I recently watched an interesting TEDx talk entitled “The Danger of a Single Story”. It was done by a Nigerian-born writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who grew up reading American and British books. These spurred her to write her own stories, which were populated with British and American children who worried about snow, drank ginger beer and had red hair, freckles and ponytails. It was a long journey for her to discover African literature and then, longer still, to learn how different the various African stories were and how wrong it is to rely on only “one story” to tell others about life.
At the Library we completely agree. Stories matter. Many stories matter. There is no single voice to speak for all, and to claim to do so is arrogance. That is one reason, for instance, that when we set up the Indigenous Knowledge Centres at each branch, we made the clear decision to only include fiction, poetry, plays and music produced by Indigenous, Inuit and Metis creators. Not only is it amazing to see the vast variety of themes, subjects and styles being produced by Indigenous authors, it is essential to provide stories which challenge the single-story narrative and to provide access to the varied experiences within the whole of Indigenous literature and art.
#Own Voices books are books in which the main character or characters are from the same marginalized group as the author. This is a positive movement in the book industry which is finally getting better at publishing books written with the insights and authenticity of authors who can write from experience and truth. The Library supports this concept and we endeavour to order #Own Voices titles, to promote them and share them.
In 2020, we are dedicating funds to buy more diverse books, for children, teens and adults. And that includes #Own Voices. To that end, I recently met with the Library Technicians who offer programming and services to children and we developed a long list of picture books which are diverse, highly recommended and in most cases, #Own Voice selections. This is a list which we see as having wonderful stories to share with young readers. We want every child to be able to see him/herself in stories, and to also be able to develop empathy and a deeper understanding into others’ stories, lives and experiences. We will be ordering these titles and invite everyone to ask about new diverse and #Own Voice books or to discover them on our shelves. Here is a small preview of some picture books to watch for.
Dim Sum for Everyone by Grace Lin
The Gift of Ramadan by Rabia York Lumbard
Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji by F. Zia
My Whirling, Twirling Motor (ADHD) by Miriam Sarcia Saunders
Princess Hair by Sharee Miller
Siha Tooskin Knows the Strength of My Hair by Paul Wahasaypa
Sparkle Boy by Leslea Newman
Anglea Meady — www.tbpl.ca. If you have a comment about today’s column, we would love to hear from you. Please comment below!