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Multiculturalism

While not formal genre, multicultural fiction represents an important theme in YA literature and books within this category can be found or classified in any of the genres.  Authors that represent a specific group, or write about any group or issue, are classified in the appropriate genre. 

Walter Dean Myers would be considered an author of realistic fiction.  Gary Soto's Baseball in April and Other Stories is a collection of short stories about everyday life of Mexican American kids  Joseph Bruchac's Skeleton Man, a story based on Mohawk legend, is considered a YA supernatural title. 

Adolescents tend to select books that they can identify with, characters much like themselves, situations that mirror their lives.  It is important to encourage reading that gives them a look at life outside of their own. Readers may seek out books that feature multicultural characters, themes or settings. 

Library media specialists must know YA authors who write as members of mainstream cultures and from other perspectives as well.  In our increasing diverse society, it is important to introduce young people to various cultures and groups so that they can come to understand and accept cultural differences. 

It is also important to have literature available that depicts young people in a variety of cultures, with diverse beliefs, or with different physical and mental abilities so that they can read about people that are similar to themselves, either from their own culture, or with similar beliefs or capabilities. 

The Cooperative Children's Book Center designates books by and about people of color as multicultural literature. In CCBC Choices, information about multicultural literature and publishing may be found under four main ethnic groups: 

bullet Africans and African Americans
bulletLatinos
bulletAmerican Indian
bulletAsian Pacifics and Asian Pacific Americans

CCBC Choices is a great way to keep up with outstanding new titles published each year by authors in these four main ethnic groups. 


Another way of looking at multicultural literature is as "literature that reflects ethnic and regional groups whose cultures have been less represented than European cultures in the past." (Children's Books in Children's Hands, 2002)

Some Authors Writing About African Americans 

bulletSharon Draper
bulletVirginia Hamilton
bulletRita-Williams Garcia
bulletRosa Guy
bulletWalter Dean Myers
bulletJacqueline Woodson
bulletMildred Taylor
bulletAngela Johnson. 

Author Writing About Asian Americans

bulletLinda Crew
bulletSook Nyul Choi
bulletMarie G. Lee
bulletLois-Ann Yamanaka
bulletAn Na
bulletKyoko Mori
bulletLaurence Yep

Authors Writing About Hispanic/Latino-Americans

bulletJulia Alavarez
bulletJudith Ortiz Cofer
bulletFrancisco Jimenez
bulletJuan Felipe Herrera
bulletGary Soto
bulletVictor Martinez

Authors Writing About Native Americans 

bulletJoseph Bruchac
bulletCynthia Leitich Smith
bulletGary Paulsen
bulletWill Hobbs
bulletMichael Dorris
bulletMarsha Qualey
bulletLouise Erdrich

Cultural diversity is not limited to ethnic groups.  It can also encompass other parts of US culture include literature about groups that have been marginalized in children's and YA literature such as people with disabilities, gay and lesbian youth, and religious communities.

International literature brings a global perspective and literature written about other countries. Australia, Great Britain and Canada are all well represented in the YA literature and librarians must make an effort to know what is being published in these and other countries. 

Characteristics of YA Multicultural Books (Adapted from Reaching Adolescents, Reed, 1994)

Purpose

bulletDeveloping cultural awareness
bulletDeveloping self-esteem
bulletComing to terms with differences between cultures

Character

Adolescent Protagonist

bulletRealistic
bulletPart of the culture in which he or she lives
bulletOften more mature than age of character indicates
develops self-esteem as a member of his or her culture
bulletMay struggle with his or her differences but learns to rejoice in them
bulletGrowth with own culture

Antagonist

bulletUsually from the majority culture
bulletSometimes the system or the government

Other Characters

bulletPeers within the culture; frequently undeveloped
an adult mentor within the culture; usually not a parent

Plot

bulletOften more complex than typical young adult novel
frequently deals with confrontation between cultures (protagonist vs. antagonist; protagonist vs. reader)
the character learns about him- or herself within the culture
bulletIncreased awareness of the culture

Point of View

Protagonist

bulletOften written in the first person

Voice

bulletProtagonist's
bulletSometimes second self; more mature protagonist
bulletSometimes the mentor's voice is evident
bulletNever preachy or dogmatic

Setting

bulletAccurately portrays culture
bulletOften presents clashing cultures (minority vs. majority; parents' vs. adolescents)

Theme

bulletHeroism
bulletCombating prejudice and discrimination
bulletIndividual against society
bullet"You can!"

Evaluating and Selecting Multicultural Material

bulletDoes the author and illustrator present insider perspectives? Author may not be of heritage of group by birth, but can think as a member of the group. Illustrations are accurate, true to time period portrayed, culturally authentic.
bulletIs the culture portrayed multi-dimensionally? To realize depth and breadth of experiences with cultures.
bulletAre cultural details naturally integrated? Does the story flow easily, come alive for the reader?
bulletAre details accurate and is the interpretation current?
bulletIs language used authentically?
bulletIs the collection balanced? Librarian needs to assess needs and match high quality books with those needs, consider reader preferences, survey multicultural books already in the collection, provide a strong selection across genres.

Awards for Outstanding Multicultural Literature

bulletCoretta Scott King Award - Given to African American Authors and Illustrators.      
bulletAmericas Award – Given to work in Spanish or English, that authentically portrays experiences of individuals of Latino, Caribbean, Latin American heritage in the United States.
bulletHans Christian Andersen Awards – Life Time Achievement award. International award presented biennially to an author or illustrator who has made significant contributions to the field of children’s literature.      
bulletMildred L. Batchelder Award   Given annually to an American publisher instrumental in promoting the international exchange of books for young people.
bulletLambda Literary Awards – Awards given to literature by or about gay, lesbian, transgendered and bi-sexualOneof Lambda awards is for excellence in children’s or young adult literature.
bulletPura Belpre Award – Presented to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.
bulletInternet School Library Media Center – This web page contains listing of many literature awards.           

More On Multicultural Literature

bulletCooperative Children's Book Center  The Center is a great source of information on multicultural publications for children and young adults. Linking to CCBC Publications  will give you titles of books dealing with multiculturalism that are available for purchase and also titles available on the web. One list available through this site is Fifty Multicultural Books Every Child Should Know.  Another title Native Peoples of Wisconsin is a list of publications for children and young adults on native peoples of Wisconsin.        
bulletAction Alliance for Children
bulletBeyond Good Intentions: Selecting Multicultural Literature  Guidelines for selection of books based on the Council of Interracial Books for Children’s Ten Quick Ways to Analyze Children’s Books for Racism and Sexism, and How to Tell the Difference  by Beverly Slapin and Doris Searle.
bulletStereotyping of Native Americans.  Points to remember, from the Council on Interracial Books for Children
bulletCynthia Leitich Smith  This site contains links to resources and lists for various ethnic groups, plus author links, state awards and more.
bulletOyate  This is a Native organization working to see that the lives and histories of native peoples are portrayed honestly and accurately.  The web site includes information on workshops and a list of books to avoid, with reasons given.

Print Resources

bulletBooks for You: An Annotated Booklist for Senior High. NCTE. Ref PN 1009 .A1 N266 1997
bulletConnecting Cultures: a guide to multicultural literature for children. By Rebecca L. Thomas. New Providence, NJ: R.R. Bowder, 1996. Ref PN 1009 .A1 T465 1996
bulletKaleidoscope: a multicultural booklist for grades k-8. 2nd edition, Urbana, Ill: National Council of Teachers of English, 1997. Ref PN 1009 .A1 .K3 1994, 1997, 2003
bulletMulticultural Literature for Children and Young Adults. Volumes 1 & 2, By Cooperative Children's Book Center, Madison, WI., 1991 & 1997. Ref PN 1009 .A1 .K78 1991, 1997
bulletNew Press Guide to Multicultural Resources for Young Readers. Ed. By Daphne Muse. New York: New Press, 1997. Ref Z1037 .N57 1997
bulletTeen Genreflecting: A guide to reading interests. 2nd ed. By Diana Tixier Herald. Westport, Conn.: Libraries Unlimited, 2003.
bulletThrough Indian Eyes: the native experience in books for children. By Beverly Slapin and Doris Seale. Los Angeles, Calif.: American Indian Studies Center, University of California, c1998. E 77.4 .T63 1998
bulletUnited in Diversity: using multicultural young adult literature in the classroom. Ed b Jean E. Brown. Urbana, Ill: National Council of Teachers of English, 1998. LB1575.5 U5 U65
bulletYour Reading: a Booklist for Junior High and Middle School. National Council of Teachers of English. Ref PN 1009 .A1 Y7 2003. 
bullet"What's out there? Gay and lesbian literature for children and young adults." By Claudia Mitchell. In: Lesbian and Gay Studies and the Teaching of Enlish. Urbana, Ill: National Council of Teachers of English, 2000. 

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