Lilah, once my easy child, is all piss and vinegar these days. She has opinions. Lots of Opinions. That’s one of the ways we know she’s a Rosenbaum.
The other way we know she’s a Rosenbaum? About 58% of her opinions are about books. She goes through obsessions; for awhile every night was William and the Night Train. Then we had the time that will henceforth be known as the Horrible Days, when she insisted upon choosing from a Disney anthology. Lately, however, she is all about the Pinkalicious books. Mind you, she hasn’t actually ever seen the original Pinkalicious, as that one is still packed in a box somewhere, waiting to be excavated on the day we might eventually buy a house. But from the moment she found Purplicious and its hideous cousin, Goldilicious, Lilah was smitten.
Oh, my sweet lord, is that child in love. She walks around the house holding one of the books, imploring people to read them to her. When she cannot find either book, she beseeches “scisciousci,” which is the best she can do. As we turn the last page of Purplicious, she triumphantly exclaims “scisciousci!” When we finish the book, she simply turns it over and pats the cover, because naturally it is our dearest wish to read the same two books incessantly.
I think it goes without saying that she sleeps every night with one of the two books.
The obsession is cute as hell. It warms my heart that she loves books so much, and there is pretty much nothing cuter than the way she tries to pronounce the title. Plus, the Girly Girl/Extreme Combat Wrestler combo she’s got going on is rockin’.
Reading Purplicious one night to the wriggling mass of excitement on my lap, I couldn’t help but appreciate the message: be who you are, no matter what people think. Sweet. And then I noticed something else in the book.
Almost all the characters are white.
In fact, in all three of the Pinkalicious books, there is only one non-white character – a lone black kid in the sea of white faces on the school bus. I had a friend pull out her copy of the original book and check for me. Yep, that one is all-white, too. Seriously, the next book might just be called Whitilicious.
I think Pinkalicious is living in Rockwelland. Except we don’t have school busses.
Of course, there are plenty of towns with mostly white people and sure plenty of books that are monochromatic. However, what came as a bit of a shock was that this realization was a bit of a shock. I had been reading these books to her, nonstop, for a week before the lack of racial diversity sunk in.
As a college teacher, I taught an entire unit focused around deconstructing the implied messages in children’s literature. I’m the chick who carefully bought books like Please, baby, please and King and King for my first child. Yet, when I stop and look at our collection, we have a distressingly white children’s library.
What bothers me is that I hadn’t even noticed the bleaching of our kids’ books. When did I stop interrogating my kids’ reading selections? When did I become so blasé?
The books they read have such an impact, but I’m gonna tell you that I think it’s mightily hard to compile a children’s library that is racially balanced, religiously diverse, socially progressive, ecologically educative, and all-around totally rad. A girl could really blow a gasket on that one
Is it just too hard to be on our guard, every minute of every day? Does that mean we ought to stop trying?