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Thank you.

We are blown away by the response to our CCBC infographicMany have long been advocating for diversity in children’s literature; as we’d hoped, this infographic is pushing this work along. Since September 14, the blog post has had over 36,000 views; my initial tweet made over 17,000 impressions; my Facebook post was shared over 10,000 times, including by writers Cynthia Leitich Smith, Zetta Elliott, Mike Jung, Ellen Oh, and Junot Díaz. Professors, teachers, librarians, and students – from K-12 through graduate courses at universities and public libraries across the US and the world – are printing, sharing, displaying, and discussing the infographic.

Of course, with so much visibility came many questions.

Sarah Hannah Gómez pointed out the difference between the white category in the 2012 infographic, and ours, which uses data from 2015. She noted that it may cause folks to think we have made progress. But actually, David included the bunny to show that a significant percentage of children’s literature depicts animals and inanimate objects (trucks, cupcakes, screws, etc.) as protagonists, something CCBC Director KT Horning wrote about in her 2013 blog post “I See White People.” The 2012 infographic, created prior to Horning’s 2013 post, does not reflect this, so the numbers are not exactly aligned.

Many people wondered about categorization. Where are South Asians? Why are Pacific Islanders included with Asians? Where are Jewish people? etc. Categorizing people (and books) into groups is difficult work. After some discussion, we decided to use pretty much the same category titles as the CCBC; you can read more on their website about how they categorize.

The CCBC’s data includes distinct categories for books by, and for books about, each of the demographics they count. The about category may, or may not, include a book in the by category (this happens when an Asian American writer, for example, writes a book that is not about Asian Americans.) For our infographic, we used only the about data. It is vitally important to note that this data does not reflect the quality, accuracy, etc. of the books themselves. It is also vitally important to to note that the number of books about and written and illustrated by #OwnVoices authors is significantly lower.

Our hope is that people will continue to ask questions and do the work that will uncover more information. See Debbie Reese’s post “A Close Look at CCBC’s 2015 Data on Books By/About Americans Indians/First Nations” for one example of how a scholar unpacked the data, and Jerrold Connors’ post “We Need Diverse Books, and How!” for some more graphs. As many have done with our infographic, read everything critically. Who is saying what? What is left unsaid? What more needs to be done?

In short, we still have much work to do.

Note: We made the infographic with a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license, so you may download a JPF and PDF here.

The Twin Cities will be hosting award-winning author, academic, and activist Zetta Elliott from Tuesday, September 13 to Saturday, September 17, 2016, for a series of panels, and school and library visits. The following events are free and open to the public.

A Week with Zetta Elliott – Events


Inclusivity and Indie Authors: The Case for Community-Based Publishing

Hosted by the St. Catherine University Master of Library and Information Science Program and its American Library Association Student Chapter, Progressive Librarians Guild, and Student Governance Organization & Dr. Sarah Park Dahlen
Tuesday September 13 @ 7:00 pm
St. Catherine University – Mendel 106
2004 Randolph Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55105
Flyer: ZettaElliott-StKatesMLISProgram-Flyer

Inclusivity and Indie Authors: The Case for Community-Based Publishing

Hosted by Ancestry Books & the Center for Earth, Energy, and Democracy
Friday, September 16 @ 10:00 am
Lucy Laney Elementary
3333 Penn Ave N
Minneapolis, MN 55412
10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Facebook (please RSVP):

Zetta Elliott Reading & Panel Discussion on Elevating Absent Narratives

Saturday, September 17 @ 7:00 pm
The Loft Literary Center
1011 S Washington Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55415

Zetta will also conduct workshops with Juxtaposition Arts and visit with students at Lucy Laney Elementary School, Bancroft Elementary School, Gordon Parks High School, Vadnais Heights Elementary School, and Maplewood Middle School.

Reading List

  1. Zetta Elliott’s books:
  2. Elliott, Zetta. (2009 September 5). Something Like an Open Letter to the Children’s Publishing Industry. Zetta Elliott Blog.
  3. Atkins, Laura. (2010). White Privilege and Children’s Publishing: A Web 2.0 Case Study. Write4Children 1(2). Winchester University Press.
  4. Elliott, Zetta. (2011 May 25). Breaking Down Doors: My Self Publishing Story. The Huffington Post.
  5. Elliott, Zetta. (2012 July 2). Trayvon – Killed By an Idea. The Huffington Post.
  6. Díaz, Junot. (2014 April 30). MFA vs. POC. The New Yorker.
  7. Low, Jason. (2016 January 26). Where is the Diversity in Publishing? The 2015 Diversity Baseline Survey Results. The Open Book.
  8. Elliott, Zetta. (2016 February 1). How It Feels to be Self Published Me. Publishers Weekly.
  9. Lee, Paula Young. (2016 February 18). ‘Your manuscript is not a good fit’: How ‘we need diverse books’ can move beyond wishful thinking. Salon.
  10. Kwaymullina, Ambelin. (2016 February 22.) Writing While Black/Writing While Indigenous: Two Voices Speak on Literature, Representation and Justice. Zetta Elliott Blog.
  11. Elliott, Zetta. (2016 February 23). Writing While Black/Writing While Indigenous: Part 2. Zetta Elliott Blog.
  12. Elliott. (2016 April 5). What’s LOVE Got To Do With It? Self-Publishing as a Black Feminist Act of Radical Self-Care. The Huffington Post Books.
  13. Horning, K.T. (2016 July 21). SLJ Diversity Course: Keynote Lecture webinar. School Library Journal.
  14. Reese, Debbie. (2016 July 21). KT Horning’s Keynote for SLJ’s Diversity CourseStorify.

This week-long series of events is co-hosted by Ancestry Books, University of Minnesota Libraries Archie Givens, Sr. Collection of African American Literature/Umbra: Search African American History, Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy, Bancroft Elementary School, The Loft Literary Center, Minnesota Humanities Center, and the St. Catherine University Master of Library and Information Science Program and its American Library Association Student Chapter, Progressive Librarians Guild, and Student Governance Organization.

Contact: Shannon Gibney (

Check out the UMN’s write-up regarding Zetta’s week in MN:


(NOTE: The syllabus is heavy on black children’s and YA literature because I revised the course in light of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and so we could use the concepts learned and discussed through those texts as examples for discussions of related issues in youth lit and social justice. I am fully aware that my reading list is not representative of all social justice issues, but what I hope is that by discussing a narrow segment, my students and I can learn to think broadly in terms of ideology, positionality, authorship, power, privilege, etc as they relate to about social justice and children’s literature.)

LIS 7190 Social Justice and Children’s/YA Literature
Instructor Dr. Sarah Park Dahlen
2015 Summer
St. Catherine University
Master of Library and Information Science Program

Course Description

In this course, students will learn how to select, evaluate and analyze depictions and aspects of social justice and injustice in children’s and young adult literature. We will consider topics such as power, racism, diversity, violence, perspective, publishing trends, authorship, illustrations, and ideology. We will also consider how these texts may be used in library programming. 

By successfully finishing this course, students will be able to select, evaluate, and recommend a variety of materials depicting social justice issues for young audiences.

Required Readings (assigned by me)

  • A Wreath for Emmitt Till by Marilyn Nelson
  • After Tupac & D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Eighth-Grade Superzero by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
  • Monster by Walter Dean Myers
  • A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliott
  • Bridge by Patrick Jones
  • Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez
  • Ask Me No Questions by Marina Budhos
  • No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Works of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
  • If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth
  • Rain is Not My Indian Name by Cynthia Leitich Smith
  • The Real Boy by Anne Ursu 
  • El Deafo by CeCe Bell
  • I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson 
  • Call me Tree/Llámame árbol by Maya Christina Gonzalez
  • Star of the Week by Darlene Friedman
  • The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy

Additional Required Readings (assigned by students – the Unsyllabus portion)

  • Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
  • The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter
  • Boys Without Names by Kashmira Sheth
  • Brooklyn Burning by Steve Brezenoff
  • The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
  • The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak


  • Text presentation
  • Book talk and flyer
  • Unsyllabus presentation
  • Book discussion group
  • Reflection paper

First Week’s Readings 

WEEK 1 | June 2 Tuesday | #WeNeedDiverseBooks


  • Larrick, Nancy. (1965). “The All White World of Children’s Literature.” Saturday Review, 63-65. 
  • Horning, Kathleen T. (2014 May 1). “Children’s Books: Still an All-White World?” School Library Journal.
  • Derman-Sparks, Louise. (2013) “An Updated Guide for Selecting Anti-Bias Children’s Books.” Teaching for Change.
  • Diversity in Youth Literature. Editors’ Introduction “Open Books, Open Doors: Cultural Diversity On and Off the Page” (Jamie Campbell Naidoo and Sarah Park Dahlen)
  • Diversity in Youth Literature. Chapter 1 “Voices of Experience: Promoting Acceptance of Other Cultures” (Carol Doll and Kasey Garrison)
  • Diversity in Youth Literature. Chapter 2 “Opening Doors to Understanding: Developing Cultural Competence through Youth Literature” (Eliza Dresang) 

Youth Literature

  • A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson

WEEK 1 | June 4 Thursday | Occupy Children’s Literature


Youth Literature

  • After Tupac & D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson

In contrast to Monday’s MPR program on the decline of international adoption that was comprised entirely of non-adoptees (see my previous post on this topic), today’s MPR panel, brought about by vocal and articulate adoptees criticizing MPR’s choice of panelists, is comprised entirely of adoptees:

[Full disclosure: Kim and JaeRan are dear friends of mine. They are legit rock stars.]

My only criticism is this: Tom Weber focused the conversation on race and racism for 40 minutes. JaeRan Kim, Kim Park Nelson and Kelly Fern totally rocked it with their answers to his questions, but why didn’t he ask them on their thoughts about the decline of international adoption? 

[update/note: for new readers, this is full disclosure that I myself am not an adopted Korean. I am a Korean American daughter of immigrant Korean parents. I am an assistant professor at St. Catherine University in the Master of Library and Information Science Program, and I study representations of adoption in children’s literature and adoptee information seeking behaviors. I consider myself an ally and advocate for adoptees and ethical adoption.]

Yes, it’s true. I blog mostly when I’m really annoyed. There’s a whole lot more to the background of international adoption than I can post here, but for a brief background at least on the Republic of Korea, check out Dr. Kim Park Nelson‘s “Mapping Multiple Histories of Korean American Transnational Adoption.”

Recently we have seen several articles regarding the “precipitous decline” in international adoptions; one reason for these declines is that there has been so much documented corruption, child trafficking, questionable behaviors, etc., in international adoption, so some countries have shut down their adoption programs – and rightly so. Countries have decreased the numbers of children they make available for adoption because they are trying to care for the children within their own countries, mostly by way of domestic adoption programs, which is a nice thought but fails to address the root problem of why so many children are being orphaned/made into “legal” or “social” orphans in the first place. Another reason may be that birth mothers are being incredibly brave and choosing to raise their children as single mothers. These are all valid and good reasons to decrease the numbers of children adopted internationally. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not anti-adoption. Adoption is and should be a good thing and a great way for a child to find a home. But in recent decades the institution has spiraled out of control and created a market for children that has broken up many existing families. So I’m actually anti-unethical adoption. Anyway, back to the main topic at hand.

Today MPR had another program on the decline of international adoption . Here’s the panel of 4, as stated on the MPR Daily Circuit page:

  • (adoptive father) Dana Johnson: Professor of pediatrics in the division of neonatology at the University of Minnesota, founded the International Adoption Clinic
  • (adoptive mother) Maureen Warren: President of Children’s Home Society
  • Jodi Harpstead: Chief executive officer of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota
  • (adoptive father) David McKoskey: Adoptive father, professional computer programmer and adjunct professor of computer science at St. Catherine University (full disclosure: David has guest lectured in my LIS7530 Internet Fundamentals and Design class – and done a fantastic job of it.)

As usual, there are no adult adopted persons on this panel. There is no shortage of adult adoptees in Minnesota who are adoption professionals, activists, etc., that could have balanced out the perspectives and experiences represented by this panel. Earlier this morning when we learned that this program was happening, adoptees encouraged one another to call-in with their comments in order to get their voices heard. Here’s my (almost) live blogging of what went down:

What MPR talked about:

  • The declining numbers in international adoption
  • The continuing “need” for international adoption (never mind that the number of global “orphans” are conflated and inaccurate)
  • How open adoptions can change the landscape of contemporary adoption
  • The impact of the Hague Convention on international adoptions
  • How they would prefer the safety of children over volume… but when the volume increased so quickly… that attracted a lot of different agencies and operators… and there “might have been some safety and care sacrificed.”
  • The goal is to get the number rising again so children can be placed (which I read as “and also so that our finances can stabilize”)
  • They actually talked about adult adoptees who are now professionals: “Particularly adult Korean adoptees that are influencing the arts, that are influencing adoption, that are very interested in contributing to all walks of life in Minnesota” (except even though they are influencing adoption, we haven’t invited any of them to this panel).
  • That there’s a “special place in heaven” for the families who open their homes to a child. She needs to read David Smolin’s “Of Orphans and Adoption, Parents and the Poor, Exploitation and Rescue: A Scriptural and Theological Critique of the Evangelical Christian Adoption and Orphan Care Movement.
  • That prospective adoptive parents need to be patient because small delays are just that – small delays in the long run.
  • Kevin Ost-Vollmers called out MPR for not inviting adult adoptees to this panel, and MPR answered that the program focuses on the drop in adoptions and therefore they invited people who work at agencies, and rather, that adoptees could call-in with their comments. I’m not sold on this answer, as I think they need to address the root of the problem – that adoptions may happen at the expense of exploited/misinformed families, and that watching out for them should be a major priority for anyone concerned about building/maintaining healthy families.
(Some of) What call-ins from the audience talked about:
  • 1st caller: adoptee and adoptive father
  • 2nd caller: adoptive mother of Korean daughter: “adoption has really opened our family up”
  • 3rd caller: domestic adoptee who adopted internationally
  • 4th caller: domestic adoptee whose wife is adopted, father is adopted, brother is adopted, and is the adoptive father of 2 children from Ethiopia. Thinks CHS is a great organization. Drives him crazy when people say “Your girls are so lucky. We’re the lucky ones!”
  • 5th caller: asked about the role of infertility in the adoption process
  • 6th caller: KEVIN OST-VOLLMERS! Korean adoptee, blogger and adoptee activist called out MPR for not inviting Korean adoptees to the program!!! And asked another question about culture and whiteness, but I didn’t catch the whole thing because I was so excited that he actually got through the phone lines. I’m so not satisfied with MPR’s answer.

What I wish MPR had talked about:

And let’s not forget so-called “well-intentioned” Christian organizations that want to expedite and process international adoptions without following established legal procedures. Consider what the Idaho churches tried to do in Haiti after the earthquake:

That’s all, just some real life adoptees, birth parents, (and adoptive parents, although their stories get PLENTY of airtime already), and their real life stories. It gets better, right, MPR? Can we extend this conversation and add another program that features the voices of adult adoptees/adoptee professionals?

2012 July 11 update: As a follow up, check out the following:

2012 July 12 update: Tomorrow, this is finally happening:

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