Wednesday News: Peter Matthiessen dies, Amazon #3 in streaming video, VIDA on children’s lit, and Indian mascots in children’s lit
Peter Matthiessen, Co-Founder Of The Paris Review, Dies At 86 – Peter Matthiessen died last week of acute myeloid leukemia. He may be best remembered for the writing he did in the wake of his world traveling, but Matthiessen was also a lifelong community and political activist, and he initially wrote his non-fiction for profit. He also had an early career stint in the CIA, recruited into the organization by one of his Yale professors. In fact, apparently his involvement in founding The Paris Review was merely a cover.
He is the only writer to ever win the National Book Award in the categories of Fiction (for Shadow Country) and General Nonfiction (for The Snow Leopard, which also won for Contemporary Thought). He was also a political activist, a Buddhist teacher, co-founder of The Paris Review and, briefly, a spy. –NPR
Amazon Passes Apple, Hulu to Become Third Biggest Streaming Video Service in the US – I have to say this surprised me. Third, behind Netflix and YouTube, Amazon’s Instant Video service has been building customers via Prime, making more sense of Amazon’s recent entrance into the streaming media device business. –TheDigital Reader
VIDA releases report on gender representation in children’s literature – This is a pretty interesting graphic, at least in terms of male – female parity within the children’s literature industry. The gaps in producers (authors and illustrators) do not seem huge, especially when you note that there are different combinations of author and illustrator. However, where you really see the dominance of men is among those books that win awards and make lists. So women don’t seem to have as much difficulty working in the industry, but they tend not to get the awards and recognition their male counterparts do. Also, there are deeper problems in terms of diversity:
Children’s literature also has a representation problem when it comes to its characters. A 2013study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin revealed that out of 3,200 children’s books published last year, only 93 were about black people. And the study wasn’t representative of an off year. This infographic demonstrates the diversity gap in children’s books over an 18 year period. –Feministing
How Children’s Books Fuel Mascot Stereotypes – Speaking of diversity in children’s literature, this link came out of a Twitter discussion about the imagery connected to the Chicago Blackhawks. It’s a pretty interesting analysis of the extent to which children’s literature sustains certain cultural, national, and racial stereotypes, and perhaps influences how people view these stereotypes as adults. Debbie Reese, who is Pueblo, also gives her view on how Native Americans should be viewed relative to the “people of color” category. I should note that her perspective is not universally shared among indigenous peoples or nations, but it is one that highlights the unique relationship that exists between the United States and sovereign Indian nations.
At University of Illinois, which was very white, I wanted to understand why this mascot had so much power. I noticed that children’s books had the very same image of a character in a headdress that is so popular in mainstream America. Clifford the Big Red Dog, for example, dressed as an Indian for Halloween wearing a big headdress. He embodied the stereotypes of the stoic and stern Indian. I saw similar images in [a] Berenstain Bears book [among] others. So I was sticking with my interest in children’s literature, but looking at it in a more politicized way by focusing on what kinds of messages the books were passing along to children, to help me understand why people would be so attracted and attached to a mascot. –Colorlines