Geraldine Brennan’s article, Should children’s books be more multicultural?, is featured on the front page of the Times today and drawing a number of comments from people addressing all sides of the debate. The diversity (and force) of the various reactions really highlights the need to talk about these questions.
I think diversity is as much about celebrating our “sameness” as celebrating our “difference”. I love to discover new ways of doing things, new languages, cultures, foods, ways of thinking…all this colour and variety adds a tremendous depth to my life. And at the same time, while discovering and sharing this difference, I get a thrill from realising that these people, who at first seem so different, are in fact very much the same. Regardless of language or culture or country, we share many similar things: we all have hopes, fears, we all celebrate love, we all have dreams.
In writing Takeshita Demons, I didn’t set out to write a multicultural book. I set out to write an adventure story, where ordinary children have extraordinary exploits and fight supernatural monsters. That Miku, the lead character, is Japanese, doesn’t change the book from a romping good read into a didactic preaching. It just adds colour, difference and excitement.
So should children’s books be more multicultural? Yes. But they should still be great books with gripping stories and living characters. Being “multicultural” doesn’t preclude great writing and a book kids can’t put down. These are the things I want in a good book for my children (when finally arrive; we put up the cot this morning :-)) and all children. And that is why I write.