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16 August 2012 @ 08:40 am
On NPR 'best ever teen novels' list  
Most visitors to this blog have probably heard by now of the recent NPR list of 'best-ever' teen novels. The link to that list is further down in this post, but first, a few comments.

The initial nominations were made by NPR listeners/readers. 1200 titles were proffered. A panel of judges narrowed the list to 235, and it was once again listeners/readers who voted for that top 100.

Anybody see a potential problem here?

I listen to NPR. I love it. It's on permalock on my car radio. And I would wager that its demographic is: educated, middle-class or wealthier...and *mostly white.*

I have tremendous respect for the panel that narrowed the list; I have worked with some of them personally. But if NPR had been serious about that 'very best' label -- as opposed to 'very best if you're white, educated, and middle-class' -- it should have attempted a vital corrective by selecting a panel that included at least one person of color.

People get tetchy about this. Of course white gatekeepers are capable of recognizing quality work by people of color--it happens 'all the time'.


When we reflect on this question, our focus as a culture is almost always on the 'creators'--grants and awards and media coverage for authors and illustrators of color. These efforts are essential and laudable.

But to me, what gets almost completely ignored is the absolute necessity of people of color in the gatekeeping roles. The editors & publishers. Reviewers, critics, commentators. Academics. Booksellers. Librarians. Um, panelists. We will NEVER achieve the diversity we seek in books for teens and younger readers until the gatekeepers themselves reflect that diversity.

To have more people of color in these roles would result in a paradigm shift: Not simply more books by and about people of color, but better and more diverse books for everyone.

Yes, BETTER. Why? Because the experiences of people of color and what they bring to the table questions and stretches and enriches the definition of what it means to be human. And expansion of the understanding of the human condition, for me = better.

A thoughtful post by a Minnesota teacher:

The list itself:

And in case anyone thinks this is about sour grapes--which it isn't, but I guess you'll just have to take my word for that--a link to Laurie Halse Anderson's blog entry on the topic:
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Lsparkreaderlsparkreader on August 16th, 2012 02:15 pm (UTC)
Much appreciated, and best wishes on your writing! --Linda Sue
Kathryn L. Gaglionegag01001 on August 16th, 2012 02:58 pm (UTC)
Thank you for posting about this! It was the first thing I noticed about the list (even during the voting process), but as a middle-class white person, I didn't know how to effectively address the issue.
Lsparkreaderlsparkreader on August 16th, 2012 03:08 pm (UTC)
You're doing it...
...right now. :-) Think about it, and share your thoughts--talk, write, blog, whatever.

Make some noise. Every little bit helps.

Thanks for your message! --Linda Sue
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )