All the Right Stuff by Walter Dean Myers is a Socratic dialogue about the social contract, the unwritten rules that determine our behavior, wrapped around the barest of plots.
I’m not a big fan of philosophy and I love a good plot, so this one didn’t do it for me.
In the aftermath of the death of his estranged father, Paul begins a summer job working in a soup kitchen. Elijah, the proprietor, quickly begins to teach Paul about more than chopping onions. They get into deep discussions about the social contract, the roles we play and why we do what we do. The debate becomes real as Paul mentors a young teenage mother who sees basketball as her only hope and is being recruited by a local gangster who doesn’t abide by the social contract.
In some ways it reminds me of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, with the philosophic conversation broken up by manual labor (in this case, preparing soup).
In the end it’s just a conversation. It’s all discussion and little action.
But I want a story that actually tells a story.
I read a lot. And in all that reading it’s apparent that diversity is lacking. I like to tell myself that’s because of my own tastes or my own white privilege.
But it’s not just me.
It’s a problem that pervades the publishing industry. Earlier this month I tweeted a story about how 93% of the characters in children’s literature are white. The New York Times has run a pair of opinion pieces on the issue, Where Are All the People of Color in Children’s Books by Walter Dean Myers and The Apartheid of Children’s Literature by Christopher Myers, that gives some context and reality to the dry stats:
“In 1969, when I first entered the world of writing children’s literature,” writes Walter Dean Myers, “the field was nearly empty. Children of color were not represented, nor were children from the lower economic classes. Today, when about 40 percent of public school students nationwide are black and Latino, the disparity of representation is even more egregious. In the middle of the night I ask myself if anyone really cares.”
Continue reading Where’s the Diversity in Literature?