Friday, August 2, 2013

Guest Blogger, Karen E. Dabney Shares Rant (At my Request and With My Total Agreement!)

A recent new book I read and reviewed, was praised by a librarian...
The book closed with a young boy planning to kill his parents...

About that time, Karen sent me her original "Rant" I immediately thought about librarians who refused to take this wonderful book, while praising a book that left readers with the knowledge that a young boy was planning to kill his parents.

I know, I know this is not wide-spread...or is it?
From what I can see prejudice is just as rampant as it ever was.

Adapted from my Twitter Rant re Libraries
that Won’t Give the Pencil a Chance to Make its Point
by Karen E. Dabney
Author of The Magic Pencil and many other books for youth
July 27, 2013

OK. I have had a few libraries refuse to place my young adult/tween/children's book The Magic Pencil even if I offered to donate a copy. {Here's my thoughts on her book if interested..}

My joke is that some librarians act as if I am trying to give them a dead frog instead of a book kids will love and learn from. They can't/won't give me a good reason. One actually stood in front of me as if she expected me to hit her with the book.

I was allowed to submit a copy to a local library for consideration and was promptly called and told to come get the book because it was NOT the kind of book HER library would have for its children! 

Today I checked out THAT library's catalog and found the following non-standard English, read: EBONICS and attempts at Ebonics - as in the true structured language - : The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (great book!), The Coldest Winter Ever (excellent "urban lit" that birthed more, however usually trite and not as well done), Their Eyes Were Watching God (OMG! The best! ALL in colloquial language by the protagonist!) Man Child in the Promised Land (Got me on my way to writing REAL),  Soul on Ice (by ex-Black  Panther  shudder  Eldridge Cleaver), Tales of Uncle Remus (thieved by Joel Chandler Harris), Take the Low Road (by Detroit author Eddie Allen about the nitty gritty writer Donald Goines' life). I tried to trade books but Eddie had his hands full with my former master-teacher Jimmy Santiago Baca's first visit to the Motor City. And Jimmy wanted to hang with me!

I found various novels about children of crack-heads and all with the largest keywords being AFRICAN AMERICAN and URBAN LIT (When did "urban" begin to be code for BLACK?). So, imagine how stunned I was to find a NEW placement entitled BAD B*TCH. 

And I wonder if they have Fifty Shades of Grey, Karen...

But The Magic Pencil has no place at this same library. A story that explains language issues in a way children can understand, is moral, fun, educational, inspiring, triumphant, uplifting and timely, is not the kind of book THAT library would have for its readers.

Well, "children" are reading those books. Children are living those stories. But a book that reaches out and shows ways to overcome to those children who are attracted to what is probably their first/home language by showing that ALL people code-switch and there's no shame in it but you might want to learn the standard in order to "make it" wherever you are, is not the kind of book THAT library would have for its patrons which include many of THOSE type of youth. 

I ran into some of them because they recognized the cover of TMP on my t-shirt and told me a friend had the book and they wanted to read it too. They were all living in the city where THAT library is located so I told them to ask for it at THEIR library. They did and it was "on order" forever! A parent/friend of mine called to find out what was going on with it. Even though we had JUST checked THAT library's catalog and it was STILL "on order", she was told that it wasn't. And, that one could be gotten from another library and delivered for her to get from HER library. WoW! So much for the dead frog offering.

On to dealing with the "soft bigotry" of another librarian who claims the book is too difficult for ‘tweens’ and under. I was allowed in the adult stacks at ten years old and took out whatever my greedy mind could. The librarians of my childhood would see to it that I took out nothing "inappropriate" as they spurred and cheered me on!!!

Harry Potter could work his magic but my magic pencil was shunned? Have you non-teachers SEEN the vocabulary expectations for 2nd graders?

Aren't we supposed to raise the bar a bit? And if a child masters that one, raise it again? One size does NOT fit ALL! This is why gifted black youth drop out and set up shop. No respect and dysteachia = anger and boredom. Helping to feed that machine so many more will have to go to prison for enough "down time" in order to become literate. Is that a way to prove the myth that children DON'T want to learn? To ensure that they are guided toward learning - and mastering - things they shouldn't NEED to learn?

Fortunately, MANY libraries have allowed the Pencil to be available to work its spell. Now we just need for folk to help promote good, nontraditional reads and sneakily keep raising THAT bar! 


Recently I touched base with a young white man who had written a book... He had been told by a relative that it was "filthy and disgusting." He said he wasn't an author, but liked to write about his PTSD, etc..

I read it and told him to get online and search for Urban Lit or Street Lit and told him his book was quite good, fit in that genre, and did a review. I've since read and reviewed his second book out...

Where does it say that because a book uses "Bad Language" it can only be used in books that are published by regular publishers. This language has been around for years and is heard in every school across the nation. Why wouldn't a young author use that language, appropriately, in his writing... I don't like it either, but that doesn't say that the writer is wrong for doing so...

Karen's book is not even street is an educational book that helps young children learn how to effectively communicate with children from other cultures. In fact, I've seen a recent advertisement where a number of children are using their cultural language. I've missed a few words, but I enjoy the ad...Maybe you've seen it...

For myself, I DON"T understand how any librarian could refuse a donated educational book, while other books include violence, foul language, sexual abuse, etc., can be praised... Is it the African-American children on the front cover, by chance? Who, like me, disapproves of, for instance, Walmart's African-American section rather than placing all books by genre...???

If you haven't read this book with your children, do us a favor and contact your local library, bookstores, or wherever you shop. Ask for it by name and Author!

I've been speaking out more and more when something is wrong...Please, if you care for our children, do the same!

Karen, thanks for allowing me to add to your ranting...I even created a new blog for some of mine...LOL... 

But I'll just close with...

Just My Personal Opinion, Of Course!
But, Karen, in my opinion, you have a right to argue discrimination to the BOARD of THAT Library...

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