Book Beat: Indigenous Authors for Education and an Affirming Twitter Collaboration

Hello all! It’s Emily again, here to update you on the latest literary news. I write this from my super hot home office, so I hope you read this from someplace nice and cool.

Indigenous Authors Stand Up Against Ontario Ministry of Education

Ontario recently held a provincial election, the results of which are having an impact on the local school curriculum. Two specific topics have garnered a lot of attention: sex education and Indigenous education. Luckily, there are those fighting to make sure Ontario students get a good education.

One example comes from Indigenous authors. According to Quill and Quire, the cancellation of sessions to update how Indigenous issues are taught in the public school curriculum have prompted writers Cherie Dimaline (The Marrow Thieves), Monique Gray Smith (Speaking Out Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation), and Tracey Lindberg (Birdie) to donate their books to classrooms.

On July 10, Dimaline tweeted that she had twenty copies of her critically acclaimed novel The Marrow Thieves. “If there is an Ontario teacher that wants to teach it and cannot now purchase copies you are welcome to them,” she wrote.

Lindberg and Gray Smith followed suit, each crediting Dimaline for the idea. Lindberg also called for Indigenous allies to buy and give Indigenous Lit to schools, saying “we are going to have to fight ignorance in new ways.”

Lack of Diversity in British Books

Turning our attention across the pond, let’s take a look at the state of British books.

The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education conducted a research project that revealed that only one percent of British Children’s books feature a main character of colour. The director of the project said the results were “stark and shocking.”

The project looked at 9115 books published last year and found that only 391 featured BAME characters. And only a quarter of the books submitted featured diversity in their background casts. This disproportionate representation comes despite the fact that over 30 percent of school children have minority identities and/or ethnic origins.

The study also found that half of books featuring diverse characters touched on topics of conflict or social justice, while only a single book among the 9115 was classed as a comedy. The report thus asks two important questions: “Do those from minority backgrounds only have a platform when their suffering is being explored? And how does such disproportionate variation of representation skew perspectives of minority groups?”

Farrah Serroukh, who directed the project, told The Guardian that such “issues” books are valuable, but they need to “sit within a wider diet of books so readers can appreciate that people from minority backgrounds have as much variety of life as everyone else.”

Serroukh also said that CLPE plans to work with publishers to make this happen.

Stellaluna Celebrates 25 Years

Since we’re on the topic of children’s lit, Stellaluna is celebrating its 25th year of publication (Anyone else feel old?)

For those of you unfamiliar, Stellaluna is a picture book by Janell Cannon about a bat who is raised by birds after dropping into their nest. It was published by Harcourt Brace Jobanovich in 1993.

In honour of the occasion, Publishers Weekly has provided some insight into the origins of the beloved tale. Canon was inspired by her own fascination with bats — a species “misunderstood and mistreated by humans,” according to Cannon — and a trip to Thailand.

“I was in a place that was culturally very different, and yet I still felt so connected…” Cannon recalls. “So I asked myself the question, ‘How can we be so different, yet feel so much the same?’ and I began thinking about working that theme into a story.”

Stellaluna was the result of asking this question. Now, an anniversary edition is being released. The new edition will feature refreshed artwork (Cannon’s original art was reshot using current technology), updated scientific information, and downloadable activities and crafts.

Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jonny Sun Team Up

We all need a little pick me up now and then, and those who particularly enjoy twitter style affirmations are about to get a whole book of them. Broadway celeb Lin-Manuel Miranda and Canadian humorist and illustrator Jonny Sun are teaming up on a book called Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You.

The book is a collection of Miranda’s best Twitter greetings and affirmations paired with beautiful illustrations by Sun. Both Miranda and Sun have sizeable followings on Twitter, so there’s been a lot of excitement for this collection.

It will be available from Penguin Random House October 23.

Out this week:

The Other Woman by Daniel Silva
Defying Reality: The Inside Story of the Virtual Reality Revolution by David M. Ewalt
Bad Girls by Alex De Campi and Victor Santos

Bad Girls by Alex De Campi and Victor Santos

That’s it for this week, folks! Happy Thursday!