November 17, 2016
Authors think of the children in the Age of Trump
by Chad Felix
With the election of Donald Trump to the highest office in all of the land (an office he plans to vacate on the weekends in order to sleep like a baby in his own Trump Tower), the world watched as a breathtaking number of Americans cast their vote for a hate-spewing stupid spray tan in a bad suit. Yes, Donald Trump, the least charismatic of all nascent dictators, Mr. President-Elect. Sigh.
In Trump’s promise to disrupt the goings-on in Washington (by appointing white supremacists and climate change deniers to his team for a start), he’s all but guaranteed a tumultuous future for everyone under the sun — and people of color, immigrants, and women in particular. Which is to say, the next four years are going to be hell in very concrete, identifiable ways for millions of people.
And while most things (all things?) are bad right now, you can find hope (or, if not find hope, just rediscover evidence of Human Goodness) if you look in the right places. The children’s book industry, for example.
Soon after the announcement of Trump’s victory, hundreds of American children’s book authors came together to pledge to stand against racism and xenophobia, the Guardian’s Alison Flood reports. The statement, “A Declaration in Support of Children,” can be read in full over at The Brown Bookshelf. It makes clear the importance of diverse and inclusive voices in the lives of children, and the ability of books to deliver them to their readers.
The stakes are too high for us to be silent. The stakes are too high for us to wait for someone else to take the lead. The stakes are too high for us to just hope things will get better. Each day, we see attempts to disenfranchise and dehumanize marginalized people and to dismiss the violence that we face. As children’s book creators, we feel a special connection and responsibility to amplify the young voices that too often go unheard. When the headlines fade, the impact on children’s lives remains. They are left feeling confused, afraid, angry, hurt. We believe it is our duty to not just create, but also to empower children, affirm their lives and stand up for change.
Nearly four hundred authors have contributed their names to the statement, including National Book Award-winner Jacqueline Woodson, Mo Willems, Daniel José Older, Jay Sher, Kelly Starling Lyons, Tameka Fryer Brown, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Don Tate, Gwendolyn Hooks, Tracey Baptiste, Crystal Allen, and Paula Chase-Hyman, among many more.
Noting that “the values of adults can often be traced back to early influences,” these authors are dedicating themselves to ensuring that those early influences communicate the beauty, validity, and equality of all people. It’s a bid for a run longer than any presidential term, and it’s an important one to make in the age of Trump. For the undersigned, it’s “a matter of life and death.”
Chad Felix is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House, and a former bookseller.