On October 23, illustrator Sophie Blackall’s blog post on the depiction of slavery in A Fine Dessert (which Blackall illustrated and for which Emily Jenkins wrote the text) set off a children's literature firestorm. Two weeks later, we’re still talking about it. This has been a charged topic and an exhausting one for many. Some readers may be ready to put this whole thing behind them, but many others are just starting to scratch the surface, and still more are trying to make sense of the whole situation.
This is more than just people arguing about a single picture book. This conversation is just one piece of a bigger discussion that must be ongoing, around issues that people of color and First/Native Nations have been raising for decades. The following (based on a very smart person's Facebook comment) is something that really resonates with me and, I think, sums the situation up beautifully:
What's hard for white people, I think, is realizing that we can do things that are racist and sexist. Few mean to, and the challenge is in listening and learning and knowing that is the best you can do. Getting it right all the time is impossible. But being open and humble is possible, even if it is very often uncomfortable or even painful. I keep reminding myself that facing that pain is less than what others have endured. It is the absolute least we can do. And it makes art more honest about humanity, to reflect this instead of the white and male dominated cultural models we are so often shown.
Here are some links to parts of the conversation. This is just a sampling. Read them, watch them, think about them. Let's listen to and learn from them, and from each other.
- On Letting Go
- AICL: Not recommended: A Fine Dessert
- AICL: The Power of Social Media to Change Children's Literature
- Crazy QuiltEdi: The dessert, by the way, is Blackberry Fool
- Fairrosa Cyber Library: Can We Talk of Solutions?
- Jenny and Kelly Read Books: Oh, Kelly.
- Varian Johnson: A slightly different take on A Fine Dessert
- Daniel Jose Older's storify
- Kiera Parrott's storify
- New York Times
- School Library Journal