Diversity in Libraries
A blog for exploring and discussing the topics of diversity and multiculturalism in libraries.

Local Author Tara Michener Promotes Diversity in Children’s Books

By Margaret Rainwater

Well, after posting on stereotypical children’s literature like The Story of Little Black Sambo, I thought it might be a good idea to post an example of non-stereotypical literature. Today, while listening to Detroit Today on NPR’s WDET 101.9, I was able to hear radio host Craig Fahle’s interview with local children’s book author Tara Michener, a resident of Novi and lifelong Michigander.

Although new to the world of children’s literature, Michener has ample experience promoting diversity. At Valassis Communications, she is the recruitment chair on the company’s Diversity Council and has experienced racial difficulties as an African American woman married to a Caucasian man.

In 2008, she published her first children’s book in the “Who I Am” series titled Who I Am Not What I Am about a young biracial girl named Janelle who encounters questions about “what she is” at school. Her mother helps her see that she has many other qualities beyond the color of her skin that define who she is. Her second book in the series, 100% Real, was published this past September and is about a girl named Zoey who is dealing with questions about her adoption.

Who I Am Not What I Am

100% Real

I haven’t read either of these books yet, but I’ve got one ordered through MeLCat and I’ll report back after I’ve read it. However, based on what I heard on the radio these books are exactly the type of books that we want to be promoting in libraries.

Author Events

If you’re interested in her work Michener can be found both in cyberspace and locally over the next few days.

Nov. 23-24 (12 noon to 12 noon) Social Networking Marathon

Michener is challenging herself to 24 hours of availability to readers and fans via Twitter, Facebook, and her blog.

Author’s Blog

Nov. 28 (12 – 2:00 p.m.) Book Signing at Great Lakes Crossing, Auburn Hills, MI

Join Michener at the Borders Express within the mall for a signed copy of her books.

Discussion Questions:

1) Have you read either of Michener’s books? Do these sound like books you would purchase for your library?

2) Can you recommend any other children’s books that promote diversity and avoid stereotypes?

Resources:
Von Buskirk, W. (2008) Novi author pens book to help bi-racial kid. Retrieved on November 23, 2009 from http://www.madonna.edu/pdf/AlumnaMichenerbookNoviNews08.pdf

—. (2009) Northville Newsmakers. Retrieved on November 23, 2009 from http://www.hometownlife.com/article/20091029/NEWS12/910290389/1029/Northville+Newsmakers

Images from the author’s blog “whoiamnotwhatiam” (http://www.whoiamnotwhatiam.blogspot.com/)

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4 Responses to “Local Author Tara Michener Promotes Diversity in Children’s Books”

  1. This reminded me of a story I read in a sociology class when I was an undergrad. It was about Baby X – a child who was raised completely gender neutral and no one knew if it was a boy or girl. http://www.gendercentre.org.au/22article4.htm

    I think most would agree that positive books about mixed race children are a great asset in promoting diversity. However, gender identity and sexuality are much more polarizing issues, and I think this story provides a light hearted illustration of these topics.

    It does raise a few questions: Is this a story for adults or children? Is this an appropriate story to include in a library collection? Is gender identity considered too taboo of a topic to discuss, even in the realm of diversity?

    Whether we agree with or disapprove of the content of this or any other story dealing with diversity in race, culture, sexuality, etc. I think it is important that we understand that the topic is not just limited to one area. For diversity to play an effective role in our libraries, we need to make sure all topics are included.

    And I’ll keep my opinion of the story to myself. My endorsement or lack thereof is irrelevant (but it may surprise you).

  2. Well, I finally received a copy of Who I Am Not What I Am yesterday through MeLCat and I thought I’d let you know my thoughts on it. Basically, it is about a little girl named Janelle, who encounters questions about her race from the other children at school. Janelle’s mother is African American and her father is Caucasian. When Janelle relates the other children’s questions to her parents they help her see that the color of her skin is only part of who she is. She is also smart, short, pretty, good at skating and talkative. This book would be a great way to introduce children to the concept of race and would reinforce for biracial children their special qualities. The illustrations in the book are also very colorful, reinforcing the book’s message about the beauty that comes from mixing different colors together.

  3. […] Local Author Tara Michener Promotes Diversity in Children's Books … Nov 23, 2009 … 1) Have you read either of Michener's books? Do these sound like books you would purchase for your … […]

  4. There is certainly a great deal to learn about this issue.
    I love all of the points you made.


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