Last night, as the news of the Scholastic decision on A BIRTHDAY CAKE FOR GEORGE WASHINGTON lit up social media, my friends and I began an earnest discussion of our own. We began to pull together books about African American characters NOT set during slave times or the Civil War. Over the course of an hour, we compiled a lovely list for one another. The genesis of this list was a comment I received (and one others had received as well) that decried the fact that so many books with African American characters centered on slavery. Where were the books about kids being kids?
That is, IMHO, a legitimate concern. It was one others were fielding online as well. As my friends and I discussed the withdrawal of a book and all that it could portend, we also did a few other things. Each of us either ordered a copy of the book or found our copy (or, in the case of a couple of us, downloaded it to Kindle to read). We then talked about the criticisms of the book and our own responses to it. It was a calm and reasoned discussion. We did not call for the book to be banned; we did not ask the publisher to pull it from distribution. Instead, we reflected on the book itself as well as the criticisms and the other pieces that have been written about it.
To my mind, that is worth celebrating: that we can talk about a book, using the text and illustrations, and pulling in the views of others: that is good discourse. And now we are all reading the various posts, from Edi Campbell, from Reading While White, from Mitali Perkins, Roger Sutton and Bruce Coville and others. We are trying to take in the various criticisms and concerns. We are talking about the book. I hope this discussion continues. It is an important one to have.