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Abundant, Not Redundant: Caribbean Kid Lit Wish List



Illustration by Sabra Field from WHERE DO THEY GO? by Julia Alvarez


I'm not one to focus on lack. Part of it is temperamental, part of it is having been raised on a solid Judeo-Christian diet of contentment. It's just makes me happier (and more productive) to focus on abundance.

As Editor-in-Chief of a Caribbean children's lit. ezine, one does a lot of reading, both the children's books themselves and what's been written about the books. I've been able to observe trends, to notice the themes and narratives that are redundant abundant in Caribbean kid lit, and also what's missing. I'm always getting requests from parents and teachers looking for Caribbean children's books on specific themes and subjects, and while I try my best, often there just aren't enough (or any) books to recommend within a specific topic area.

Recently I was doodling in a notepad and found myself making a wish list of themes we really need to see more of in Caribbean children's lit. I share the list below; it could certainly be useful for publishers (and writers too perhaps) who want to publish children's books featuring Caribbean people and settings.

In traditional publishing, Caribbean children's books are often marketed as "multicultural literature" which tends to limit the scope of topics to the "Four F's"- folklore, foods, festivals and fashion. It would be great if publishers could focus on a new set of "Fs" when they're choosing which Caribbean children's stories to publish: fun, family, faith, friendship, funny. Centering these themes would help normalize Caribbean children and people, and the books would absolutely be just as Caribbean.

I'm not saying that we completely throw out "Four F's" books (we need a wider range of "Festival" books for example; it's still hard to find a children's book about Caribbean people celebrating Divali or Holi) or books that make a point of celebrating diversity in favor of what Betsy Bird called "casual diversity". That would be problematic too. I'm definitely not saying that Caribbean children's books should somehow be culture-free (if that were even possible; if a writer's culture didn't automatically show up in their writing I'd question whether or not they were truly inhabiting their work). Quite the opposite. What I'm saying is that it's time to expand the range of culturally authentic literature that's available so that Caribbean children can see themselves, and their interests and concerns, humanely reflected in a range of narratives.

In Caribbean children's literature, we don't see nearly enough of, and could definitely do with more...

1) Books with fostering and adoption themes
2) Biographies of important Caribbean figures (Picturebook and longer formats)
3) Books with male characters (Dads/uncles/grandfathers anyone?)
4) Books set in urban and suburban areas (Because ya know, we have cities and towns in the Caribbean too.)
5) Historical fiction (The ancient Caribbean anyone?)
6) Speculative fiction (Fantasy, sci-fi etc.)
7) Bedtime books
8) Alphabet and counting books
9) Board books (There are only a handful.)
10) Humor (This is children's lit. after all!)
11) Books about first-experiences (First day of school, first doctor's visit etc.)
12) Poetry
13) Books about emotions
14) Anthropomorphic characters (Caribbean-endemic animals specifically)
15) Science and social studies books/Nonfiction in general
16) Books that explore disability and illness (There are hardly any.)
17) Books about nature (Beyond tired "Caribbean sun, sea and sand" tropes)
18) Subject-interest books (Books about music, hobbies, art, sports, buildings, etc.)
19) Graphic novels
20) Interactive books
21) Books with religious themes
22) Books with social justice themes
23) Books about communities and neighborhoods
24) Books about bullying (A rampant problem in many Caribbean schools)
25) Books with LGBTQ characters
26) Books about bereavement
27) Books exploring mental health issues
28) Books about gender and gender equality
29) Mixed race representation
30) Books about divorce and family conflict
31) Books about environmental issues and taking care of the environment
32) Books about children or people who are "different"
33) Concept books
34) Books about children using their imagination
35) Books about Caribbean children doing wonderful, inspiring things and saving the day
36) Books about playtime and games
37) Protagonists and characters who aren't Afro-Caribbean (There are Indo-, Chinese, White, Syrian etc. Caribbean people too.)
38) Protagonists and characters who are middle-class and upper-class

Should anything else be added to this list? Leave a comment below.


About the Author

Summer Edward is the Editor-in-Chief here at Anansesem. Her writing and art have been published in various literary magazines and anthologies. Her home on the web is www.summeredward.com.




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About Anansesem

Anansesem is an online magazine of Caribbean children's and young adult literature by adults and children. We strive to bring you the best in news, reviews and creative content from the world of Caribbean children's publishing.
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1 comments:

  1. I do believe these types of manuscripts are written. Getting them into the hands of a publisher is another matter. We cannot get past the agents. Publishers are not open to unsolicited queries. The status quo will forever remain.

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