Today at La Bloga, bilingual-picture-book author René Colato Laínez continues a series of interviews with book-industry executives about cultural authenticity. He talks to Kent Brown, the publisher of Boyds Mills Press and Highlights magazine. Boyds Mills is publishing one of Laínez's new works—a fact I wish Laínez had acknowledged; still, the interview is a good one, and contains much food for thought.
[Brown]: What is lacking in a great many stories presented as multicultural is a perspective that lets the reader know more of unique cultural or accurate historical viewpoints.
[Laínez]: Are they full of stereotypes or misconceptions?
[Brown]: Well, the bad ones are. And there are some instances where an accurate depiction, however accurate, may reinforce stereotypes.
I receive awful lot of stories about Mexican culture that has kids whacking a Piñata. Nothing wrong with this artifact of Mexican holiday celebration, but having stories about piñatas, over and over, as if that the only thing we might identify with Mexican tradition, subtly reinforces that Mexicans are a people who spend their time whacking piñatas.
Another common example: Chinese New Year. We did this in Highlights magazine. Has the advantage of being attractive to illustrate, picking the parade in San Francisco. Surely that is a part of Chinese (on Chinese-American culture and tradition). But its portrayal has the tendency over time to "teach" that Chinese people are people of big parades and big dragons.