I’m re-reading an article by Junko Yokota titled, “Asian Americans in Literature for Children and Young Adults” (Teacher Librarian 36:3  Feb 2009) in preparation for giving a guest lecture tonight in Dr. Thomas Crisp’s children’s literature class. Today, this part of Yokota’s words stood out to me:

Representation does not mean looking for the ideally authentic book to represent a culture; no one book can be “the best book” for representing Asian American literature. In fact, it takes many books to create a multidimensional look at a culture.

Whenever I talk about Korean American children’s books or Korean adoption in children’s books, people inevitably ask one of two questions:

  1. Do you plan to write a children’s book on this topic? (No.)
  2. What one book would you recommend?

I find it almost insulting, after giving a presentation on the great variety of experiences and depth of history of the Korean diaspora, and representations of such in children’s literature, to be asked what one book I would recommend. For what time period? From whose perspective? For what age level? In what genre(s)? In which region(s)? On what topics/issues?

Rather than ask, “What is the best book for Korean American youth?” how about asking, “What are some books that represent a range of Korean American experiences for XYZ age group?”

I am much better able to answer the latter question than the former one.

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