casual diversity” that makes it so appealing to us White people? 

One look at the CCBC statistics shows the imbalance of power in kidlit, and the need for more stories expressing a range of genres, experiences, emotions, and characterizations. I am NOT saying that there is not a need for increasing books by and about POC and Native people about all sorts of experiences, including books about contemporary, “normal” kids. I am not saying that we shouldn’t listen to people speaking about their own marginalized racial identities and what types of books they would like to see or write more of and why (please let’s do that!). I am asking us White people to recognize that when we have a laser focus on “casual” racial diversity over other issues in kidlit, it takes on a layer of meaning given the overwhelming Whiteness of the industry. I am asking us to recognize that we have limits to our understanding of others' racial experiences and we also have the unearned privilege to define and regulate what is seen and perceived as “normal” or “casual” in the first place. And as fellow RWW contributor Megan Schliesman pointed out to me in a recent email about this post, when we White people categorize #OwnVoices books as “casual diversity,” we are erasing their cultural context whether we understand and see it or not. 

As Laura Jiménez recently wrote in this thoughtful post, kidlit has seen calls for more diverse representation answered with more White people publishing “random non-White, non-straight, disabled, non-neurotypical characters, as long as those characters are just like them. You know, ‘normal’, which is White code for ‘White, like me.’” In our White-dominated industry, racial diversity is sometimes reduced to picking a paint color or a character’s name. This is shallow, and it ignores the realities that people and characters with those marginalized identities live, see, experience, and endure. This way of thinking, publishing, and promoting literature devalues the concept of #OwnVoices and maintains White supremacy culture, spreading a flawed message that the world is experienced universally. Can writers from a dominant culture create characters from minoritized groups that “just happen to have” any oppressed identity? Nobody “just happens to be” a member of a racial group. Race has meaning in our world. Whiteness has meaning. Kidlit doesn’t just happen to be a “white space.” The Whiteness of the industry, just like White-controlled neighborhoods, schools, and institutions, is not an accident. (Note that even our assessments and norms for what “good art” is are rooted in centuries of White dominance that has largely gone unchallenged by other White people.)

Contemporary colorblind racism also shows up when White people support the myth of meritocracy, the idea that White creators today have success because they have earned it as individuals with no added racial privilege, and that criticismespecially criticism from POC and Native womenis just sour grapes, oversensitivity, attention-seeking, or toxic bullying. The belief that calls for equity involve Native people and POC getting opportunities over "better qualified" White people is rooted in literal White supremacy; it assumes that White writers are superior or writing from an objective stance and that critiques against them aren’t the “right” way of thinking or acting. When we White people are afraid of the “D-Word” or attack, discredit, and mischaracterize the work and lived experiences of leader-scholars from marginalized groups, we are refusing to acknowledge the concrete forms of discrimination that have created the way our industry looks like and continues to function today. When White people say we want diversity but then complain about one’s right to publish books about characters outside of our experiences without criticism, often what we are saying is “I want diversity, but I don’t want equity. I still want the power. I am entitled to control.” When we White people complain about how hard it is to be White in today’s publishing landscape when only 7% of children’s books in that landscape are written by Black, Latinx, and Native creators...those feelings might be real, but they are not rooted in reality (and as the saying goes: “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression”).

Whether we White people are miscategorizing criticism against us or trying to control narratives for change, we are refusing to engage. We are refusing to believe. We are refusing to listen. We are refusing to learn. This is where our racial colorblindness and where all of our predictable behaviors of White fragility or White aggression show up. It is willful ignorance and it is incompetence. It is power hoarding and it is aggression. It is racism. Unless we are working on understanding that and working to build the stamina to own it and and try to push against it when we see it in others as well as in ourselves, we are supporting it.


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Andrea Davis Pinkney’s Challenge: A Letter

This past March I attended the 2018 Butler Lecture given by Andrea Davis Pinkney at Dominican University. Titled “Behold the Road,” Pinkney’s immersive presentation was an acknowledgment and celebration of the past, present, and future leaders of the world of children’s literature (and the wider world too).  It was also a call to action for those involved in teaching, libraries, and #kidlit today.

Pinkney shared that “we are the ones” who build society through books, who can debunk myths, and “dream the impossible.” She spoke of the serious responsibility for those of us who work with young people, explaining how we also “shut doors on dreams without knowing it.” She challenged the audience to consider the year 2040: Who will the leaders be? What will they say? What will they remember? “The thought leaders of tomorrow are counting on us.”

Reminding the audience that “Children see what they see. They see what they don’t see,” Pinkney also reflected on past and present conversations around racial equity and inclusion, and challenged those in the audience to write a “Dear Diversity” letter. The idea is to write a letter to Diversity like you would write a journal entry, or speak with someone whom you really trust. After you’ve written it, read the letter. Then, because “it all comes down to the doing,” make a promise. Commit to three goals, and write these down too. Seal the letter, address it, stamp it, and mail it to yourself in a year. See if you fulfilled your promise. Ask yourself, “Am I walking the walk?"
The self-addressed stamp envelope currently in my home office.

It is easy for White people like me to deepen our understandings and gain knowledge about systemic oppression and keep it as an intellectual exercise. Learning is an important, necessary step, but it is not always action. Bridging this gap (between what I think/say/learn and what I do) is something I’ve been working on, so after I got home from the Butler Lecture, I followed Pinkney’s advice and wrote a letter. I read it and thought it over, and my goals became clear.

Having a self-addressed stamped envelope sitting in your home office so that you can send it to yourself in a year is an analog version of Facebook’s “On this day” memory function (but more intentional). This letter might not be high tech, but I know I learned a lot from the process of writing it, reflecting on it, and organizing my thoughts to form goals. I invite you all to take Andrea Davis Pinkney’s challenge and write your own letter. What ideas show up for you? What goals are standing out? What actions are you committed to taking? I’d love to learn more and connect with those of you who wish to share in the comments.

I’m going to follow Pinkney’s directions by not sharing the totality of my letter with anyone but me, but I would like to share my goals and some of the reminders to myself that my letter led me to have here:

Pay for it. Or, as my friend Jen says, “support what you want to see in the world.” I can easily not spend my own money on books and other materials due to my proximity to libraries. But I am committed to putting my personal money where my mouth is and financially backing people, books, and ideas that make change. DonorsChoose, Patreon, and fundraising are all part of this. (I’m going to keep a Google spreadsheet so that I can track this type of spending.) People of color and Native people are often not given fair funding compared to their White (especially White cis male) colleagues when guest speaking or submitting work for publication, even for the same events and organizations. If I am ever on the planning end of a workshop, article, or conference presentation, I will demand transparency and equity in the budgeting process. I can’t always afford to spend money, but where I am limited on funds I might be able to give something else, like time.

Ask more proactive questions. I am going to work on strengthening a habit of getting as much information as possible before I make decisions. This means doing more research before selecting a book. It also means not making assumptions about who is invited to speak or participate in conferences, workshops, or professional opportunities. If I don’t ask specific, intentional questions, I am likely participating in creating or supporting homogeneous committees, panel line-ups, or promoting books or ideas that don’t match my (and my profession’s) values. Part of this work also demands that I reflect on and check how much space I and my fellow White people are controlling or taking up, and working to put my energies into supporting and centering voices from people of color and Native people. If, for example, I’m gathering information before participating in professional development opportunities, the organizers’ responses to my questions will help me make better informed decisions--and I do not have to say “yes.” In some cases, passing on an opportunity and explaining why can interrupt unconscious behaviors and increase awareness and mindfulness in the future.

Don’t work alone. Justice work is community work, and there are unique tensions that come into play for me as a White person trying to understand and dismantle racism. I am reminded of Paul Gorski’s research that shows White racial justice activists as a major source of burnout for activists of color, and all of the different ways that well-meaning White people working against racism unconsciously support the racism they are trying to fight against (by taking credit for or undermining work from others in the community, softening honest messages from “justice” to “harmony,” hogging the mic, backbiting, shushing, centering themselves, etc.). Gorski’s research suggests that White people wanting to fight racism increase their awareness, but also learn to serve: to improve at following directions versus taking the lead. Even if doing seemingly solo work, like posting on social media or writing a blog post, I will look for and embrace the feedback that my community connections afford. That means working to recognize my limitations; to acknowledge the intersections of oppressions (h/t Kimberlé Crenshaw); and to let those with more expertise and experience truly lead, stepping in and stepping back as they deem necessary. This type of collaboration and communication means more conversations, and that does take more time. It is worth it.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Bring It Back!: I Look Like a Girl

Hamanaka, Sheila. I Look Like a Girl. William Morrow and Company, 1999. ISBN: 9780688146252

“I look like a girl, // but I’m really a tiger, / with a rumble, a roar, and a leap! // I look like a girl, / but I’m really a dolphin, / with a / spin and a splash / in the sea.” So begins Sheila Hamanaka’s poetic, mesmerizing, and sadly, out-of-print I Look Like a Girl. Four children, whose skin and hair range from light to dark, reveal that appearances can deceive; someone who looks like a girl may actually be a condor, mustang, wolf, or jaguar.

A pattern emerges early in the book. “I look like a girl,” the child declares; the page turn that follows reveals the animal behind the facade. Both fantastical and physical, fierce and playful, the painterly illustrations leap off the page and into the reader’s imagination. The accessible yet exquisite poetry packs a punch, too: “Throw out those glass slippers. / Send the fairies to sleep. / No prince is waiting for me. // For if you look twice, / past the sugar and spice, // the eyes of a tiger / you’ll see.”

While it makes no explicit references to trans or nonbinary children, the underlying messages may resonate with some. Appearances mean nothing; labels are faulty; what’s important is in a child’s heart. Once, after I read this aloud to 3rd graders, a child said: “Wait, I’m confused. Is that kid a girl?” Another child immediately responded, “The point is it doesn’t matter, just BE WHO YOU ARE.” (To read more about how I use this book with kids, click here).

During the past few months of #MeToo, particularly the moments in which the world of children’s literature has grappled with sexual harassment and abuse in our ranks, I’ve often thought of I Look Like a Girl. I’ve seen kids respond to it with everything from fist pumps and “YES”es to soft sighs of relief that someone gets it, a reaction I share. As stories of sexist mistreatment, manipulation, and worse arise, we need to balance them with stories that affirm, empower, and provide safe haven. At its simplest, I Look Like a Girl is an exquisitely written, dynamically illustrated poem. At its most powerful, it reaches across time and space to let children know that they are unique but not alone.

William Morrow, the book’s original publisher, is now an imprint of HarperCollins. I’d so love to see a reprint--and the time is now.

Reviewed by Allie Jane Bruce

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Reviewing While White: Laura Ingalls is Ruining My Life by Shelley Tougas

Laura Ingalls is Ruining My Life, by Shelley Tougas. Roaring Brook Press.

Reviewed by Allie Jane Bruce.

NB - I read, and use page numbers from, a galley of this book.

It was with trepidation that I picked up Laura Ingalls is Ruining My Life. My feelings about the Little House series are overwhelmingly negative. The more I read analyses of race and racism in these books (for a start on this subject, check out this and this), the more I think this one needs to go the way of the dodo. To be fair, I never liked the books (they just were never my cup of tea, even when I was a kid) so I’m not battling any nostalgia or fondness, as many of my colleagues are when reflecting on these books or contemplating letting them go. As I read the description of Laura Ingalls is Ruining My Life, I wondered: Is this an homage to the Little House books? Or is it critical? I then tried to let go of any questions or expectations, and as much as I possibly could, approach the book with a blank slate (although I did bring what I know about history and critical race theory, as I bring those to everything).

White, 12-year-old Charlotte is one of three siblings; her single mother, whose irresponsible nature and love of talking about “creative energy” frustrate and irritate Charlotte, moves them from place to place in search of inspiration and a “spark” that will finally make her a successful writer. Of all the places they’ve lived, Charlotte hates Walnut Grove, a home of Little House writer Laura Ingalls, the most. Her twin brother, with whom she’s always shared borderline-psychic superpowers, drifts from her and reinvents himself as a popular kid. Unable or unwilling to make friends herself, Charlotte pretends to need remedial help with her schoolwork so that she can spend lunchtime in the classroom with her teacher. Undeceived, her wise teacher assigns her a series of essays about the real history of Walnut Grove, Manifest Destiny, and the ways that Westward Expansion (which I call Westward Invasion… but we’ll get there…) impacted the people and environment around them. As Charlotte reads and learns (she reads a new essay, and learns something new, every 30 or 40 pages, a device I found contrived and clunky), she gradually settles in and starts to make friends; but just when things are looking up for her, Mom falters and decides it’s time to move again. This accessible, digestible middle-grade realistic fiction will delight some; cynical and unromantic, Charlotte is a memorable and captivating personality. Some readers will also hail it as a nuanced, progressive look at the Little House series; nevertheless, as I argue, it ultimately fails to actually interrogate the racism and problems in the Little House series--instead, it makes a pretense at interrogating them. The book therefore serves to evolve, rather than interrupt, racism; and it does so in the guise of interrupting racism.

For my close reading of the book, and my argument and conclusions about how it evolves racism, visit my guest post at American Indians In Children’s Literature. There, I argue that Laura Ingalls is Ruining My Life is the next generation of racism. Watch closely, especially if you’re White; racism is evolving before our very eyes.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Reviewing While White: Tinyville Town: I’m a Police Officer

Cover of Tinyville Town: I'm a Police Officer
by Brian Biggs.
Board books are often one of children’s first experiences with literature. Young people chew them, cuddle with them, and yes, read them. They serve as an introduction to what many caregivers hope will be a lifetime of reading. They help children make sense of the world. Creating successful board books is no easy task given their limited format, length, and broad audience (they must be enjoyed by children and, at minimum, tolerable to adults, even upon their thousandth re-read). This challenge increases when a book is about a complex topic about which audiences will have varied opinions and experiences.

I thought of this challenge when I first saw Tinyville Town: I’m a Police Officer, written and illustrated by Brian Biggs. I also thought about Amy Martin’s post, “Rethinking Books about Police” and the police book evaluation toolkit created by the Oakland Public Library. A book about a police officer for young readers is an ambitious topic, especially considering the racism, mass incarceration, and police violence in our world. 

In its Kirkus review, this book is described as “A worthy introduction to the concept of police officers,” so I was interested to see how this book might follow the pattern of the other Tinyville Town books (such as I’m a Librarian) while also setting itself apart. 

The police officer and town residents discover
a monkey eating bananas and donuts.
The book opens with a Black police officer and her cat, waking up and heading out for their day. Her fellow officers have different skin tones, as do the people in their community of Tinyville Town. The officer is shown rescuing a cat from a tree and making sure a girl doesn’t slip on a banana peel. When the bakery and grocery store are robbed, she searches for the culprit: “Big ears. Long tail. Likes bananas and donuts.” As she follows the clues (and readers recall a White, bearded zookeeper putting “missing” posters up throughout the book), the “perpetrator” (not “suspect”) is shown having a picnic. The robbera monkeysmiles wide as the White zookeeper pulls it away (off the page, presumably back to the zoo). The officer heads back home for a good night’s sleep.

The monkey character smiles and waves goodbye
to the police officer as it is taken away.
I am deeply troubled by the perpetrator in this book being a monkey. The police force kills a disproportionate number of Black people in this country, and there is a racist history of comparing Black people to monkeys (as explained by Wulf Hund and Charles Mills here). I’m sure some readers will say that I’m reading too much into thisthat an animal is just an animal. But of all the non-human characters from which one could choose, it is a monkey, and it is important to remember that monkeys have been used throughout history to dehumanize Black people and justify genocide. Conversations continue today about this type of imagery, as seen this week when the clothing company H&M apologized for posting a photo of a young Black model in a hooded sweatshirt with the words “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle." Furthermore, for the suspect to return to the zoo sends a message to readers that those stopped by police are brought to places where they belong. Right now New Jersey prisons are trying to ban Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, and schools in Texas are trying to prevent students from reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. These stories and messages do not exist in a vacuum, and neither does this book.

I am sure that the team that worked on this book did not intend to have those connections drawn. The “messy thief” monkey is in the book all the same. I do not believe one book has to do everything, nor do I think I can predict how every reader will react to every text (consciously or unconsciously). Some readers aren’t even speaking, so I’ll never know exactly what they are thinking in the moment. But just because readers don’t express their feelings through speech doesn’t mean that they aren’t paying attention and growing in understanding of their surroundings, their literature, and themselves. They’re taking it all in. What messages are we endorsing as they do so?

-Elisa Gall