A recent post by Ellen Oh received a thoughtful response from my friend Roxanne Feldman (who is originally from Taiwan, that is Chinese American), “Dear Ellen Oh, You Are Not Me!” While strongly agreeing with most of Ellen’s comments to those writing from outside their own experience, ethnicity and race, Roxanne did wonder who she was referring to in her “we” when she wrote “Yes We Need Diverse Books. But that doesn’t always mean that we want YOU to write them.” Roxanne responded that she, “….often find[s] sweeping generalization of all kinds problematic” something that is true for me too, especially when it comes to attempts to define people and more so when I think about my 4th grade students.
That is, the students I work with never tidily fit any sort of generalization be it one about reluctant readers or about their ethnic and racial identities. There are as many different reasons for reluctant reading in my classroom as there are children that I might identify as such. Similarly, when it comes to ethnicity and racial identity I find each child to be completely and utterly different in tastes, wishes, and needs. As a result, among those who would be identified as diverse in some way, some gravitate to and look for titles that reflect their own experience and selves while others prefer books that take them to worlds completely new and different from their own.
This sort of thing makes me again and again appreciate and think of Adichie’s “The Danger of a Single Story” as it is so important to consider in every possible way.