Children of color in children’s books

I continue working on my book, Shell; Crossing the Border, a story of a Maya girl from the Yucatan in Mexico who illegally crosses the border into the U.S. to join her father. Sometimes I question my ability to write about a child from another culture. But reading this article http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/16/opinion/sunday/the-apartheid-of-childrens-literature.html?_r=0 which laments the lack of role models for children of color in our children’s literature, reminded me of the importance of telling this story.

In his article, Christopher Myers talks about the “apartheid of children’s literature” and says one effect is “a gap in the much-written-about sense of self-love that comes from recognizing oneself in a text, from the understanding that your life and lives of people like you are worthy of being told, thought about, discussed and even celebrated.”

Especially in California, and the western U.S. in general, the experience of being an undocumented immigrant is common. Twelve million people born in Mexico live in the U.S. About half entered the country undocumented. I’ve worked with many of these children and adults. My story was inspired by talking to a man I met in Merida who had traveled to my area to work several times, and by meeting these two girls there.

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