More Than a Single Story
As a cis gender White Jewish Man, I do not have to "fight" to find reassuring images of myself and who I could be. I have a LOT of privilege: Everyday is my holiday, Every literature is my literature.
I want to write books that show children a vision of how the world really is and how the world could be. I've spoken with a lot of white authors who struggle with the concept of writing about other races. I used to struggle with this too. White people have done a lot of harm by writing about "People of Color" or, to put it another way, "People of the Global Majority". I think there was a time when the only children's books about PGM were from White people because other voices were being excluded.
But then I drew inspiration from Shonda Rhimes, in her book, "Year of Yes." Now, I'm not going to write a book, being who I am, about a Black family and no one else. But I am going to write from my lived experience without blinders on.
I don't just want to write about white boys. How boring would that be? And that story has already "over saturated" the market to say the least. But I do want to center my story in my own lived experience. So, for example, the current manuscript I'm working on has a main character who is Jewish (like his dad) and Japanese (like his mom). I know a few people who are bicultural or "mixed" and I've read some books about how to show that in children's literature.
Now, " I have a Black friend" is no guarantee that I'm going to do it well. In fact, if anything, I can guarantee that systemic racism is the "air we breathe" and the "water we swim in." That's why I think test readers and good editors are indispensable.
Let's also mention that I lived in a small town in Japan for 2 years in my twenties, a very impressionable age, and it marked me. Living abroad at a young age ruined me in the best possible way. I was forever shaken from the idea that my lived experience was the default.
Note to humans on this planet:
Especially if you're White, Male, "American" or somehow think you occupy the dominant culture.
GET OUT THERE!
There is no better education than living in a foreign country at a young age.
Never have I felt more "American" than when I lived in a place that is not.
So, in my books, I want to write from a place where I've lived but I also want to write characters that I've experienced. Why shouldn't my books also have characters who are Black, Latino, poor, disabled, neurodivergent, or anything else that I've never lived. To paraphrase Shonda, I'm normalizing MG books.
So, first of all, I want to start NORMALIZING the term, PGM.
I first heard about People of the Global Majority from Tiffany Jewell in her awesome book, This Book is Anti-Racist. I came across her book because she's a Montessori teacher like me. And her book is an exciting blueprint on how to normalize conversations about race in the elementary (and younger) classroom. (If you're interested in talking with children age 0 - 6 about race and other difficult conversations, may I also recommend woke kindergarten.)
"I am embracing the term ‘people of the global majority’ (acronym: PGM) as a much more affirming and inclusive alternative. I did not invent this term. I only learned of it recently and I instantly fell in love with it. Well, actually, I want the term to be ‘global majority people’ as it is grammatically easier to say and write, but that’s an argument I’ll push for another day."