We Need Diverse Comic Books: Meet Mafalda
My husband’s best friend returned to us the other day from his vacation in South America bearing gifts. Amongst them was a t-shirt for my daughter featuring this cartoon tyke:
Know her? If you’re American the answer is probably no. But if you were Argentinian you’d instantly recognize her as Mafalda. She was Argentina’s answer to Charlie Brown from 1964 to 1973 and is basically recognized all over the world . . . with the exception of the U.S.
She gets me to thining. When we talk about the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign we need to look beyond standard fictional fare. We need to look at easy books, early chapter books, nonfiction, poetry, fairytales and folk tales, and, yes, graphic novels. And of all the comics published specifically for the young reader market in 2014 that were marketed to libraries, only one had anything even faintly resembling Latino content (Lowriders in Space by Cathy Camper, ill. Raul the Third).
None of this is to say that if Mafalda were translated for the American market she wouldn’t appear with an adult publisher like Dark Horse. Like the aforementioned Charlie Brown she had some pretty advanced jokes. No, for me Mafalda is just proof positive that when we’re looking for diverse characters, we shouldn’t forget about the ones published internationally. Our scope is so limited here in the States. If there is any unexpected offshoot of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, I hope it’s that we are able as consumers and publishers to expand our focus and look into those characters and creations from countries outside of our own. Mafalda is just the tip of the iceberg.
A couple of her comic strips to amuse you today:
And a fun piece on her unexpected origins.
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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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