Sunday, October 18, 2015

Some Swoon-Worthy Women in Children's Literature

I confess that the recent article in NY Magazine about crush-worthy men in children's literature had me flashing back to that subway incident of five years ago.  I was filled with rage, and let it out on Twitter:

Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, but I was angry.  This sort of thing happens every time a mainstream media outlet decides to write about children's literature: Someone skims the surface and deems themself expert enough to write about us.  This one struck a nerve with me, though, because I see this adoration within the field as well--and it translates directly into more money and opportunities for White men.

Good-looking men in this field, particularly White men, go straight to the top and cash in.  (Christian Robinson was the only man of color named in this article--where the heckedy heck was Christopher Myers?  Gene Luen Yang?  Matt de la Pena?  Kadir Nelson?)  It's true of authors, illustrators, and librarians.  And I can count the number of times I've heard one of these hotshots name his White-man-privilege in public on one hand.

So, let's balance the scales a bit, shall we?  There are women in this field who should be rockstars, and women of color and First/Native Nations women have to work the hardest to get an iota of the recognition that some of these dudes get for showing up.  I mean--have y'all read Zetta Elliott's books?  Go read Bird and A Wish After Midnight and Room In My Heart (I'll still be here when you get back).  Let's throw a parade every time Grace Lin comes to town.  Coe Booth and Jenny Han deserve followings on par with the John Green devotees.  How about we crowd around Rukhsana Khan or Cynthia Leitich Smith at the next party?  Let's feature illustrators Vanessa Brantley-Newton and Julie Flett on bookmarks, pamphlets, calendars, and blogs.  I want to see lines wrapping around the block for Kashmira Sheth and Kat Yeh. And Yuyi Morales--well, everything about her just makes me swoon.

Let's give it up for the women of color and First/Native Nations women who make this field great, who work twice as hard for half as much.  Who am I missing?  List it in the comments.

34 comments:

Sam Bloom said...

How about Rita Williams-Garcia? Thannha Lai? An Na? Kekla Magoon, Sharon Draper, Jacqueline Woodson, Carole Boston Weatherford...

grrlpup said...

Naomi Shihab Nye!

Allie Jane Bruce said...

OMG yes!!
And Mitali Perkins!! I would so totally wait in the rain to see Mitali Perkins.

Patricia Clingman said...

Cynthia Kadohata

Allie Jane Bruce said...

I have to say, also, that it's not just authors. There are some BLOGGERS of color and First/Native Nations bloggers who I would join a fan club for, were such a thing to exist.

Like Edi Campbell. She should have a fan club. Not a "follow me on wordpress" button, an "email xxxxxx@crazyquiltfanclub to join Edi's Fan Club--for $20 a year you get a newsletter, a signed photograph, and a special message from Edi!" kinda deal.

Other bloggers whose fan clubs I'd join: Debbie Reese, Zetta Elliott (she gets double listing as an author AND a blogger), Beverly Slapin, Lyn Miller-Lachmann, Corinne Duyvis, Malinda Lo (HOW did I miss her on the author list??), Sujei Lugo, Ellen Oh.

Nina Lindsay said...

And for those of us who swoon over the gorgeous gracious word, Marilyn Nelson. The endlessly welcoming image: Maya Christina Gonzalez. The solid, sonorous ground: Pat Mora. I'm sure there are more....

Nina Lindsay said...

Oh the Nikki's! Giovanni and Grimes! Dames of song and rhythm, can't escape them.

Nina Lindsay said...

Andrea Davis Pinkney, Angela Joshnson, and watch out for Pat McKissack....

Geerte said...

...and bookmarking this post to use as inspiration for book buying as my 8-month-old grows up. :D

Kathi Appelt said...

Let's not forget Uma Krishnaswami and Padma Venkatraman! Two of our very best. And Sundee Frazier. Guadalupe Garcia McCall. Carmen Tafolla. The list is long.

Christine Tripp said...

According to the very unbalanced Caldecott winners over it's many years of existance ( with the consideration that there are FAR more female Illustrators then male) I could lump ALL female Illustrators into the "not hot/overlooked/not getting the big pic book projects with the big advances attached" category!

Christine Tripp said...

Also, to add to the list of "amazingly hot" (i.e.: talented) female Illustrators of colour list (Vanessa B. Newton would be one of mine but she was already listed:) I'll add, the terrific Pat Cummings
http://patcummings.com/bio-set.html
and the incomparable Nicol Taggel
http://www.nicoletadgell.blogspot.cahttp://www.nicoletadgell.blogspot.ca

grrlpup said...

yup, an absolutely huge writer-crush on her.

Lyn Miller-Lachmann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lyn Miller-Lachmann said...

For illustrators, I'd like to add a bright young star to watch: Elizabeth Zunon.
And to add to the list of established authors, a few who haven't been named yet: Renee Watson, Margarita Engle, Sofia Quintero, Pam Muñoz Ryan, Carmen Bernier Grand

Sam Bloom said...

LINDA SUE PARK!!!

lauramc said...

I have to add Mariko and Jillian Tamaki.

Kathi Appelt said...

What about Varsha Bajaj? What about Shelley Tanaka? What about Marguerite Engle?

Jenn said...

All fabulous names! Right there with you for lining up to pay to see these ladies read/talk!

Christine Tripp said...

More Illustrators to the party, Carmen Mok http://www.carmenmokstudio.com/blog/
and Qin Leng http://qinleng.tumblr.com

Debbie Reese said...

My effort to increase visibility of Native writers and illustrators is a Photo Gallery. I like looking at their faces, and as I look at them today, I see some other work their faces can do... They don't all have high cheekbones. They don't all have dark straight black hair. I could start listing them here, but will just list two who I've come to know in the last couple of years: Cheryl Minnema, and, Wesley Ballinger. Both are Ojibwe. Their book (she wrote, he illustrated) is HUNGRY JOHNNY.

And--please do visit the gallery and share it with others. Thanks!
http://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/p/a-photo-gallery-of-native-writers-and.html

Beverly Slapin said...

I'm totally blushing down to my feet to be listed in the company of such amazing wimmins! Let me add the awesome Kim Shuck (Tsalagi, Sauk/Fox and Polish) and Deborah Miranda (Ohlone/Costanoan-Esselen).

Wendy said...

Adding some Australians to the list ;)

Gabrielle Wang
Shirley Marr
Alice Pung
Anita Heiss

lauramc said...

Adding some more speculative fiction writers to the list:
Nnedi Okorafor
Sherri L. Smith
Alaya Dawn Johnson

Sam Bloom said...

Atinuke!

This is wonderful, by the way! Thanks to everyone for your comments, additions, seconds on others' comments, etc.

Erica Siskind said...

If the article in NY Magazine was insulting to men by talking about them as being "crush-worthy" based on their appearance, why do we want jump on board and talk about crush-worthy women? Isn't it still superficial and objectifying, even if we say that it could apply equally to people of any gender?
It's insulting because it's focusing on the appearance of the artist rather than the art. It's insulting because the world gives privilege to pretty people, and we could call that out just like we call out any other kind of privilege based on identity/birth/skin. Thankfully, I have no idea what any of these women look like - the ones who are being listed here (by us) as "crush-worthy." I don't care what they look like.
You guys don't really care, do you? If you’re kidding, then maybe the NYMag author was, too. Does that matter?

Sam Bloom said...

Erica, I'm not sure if you really read Allie's post... but you're taking the "crush-worthy" thing all wrong. Allie's use of the term is in reference to their talent, hard work, and spirit; to quote her last paragraph: "Let's give it up for the women of color and First/Native Nations women who make this field great, who work twice as hard for half as much." No mention of their looks anywhere in there.

Also, in reference to your very first point, I disagree that the NYMag was objectifying men on the level that most any kind of mass media objectifies women. In fact, I think that was another one of Allie's points (and please jump in if I'm misrepresenting your words, Allie): that in a mainstream publication such as this one especially (but really in any form), a superficial look at men such as this doesn't do any harm to the men in question. In fact, it will probably lead to more sales! But not so for women, who are objectified and sexualized constantly.

Allie Jane Bruce said...

Completely agree. Sam took the words right out of my mouth. My post is about these women's work, not their looks; and it's not a "sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander" situation anyways, because there's a power dynamic that men have over women that I was trying to rectify.

Allie Jane Bruce said...

Oh, and, in case anybody missed it, the author did a truly lovely genuine apology here: http://meaghano.com/

I want to bookmark this as an example of "how to apologize correctly."

K T Horning said...

I suspect it was the title ("swoon-worthy women") that caused the misunderstanding. We don't really care about any artist's (or writer's) looks. We care about their work -- and that they get as much attention for it as these so-called "crush-worthy" young male artists.

Allie Jane Bruce said...

And I'm thinking I shouldn't have called it swoon-worthy. That was my mistake. Apologies!

Christine Tripp said...

>It's insulting because it's focusing on the appearance of the artist rather than the art.<

I took "swoon" worthy to mean swooning over their talents, not looks. Certainly, while some of the Illustrators I named may be quiet pretty I haven't ever seen more then a older/dated head shot of most of them, so I and all the other comments I read seemed to only speak to the adoration of their talents:)

Cheryl Blackford said...

How about Cheryl Minnema, Louise Erdrich, Jesmyn Ward. And did someone already mention Pam Ryan?

hmbouwman said...

And amazing YA author Swati Avasthi!