Thursday, November 5, 2015

Options for The Hired Girl and A Fine Dessert

People aren't really commenting publicly about my most recent post, on racism in some recent children's book, but they're commenting privately more than usual. It's an interesting and important discussion.

I'm sure the authors of these books have already thought of how they might have done things differently, but here are some options, just to show you that options exist.

For The Hired Girl: drop references to Indians, and to "playing Indians." In the first part, the paragraph can probably be cut, but if the character really needs some sort of comparison have it be to a fictional person, or perhaps to a Bible reference--like the ancient Egyptians in the Moses story. For "playing Indians," substitute playing wild bears in a forest--living in caves. Or perhaps cowboys out West, roping cattle.

For A Fine Dessert: if you want to really tackle slavery, have the enslaved mother/daughter not get to eat any of the dessert--have the illustrations show their disappointment. Or have them get caught eating the leftovers, and punished for it. Both of those, while accurate, are pretty harsh. Here's another idea: have the black family be the one shown in 1910--not enslaved. Or show a biracial family, or ones in which the races of the children and parents don't match. Or a same-sex-marriage family.

In fact, now that I think of it, instead of gingerly tipping one toe into the waters of diversity, this book could have been one big festival of different kinds of families. It could have gone whole-hog--every group different, every one celebrated, all tied to that simple dessert. After all, it shows technology changing throughout the centuries--why not families too?