Friday, May 29, 2009

How Do Your Books Stack Up?

With all other adults out of the house since Wednesday, I've been left to manage the work of 3 which isn't going very well this week.  Which means the house looks like it has been hit by a tornado. As usual, due to the large amount of books in our home.

With really no desire to clean up, I finally talked myself into taking on the task by calling it a survey.  As I picked up each book, I set it it one of 4 piles based on the images: mostly People of Color (PoC), about 50/50 PoC/white, mostly white people and animals. The stacking got so interesting, I ended up pulling all the books off the shelves and trolling other rooms for other books.

So, here are the numbers for my piles:
People of Color: 36
About 50/50 PoC/White : 17
White people: 100
Animals: 81

This count excludes the shelf full of early readers (90% which feature white kids) and shelves and boxes of comic books (99.9% of which feature white people).

Turns out our Barnacle collection is heavily slanted to books with images of white people, even though I try to be very purposefully about culture and skin color in the books I buy.  A few other observations I had as I was stacking:
- Many, many of the animal pile are really human stories, using animals instead of people.  I get that bunnies and tiger cubs are cute. It turns my stomach that They (authors? illustrators? publishers?) put so much time and energy into producing books with animals and so little into creating books that tell the same story including children with not-white skin. And that I seem to spend so many resources supporting Them.
- Looking over the animal stack, I started wanting to put many of them in the "white" pile. Sure tiger cub is orange and black, yet everything about him conjured images of white culture to me.  Am I the only one that thinks this?
- My "white" stack is much taller than the other stacks, in large part due to the thickness of the books.  All our reference type books have very few pictures of people of color.  So if you're smart and want to learn about how the world works, you must be white?  Ick.
- I really could die happy if I never saw another Bernstein Bear book again in my life. Sigh.

So, how do your books stack up?

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