As I posted Nick’s links on CSK I was thinking it a bit odd for me to do so, since I had long ago critiqued the CSK rules — the requirement that a winner, or one winner in a team, be African American: tinyurl.com/yza4two And to add to the mix, this Monday, YALSA holds a reception for the five finalists for its new NF award — an award for which I was an early advocate. So here are three crossing strands: I disagree with limiting qualification by ethnicity; I promote an award that has that rule; and I advocate for a new award that has its own restriction (NF). How come?
Intellectually I still do not agree with the idea of using ethnicity to define eligibility — not for CSK, not for Pura Belpre, not at all. If anything, my sense of how tangled and confused ethnicity is has grown stronger. For example — the headlines today are all about Haiti. One reason for the misery in that country is because its neighbor, the Dominican Republic, defines itself as not-Haitian, that is to say, not African. So a person from DR is Hispanic (eligible for Pura Belpre) but — no matter how "African" he or she might seem in a US model — not eligible for CSK — b/c that person is self defined as not black. I don’t see why an award for kids books should get tangled in that morass. And, if anyone asks, yes I apply this just as much to Israel, where I think a crucial problem is that Arab citizens are citizens and yet the nation is defined as a Jewish state.
As a practical matter, though, I think it is good to shine a light on books dealing with African American experiences, or Hispanic, or Muslim, or Jewish, or First American or Asian – to bring to the forefront books that too often are seen as of interest primarily to a minority. We do need to know, to share, to honor, to be interested in all of our heritages and cultures. Books that do this well, books that feature the talents of artists who might otherwise be slighted, deserve special attention.
And that leads to NF — I already see that having a YA NF award makes people aware that YA NF exists — much as Sibert gave new attention to NF for kids up through age 14.
So I am glad to draw attention to CSK, to the books, to the artists, to (most of) the cause for which it stands. And yet at the same time I still resist any ethnic exclusions — in awards, in politics, anywhere. Happy 40th CSK — and on to a future where authenticity is defined by level of knowledge and experience, not by something as contentious and questionable as ethnicity or race.