My Nunu is growing up fast and the older she gets the more I realise how Black and Brown children are unrepresented in literature, it’s shocking. If anything I hope this blog post encourages more authors to include BIPOC characters in literature (especially children’s literature) and write in our mother languages.
According to a 2018 study in the US, only 23% of all children’s books depicted characters from diverse backgrounds (10% were African/ African-American 318 books, 7% were Asian Pacific Islander/ Asian Pacific American 218 books, 5% were Latinix 170 books and 1% were American Indians/ First Nations 23 books) compared to the 50% that depicted white children and 27% that depicted animals.
This means my daughter (and others like her) do not see themselves in literature which impacts their view on beauty, self worth and other perceptual views they may have of themselves. To change the notions of “white” being better and “colour” being inferior we need to change perceptions. This starts at with what we consume from a young age especially in the media. This is why we need more more inclusivity.
According to the Publishers Association of South Africa (PASA), 65% of children’s books published between 2000 and 2015 were produced in English and Afrikaans, and just 7% in South Africa’s most widely spoken language, isiZulu. This is ridiculous in a country that has 11 official languages.
This is more than true for other African countries as well. Less and less of our languages are being recorded in literature which in part is perpetuating the extinction of African languages. We to keep our stories, folklores, cultures and traditions alive. The only vehicle we have to do this with is language. We need to keep these languages going for us to preserve who we are as people. This is why we need more representation.
Let me quote Pastor J Maponga who said ‘If we strive to become like the white man, we deny the white man an opportunity to experience the black man’. Our languages are who we are, by producing literature that shows characters that look like us and literature that is written in our languages we give other the opportunity to indulge in our ways, to learn and understand who we are and where we come from. By so doing we create empathy for all. This is why we need more diversity.