Last year, a debate of sorts launched surrounding our name, The Brown Bookshelf. Not just among those visiting our site, but among BBS members as well.
Why hadn’t we called the group The Black Bookshelf? After all, the founding members are African American and our primary focus is on books by and for African American readers.
And since we’d chosen Brown instead of Black, did that mean we were going to embrace all brown books – Latino, Middle Eastern, Native American, those of African descent but not American citizenship? It really got involved, moreso because the answers to the questions is so frustratingly political.
We didn’t call it Black in part because the color itself is an extreme. Yes, it would have definitively expressed what type of books we were representing, but it would have also excluded so many others and essentially locked us into a box.
Much like the word “mainstream” is too broad a term used to indicate, for the most part, the tastes and flavors of white Americans, using the word “black” to convey what this group is about would have been too narrow. Mainstream and Black are extremes that are now throw-away descriptors that sometimes causes someone outside of that descriptor to shut their eyes and ears to what you’re saying.
By choosing Brown we’re able to truly look at uplifting multi-cultural fiction with a special emphasis on African American children’s literature. We may soon welcome a brown author who is not of African American heritage as a member. We may one day regularly uplift books by brown authors who are brown, but not brown like the founding members.
Every day that I’m involved with The Brown Bookshelf, the kinship I feel toward all authors grows. Yes, I want to promote brown books and authors, like me, because it’s not my imagination that these books and authors – in the children’s lit realm – are quite unsung.
But we’re all working toward the same goal – brown, black, white and as some say, purple, so as not to leave anyone out. We want readers exposed to good, diverse, inclusive reads.
Today I want to shine the light on a small sampling of other brown authors writing for children. Most featured below are writing exclusively in the YA realm.
Two of them, Kim and Caridad, are my sisters in writing. Dona, of Indian descent, and I have pal-ed around over at her blog and Cynthia, of Native American descent, is a dear friend of The Brown Bookshelf, championing our efforts from day one.
While Cynthia’s books range in tone from picture books about native traditions to gothic young adult novels, the other authors represented are writing popular fiction with a primary focus on brown characters.
I’ve read a few of these books and can tell you, a good fiction read is a good fiction read no matter the character’s race. I’m sure there are some young readers who woud love to be pointed in the direction of these books.
Cynthia Leitich Smith
Diana Rodriguez Wallach
Melissa De La Cruz
Alisa Valdes Rodriguez