Friday, May 9, 2014

Another Take on Diversity in Kid Lit

Recently our blogger Yamile wrote about including diversity in our books for children. One of her great points was to make the character of ethnicity the hero or heroine rather than the sidekick.

I'd like to continue with that topic as I am currently working on a picture book to help young children understand how to approach people with physical disabilities.

There aren't a lot of books that include differently abled leads, but (UCW's own) Julie Daines' book, "Unraveled" offers young readers a heroine whose legs are crippled. Daines said that she wanted to provide a love story without the perfect princess-type heroine.

Frankly, I'm surprised there aren't more heroes and heroines with such issues. Not only does it increase understanding of diversity in readership, but in the most clinical of writing terms, it can be very useful to the drama of the story as it adds another layer of difficulty with which the character must contend.

Another tough, but useful, subject is long-term illness in children.

Lupus is a topic dear to my heart (in the interest of full disclosure, I am the board chair of the Lupus Foundation of America, Utah Chapter). And I get to interact with some of our youth who are dealing with this disease. They are bright, enthusiastic, and overburdened--trying to balance the regular social interactions and school with fatigue and other health-related complications.

Lupus causes flares and remissions of widely variable time frames--sometimes within the same day. This is difficult for a lot of adults to understand. But kids are often labeled by their peers as "fakers"; symptoms ebb and wane, affecting different parts of the body at different times, and fatigue is always lurking in the background.

So, while I add a rousing cheer to Yamile's great post and remind you, our UCW blog readers, to consider diversity of all kinds in your lead characters, allow me one latitude (I promise to only take the blog sideways ONCE this year):

Tomorrow is the Walk to End Lupus Now in Salt Lake City's Liberty Park.
I invite you to join us. Walk. People watch. And see some really heroic characters.


Scott said...

Great suggestions! There are so many different obstacles we can give our characters, including physical and emotional challenges. Too often, we try to make our protagonists too perfect. That really doesn't work that great.

Julie Daines said...

Thanks for this well-said and thoughtful post. I couldn't agree more.

Yamile said...

I love that you brought this perspective into the conversation. In fact, I've been planning on another post on diversity talking about physical and mental disabilities. It's important for everyone to see their stories reflected in book, and this goes way deeper than skin color and culture.
I love Julie's books for this reason. And I say books because in A Blind Eye, her heroine is blind.
I have a special place in my heart for people living with Lupus and the families who deal with it every day. Two of my mother's best friends suffered from it. One of them lost the fight a long, long time ago, but I remember her fight with admiration.
The more, the better for everyone.