In the country store owned by several generations of Butlers, January was inventory time – count those cans of vegetables, spools of thread, bags of fertilizer, and boxes of nails. I decided to follow the idea and do a count of my reading for 2013. I recorded 82 books which doesn’t count the picture books I read standing in the library or with a grandson on my lap, but it will get close enough for this purpose.
The prompt for this inventory, part of the “Not Much ‘Rithmatic” of this blog, was not the country store, although I’ve chosen the traditional end of January time. Rather, it was a Facebook discussion among my book people friends about the insufficiency of multi-cultural literature in the children’s and young adult markets. It was started with a quote by Jason Low of Lee and Low, citing statistics that showed only 13% of children’s books contain ethnic diversity with hardly any change in the last ten years. My curiosity led me to check my reading this year to see where my own percentages stood. For my purposes, I counted only the books where the main character belonged to a group that Horn Book Magazine calls “non-white.”
Don’t try to make these statistics come up to 82 because some books didn’t fit neatly into a category, the ethnicity of the main character wasn’t always obvious, and I couldn’t quite figure how to count instructional or inspirational tomes. I will base my percentages on the 82 since that is my total. Thirty six (43.9%) were adult books; thirty (37%) were young adult; and five (6%) were middle grade. Forty-six (56%) were fiction and seventeen (29.7%) were non-fiction. Nineteen (23.2%), mostly in the young adult or middle grade books, had a protagonist from a culture other than my own plain vanilla.
I can hear you asking, “And your point is?” I’m not sure. Maybe it’s just that I felt certain during the discussion that I was reading a higher percentage than Jason Low’s statistic. Maybe that’s because I am at the enviable stage of life of being able to choose my books with the only requirement being that it looks like a good read.
With that in mind, my percentage is almost twice that reported in the article that started the discussion. Why? (1) To return to the ice cream analogy – I am very fond of vanilla, but I would hate to lose the variety of orange sherbet, butter pecan, or tin roof sundae. (2) I like good well-written books and all of these were. (3) I also like figuratively peeking across the fence and seeing my neighbors experience joy, sorrow, courage, disappointment – the same emotions I experience – even when their traditions are different from mine.
Well, that’s quite enough ‘rithmetic for a while. I’ll get back to readin’ and ritin’.