Changes in technology, geopolitical structures, and cultural norms have lead to an increasingly multicultural population in the United States. Yet, despite this diversification, representation of various cultures is still lacking in contemporary art and literature. Cart (2016) address several reasons for the lack of representation. These include a lack of persons of color working as editors, the perception that there is a lack of demand for books representing diverse populations, and the lack of production of diverse literature by writers and illustrators. Cart notes that organizations such as We Need Diverse Books are working to encourage the publication of more diverse literature for young people
The multicultural literature genre is absolutely still essential and is gaining momentum. Art reflects culture, so as our world and culture continue to globalize and diversify, the interest in genres that honor these changes, is on the rise. In the book clubs that I am a part of interest in and discussion of texts with multicultural representations is certainly increasing. Recently, When Dimple Met Rishi (Menon, 2017) and Americanized (Saedi, 2018) have been frequently discussed and recommended.
Librarians working with young readers have a responsibility to build collections that meet the needs of all of our patrons. As our population evolves, one would expect library patrons to show interest in books with characters whose experiences are relatable to them. So, cultural changes necessitate changes in literature. It is important that these changes are reflected in our library collections. Additionally, literature empowers us to experience the unfamiliar – and through these encounters with literature, readers can develop an appreciation of cultures and experiences that they may have never directly experienced (Cart, 2016).
Having awards that honor multicultural literature is important because they bring attention to the books. When books are are awarded, they receive more attention and sales increase. When a book sells well and when a genre is well received, publishers are more willing to invest in books and authors that write within this genre. Positive review mean that libraries and bookseller will more readily purchase the titles. These awards set a precedent of success and make room for more multicultural literature to be published in the future. We Need Diverse Books is working to encourage the publication of more diverse literature for young people through awards like the Walter Award, grants, internship programs, classroom initiatives. Other awards noted by Cart (2016) include: Coretta Scott King Awards, Pura Belpre, American Indian Youth Literature Award, and the Asian Pacific Literature Award.
International literature also represents diverse cultures and experiences, and librarians can diversify their collections by including books originally published outside the United States. These books are increasingly popular in young adult literature. Tunnel, Jacobs, Young, and Bryan (2016) note that when adults introduce children to multicultural and international literature they “may help children avoid the pitfalls of ignorance that breed intolerance, hatred, and conflict.” If we can teach our children to understand and appreciate different experiences, they will be kinder, more empathetic adults, better prepared to live and work in a diverse world.
Cart, M. (2016). Young adult literature: From romance to realism. Chicago, IL: Neal-Schuman.
Menon, S. (2017). When Dimple met Rishi. New York, NY: Simon Pulse.
Saedi, S. (2018). Americanized: Rebel without a green card. New York, NY: Knopf.
Tunnel, M. O., Jacobs, J. S., Young, T. A., & Bryan G. (2016). Children’s literature briefly. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.