2013 Middle Grade Black Boys: Seriously, People?
So I’m in the office talking with my colleagues about A Girl Called Problem by Katie Quirk and how awesome it is. Then the topic shifts to books with African-American protagonists published in 2013 for kids between the ages of 9-12. You know. Middle grade fiction. And in the midst of my lamenting how few African-American girl protagonists I’ve seen in 2013 it hits me. Yeah, I’ve seen few girls, but I’ve seen pretty much ZERO boys.
I run through my mental database and the results are not good. I’ve read approximately fifty-one middle grade novels for 2013 by this point. Of these, one starred an African-American male character (Etched in Clay by Andrea Cheng). Of the other books, I’ve seen quite a few black girls as either the hero’s friend or as the hero herself. And I have seen ZERO ZERO ZERO African-American boys. Like, zip.
COME ON, PEOPLE!!! Seriously now. Is the rule that we can’t let anyone besides Greg Neri and Walter Dean Myers write middle grade fiction with boys? Is no one writing anymore? What is the friggin’ deal?
After venting my venom at Twitter I got a couple suggestions. Some were YA, some early chapter fare (though I am seriously gonna grab that Karen English book Dog Days the minute it gets within my periphery), a picture book here, an adult novel there. Here then is a complete list, insofar as I can tell, of ALL the books starring African-American boys in middle grade fiction for 2013. Don’t blink or you might miss it.
- Etched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and Poet by Andrea Cheng
- The Cruisers: Oh, Snap! by Walter Dean Myers
- STAT: Standing Tall and Talented: Slam Dunk by Amar’e Stoudemire
- STAT: Standing Tall and Talented: Schooled by Amar’e Stoudemire
- Streetball Jammers: Sasquatch in the Paint by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
That’s all she/he wrote, folks.
I have the sense that there’s an obscure historical middle grade from a very small publisher that I’m forgetting here. Otherwise, it appears that unless you’re writing about history, you’re Walter Dean Myers, or you’re a basketball star / former basketball star, you simply cannot get a middle grade book about black boys out there. Sorry to be a debbie downer but this is something we friggin’ need to talk about. Full credit, by the way, to the publishers listed here that actually ARE publishing something. Imagine if they weren’t.
Please for the love of all that’s good and holy, tell me what I’m missing. If you’re hiding a full cache of these books somewhere (or you know of some awesome fall releases that are unknown to me) I’d love to hear it.
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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