Today, Martha Brockenbrough, Julie Foster Hedlund, and Ishta Mercurio ask for action and change from the Children's Book Guild in response to an incident that occurred at a recent event.
Please read the letter below and leave a comment that includes your name if you'd like to lend your support.
[Ed. 9am 4/25/19: Please note that we will wrap up signature gathering at 8pm EST tonight (Thursday, April 25th), and will also close comments at that time. We will send this letter with signatures to the CBG the following morning.
Update 8:15pm 4/25/19: Comments are now closed.]
April 23, 2019
Children’s Book Guild
Dear Ms. Trooboff:
We are members of the children’s book community writing in support of Carole Lindstrom, who was treated in an unacceptable manner at a recent luncheon. We are also writing in support of Dr. Debbie Reese, a respected authority in children’s literature and the representation of American Indians. And we are writing to suggest some changes to your protocol for handling these incidents when they occur.
To summarize what happened: Your membership chair, Jacqueline Jules, initiated a conversation with Ms. Lindstrom during the lunch. Ms. Jules wanted to know what Ms. Lindstrom thought of Dr. Reese, and the intentions behind Ms. Jules’s questioning do not appear to be benign.
Dr. Reese, who is so respected in the field as to be selected to give the prestigious May Hill Arbuthnot lecture, is frequently criticized by people who do not wish to understand her work, and who do not wish to understand the nuances of cultural representation. She is beloved by people who are committed to writing better books for the children we serve. She is patient, generous with her time, straightforward with her comments, and has made a groundbreaking difference in understanding racism directed at Indigenous people.
Ms. Jules’ question itself was inappropriate. Dr. Reese is an industry professional, and it is in bad form to disparage an industry professional at an industry function. Furthermore, when Ms. Lindstrom explained that Dr. Reese is a friend, Ms. Jules should have dropped the subject to respect that statement and the boundary it implied. Ms. Jules did not. Instead, she continued, prompting Ms. Lindstrom to leave the luncheon. Then she initiated unwanted physical contact with Ms. Lindstrom, and then she followed her outside after Ms. Lindstrom had made it clear she wanted no part of the discussion.
No one inside the room did anything to end this disturbing treatment or to intervene on behalf of a guest. What’s more, when your organization heard Ms. Lindstrom’s complaint, you shared it with Ms. Jules without first getting Ms. Lindstrom’s consent. And you do not seem to have any sort of policy for your organization on harassment, or any protocol in place for bystanders to intervene and end the harassment. It also confused many people aware of what had transpired that your organization would choose this week to single out Ms. Jules as “Author of the Day,” a choice that seems the opposite of apologetic. [Clarification: The “Author of the Day” designation was created by the Chesapeake Children’s Festival, not by the Children’ Book Guild. The CBG was boosting the promotion.]
We, the undersigned, believe the Children’s Book Guild owes Ms. Lindstrom and Dr. Reese apologies, and we believe you would be well-served by creating policies that protect people from harassment of all sorts when they attend your meetings.
Julie Foster Hedlund
Martha Brockenbrough is the author of many works of fiction and nonfiction for young readers. She teaches at the Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Julie Foster Hedlund is an author, freelance writer, and founder of 12x12, program to support motivation and accountability for picture book writers.
Ishta Mercurio is the author of the forthcoming picture book SMALL WORLD, illustrated by Jen Corace and published by Abrams.
[Ed. 6:45pm 4/23/19: We hear some people are having trouble commenting. If this is you, please feel free to email us, email@example.com, with the text of your comment. We'll be glad to post it on your behalf.]