The existence of multicultural teen literature had little if anything to do with developing a new literary form. It had a lot to do with the political and social movements of the 60’s and 70’s, and it came into its own as a way to give a voice in literature to the historically marginalized social groups as well as increase awarness of imbalances in our society.
For years this literary form stirred controversy and resentment. Many didn’t like the threat that these books presented: the exploration of bias and prejudice, the questioning of established beliefs and attitudes–some so deeply held that until writers exposed them in their stories, mainstream readers didn’t know they had them. Then there were the stories that exposed the writers’ “unexamined assumptions and biases.” What surprises those were to everyone, including the writers themselves, I’d imagine.
What is wonderful is that in a span of a few decades these books moved from the sidelines onto the shelves and won acclaim. They opened minds and enhanced our culture by connecting diverse people; they gave us different and amazing role models, moved us closer to a community that doesn’t reject the “foreign,” but appreciates how it enhances our understanding of the world.
Some books I’ve treasured for their role in cultivating multiculturalism for young readers are these:
Sounder by W.H. Armstrong
Almond Cookies and Dragon Well Tea by Chin-Lee
The Color Purple by A. Walker
Dragonwings by Yep
Encounter by Jane Yolan
Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye
Shooting Kabul by Senzai
A Single Shard by Park
So many more to list, but you must have several of your own. Add to my list, please.