February is the worst month of the year. Where I live, it's cold and dreary and there's little possibility of a snow day or any other day off of school (except President's Day). And I'm not a big fan of Valentine's Day but at least it tries to make this month more cheerful. To top it all off, February has been announced as Black History Month. Seriously? We get the shortest, most depressing month?!
I have a love/hate relationship with Black History Month. I love it because I get to find out about little known facts about Black people like this and watch cool documentaries and feel proud. But then after February, guess what? All that good stuff stops. Then it's on to Women's History Month. Don't get me wrong, I realize the importance Women's History month and all the other cultural months.
One day I was in class and a kid asked "why isn't there a White Heritage Month?" And other kids agreed! I'm pretty sure I just went into shock. Why isn't there a white heritage month, hmm maybe because it's WHITE MALE history month 365 days of the year! so I don't know, I don't think white males need a month dedicated to them, just a thought. Or when one of my white friends doesn't know who Malcolm X is and she's in high school! At an academically rigorous school I might add. WHAT?
I understand people mean well, but by regulating our culture to only be celebrated for a month, the problem grows worse. What's worse is that in schools, people view these months as a drag. I can't tell you how many well-meaning teachers assigned us Black History month projects and hearing the groans of my fellow classmates (and I was right there with them because the projects were usually the same old abolitionist and civil rights project, at least come up with something creative and different! I once did a project on an African American female composer, that was cool. Except then I had to write a paper. Not cool). Trust me, when you're the only Black person in the class and your whole class has to do a project about your people, you feel almost ashamed or embarrassed. Like, if this month didn't exist that celebrated my culture, we would have less work to do. I don't care anymore, but I would be turning red when we discussed Black History Month and projects/papers were assigned. Again, are we so unimportant that we only deserve a month? That our achievements only consist of 28 worthy events?
So I get it. These cultural months are necessary to educate those who would otherwise give no other thought to non-white cultures and to promote tolerance and show the diversity of America. But why can't the achievements of POC be celebrated all year round? Why must we be regulated to one month? I know white people mean well, but to me February is just a month where everyone gets to share how much they love Black people and how we have made so much progress and white and Black people understand each other so much better now. Please. There's still a lot of racial tension (hello whitewashed covers, Harry Reid and Peggy Noonan) and once February ends the posters, books, etc. will be put away for next February. I look forward to the day when cultural months are not necessary.
I certainly don't want to discourage anyone from celebrating us. I love seeing Brown faces everywhere, bring on the blog posts, book reviews, tv commercials, documentaries, newspaper and magazine articles! Just remember to keep celebrating ALL POC 365 days a year.
PS NEVER go up to a Black person and spout a random Black History fact (unless you are close friends and they know you are kidding). Otherwise, it's irritating. You don't see me telling you some fact about Italian Americans, do you? And yes, this has happened to me (someone felt the need to inform me of the importance of the civil rights movement, I kid you not!)
I'm done with my rant now. Moving on...
Here at Reading in Color I will continue doing what I do and making sure that I do have at least one review of a book with an African American main character a week. But I'm more excited about two projects I'm undertaking. I will spend one week reviewing books about Haiti (Everytime a Rainbow Dies, Ruined, Taste of Salt, Behind the Mountains, and Anacoana: Golden Flower) and include one way we can help the people of Haiti. I'm thinking of trying to do this more often with different countries, who knows maybe I could do all the countries in like 20 years? (I'm pretty sure there are no POC books set in Antartica or Switzerland). lol.
Also I'm working on finding the most diverse publishing companies (i.e. the publishing companies that publish the most diverse books). I'll be doing this for a month and posting weekly updates with the help of Doret. We will be looking at:
1. Promotion of the books (i.e. how many ARCs are sent out or guest blog pots or author interviews, etc. are done before/after the book is released)
2. How many authors of color does the publishing company have
3. How diverse are the stories?
4. How accurate are the covers and do they have a POC on them
The companies being evaluated are Random House, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hachette, Penguin, Macmillan and Candlewick. we will only be looking at the YA/MG selections.
Next month I will be looking at the smaller, indie-presses.
Here are some cool links for the day
Spirit of PaperTigers Project which is a really awesome project run by PaperTigers, they donate a set of books to areas in need and the books all feature POC. Follow the link for more details
POC Faces on Book Covers: Poll Results Mitali Perkins shares the results of the poll she did about how likely POC faces on book covers are likely to sell. It's interesting and definitely leaves plenty of room to hope and work for a change!