Race In Books Why I Write Stories For My Mixed-Race Sons

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Race In Books Why I Write Stories For My Mixed-Race Sons

“Tokenism” in books led a father to write and self-publish stories for his mixed-race sons.

Suhmayah Banda, from Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan, said he wanted to write stories that “would allow my kids to see characters that look like them”.

A report for the Book Trust said one third of black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) authors and illustrators in the UK self-publish.

That compares with 11% of white authors and illustrators.

“As a family we read a lot together, and there are so many varied characters out there – animals, monsters, cars, firemen,” said Mr Banda, who is originally from Cameroon.

“But when it comes to ethnically diverse, in my case black or mixed characters, there is just not that much choice out there.”

A study by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education in 2017 found only 1% of children’s books published that year in the UK had a BAME main character, and only 4% included BAME background characters.

https://www.bbc.com

The 2011 census found 14% of people in England and Wales were non-white. In Wales the figure was 4.5%.

‘I didn’t like the generalisation’

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Mr Banda’s characters are based on his sons Tancho, eight, and Charlie, six, and the stories take them on adventures inspired by their recent travels as a family, after moving from the family home in Surrey and settling in Wales in 2018.

But one of the catalysts for his first story was a comment Tancho made after reading a book in school.

“He came home from school one day and told me that people in Africa don’t have water in their houses. And as an African, and a Cameroonian specifically, I was a little surprised,” he said.

“I was like, ‘Really? All of Africa?’…there are a lot of people who have and don’t have things everywhere in the world, so I didn’t like that generalisation.

“Books are the first exposure a lot of kids and adults have to the wider world. And if those books are always written to the same narrative, in many cases misleading or wrong narratives, then it is dangerous on a lot of levels.

“And I wanted to expose my kids, and hopefully others, to a lot more perspectives.”

Race In Books Why I Write Stories For My Mixed-Race Sons

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