Luminous Review, Twitter Exodus, and a Thoughtful Airport Encounter | Readers Respond

A roundup of recent feedback.

Calling it quits

I deactivated my [Twitter] account today. Since the takeover a lot of extremists were showing up on my feed and posts from a “news” network that purposely promoted hate and division started showing up. A disgusting post by Musk appeared today and I quit. It’s sad but as someone who works for responsible digital citizenship, I just can’t stay.—Julie Riggs Alford, Facebook

I am among those who are saddened by the loss of Twitter. I've been on it since March 2007. Some of my closest friends were made through library Twitter. We met on Twitter and collaborated in the state library program. I'm saddened that Twitter has turned mean and is unchecked.—Sharon Hrycewicz, Facebook

Twitter was an invaluable resource for professional development- #tlchat was awesome for innovative ideas, tips, etc. Now that Twitter has become a haven of hate and inaccuracy, I would definitely form a community utilizing a newer, safer tool.—Monica Campana, Facebook


Letter to the editor

LUMINOUS is my newest book, inspired by my encounters with bioluminescence and deliberately drawn to portray characters who look like me. Trade review outlets described my characters as “tan”, “brown”, and “dark-haired” after reviewing a digital proof. So when the publishing team and I read SLJ’s reviewA child and an adult, both with pale skin, explore luminous creatures…” we were dismayed. This inaccuracy was more consequential than a misread of pigment; it would strip the characters of their coding as people of color.

Taiwanese Americans experience two forms of discrimination. We could be perpetual foreigners, asked where we’re from and told we don’t belong. Or we could be called “white adjacent” to minimize our experiences of racism. Downplaying our identity as people of color diminishes our unique struggles and pits us against other marginalized communities. Calling people of color pale-skinned without distinguishing them from white people falls into the latter camp.

The publishing team handled all communication with SLJ, receiving this response:
“While the author does identify as American Taiwanese in the author bio, there was nothing in text or illustrations that made me read those characters as being of any specific ethnic or cultural background. Part of the beauty of the book is that the human characters could be from any number of backgrounds or races…”

The reviewer interpreted the characters to have no ethnicity, claiming colorblindness. After calling them pale, they lauded the book as a means by which anyone could project themselves. The problematic insinuation here is that pale skin is a default canvas with which to project oneself.

SLJ has since closed the conversation and declined to view the final physical book, an unusual move in rejecting this step of due diligence. Your review was careless, but your following response was harmful and willfully ignorant.—Julia Kuo


SLJ responds

Julia, thank you for reaching out to School Library Journal with your feedback. We treat every question and concern from our readers very seriously. We’ve been corresponding with your publicist and publisher since late August about your concerns, and they’ve been considered with much care.

Our usual process for addressing corrections and concerns is to evaluate whether the concern in question is a factual error. If we feel that it’s a question that warrants a deeper discussion, we then consult the editorial team and discuss with the reviewer. After lengthy conversations, we decide, as a team, our course of action. We followed these steps.

We decided to tweak the review to add more details of the appearance of the characters, including changing the description of “fair skin” to “pale skin” and adding details about the dark hair and eyes to make the review more accurate. We shared this response with your editor, who called our process supportive and generous. We declined seeing a finished copy, because we had made our decision as group after much thought and care and determined that seeing a physical copy wouldn’t change the outcome.

When your editor circled back to share that you weren’t satisfied with our decision, I invited her/you to submit a letter to the editor, or “Feedback” letter for our consideration.

I do agree that the whitewashing of race, erasure of BIPOC, and default whiteness has been a longtime scourge in children’s books that we should all be actively working against. I just don’t think that is the case in this example.—Shelley Diaz, Reviews Editor


Summit reflections

I ran into this amazing woman while waiting to board my plane. We started talking about my experience with censorship & instead of asking what books got you fired she said what students lives did you save… I think we need to start thinking about censorship that way. #SLJSummit
Elissa Malespina, on Twitter

Loving this conference! Feels good to not feel alone! #SLJSummit
Bethany Winter, Twitter (pictured)

“Asking for inclusion in children’s books [is] inherently political because we live in a society based on winners and losers who possess and distribute power.” #sljsummit
@DanikaBrousseau, Twitter (pictured below)


Florida bound?

“It’s a horrible idea to reward a discriminatory state with your Conference dollars. Participation infers acceptance. I question your decision-making process here.”—Erin MC, Facebook

No need to be in a book banning state.—Marjie Podzielinski, Facebook

To the tune of "Lady Marmalade"

Travis, thank you for these laughs! I respectfully submit an addition: BEST DEDICATION TO SING IN FULL WHEN YOU READ A BOOK ALOUD TO YOUR COLLEAGUES. That award goes to Laurie Keller for Wake Me Up in 20 Coconuts! in which the hilarious dedication to editor Christy Ottaviano can (and should!) be sung to the tune of “Lady Marmalade.” It’s a gem.

Alison Morris, on “Children’s Lit: The Year in Miscellanea”  



Credit: Accessible Twitter icon by Dennis70 licensed under Creative Commons Attribution

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