2014 Conference

Diverging Diversities:
Plurality in Children’s & Young Adult Literature
Then and Now

Hosted by the University of South Carolina
June 18-21, 2014
Columbia, South Carolina
Columbia Marriott

In 1965, Nancy Larrick wrote an article for the Saturday Review entitled “the All-White World of Children’s Books.” Though Larrick was certainly not the first to draw attention to the lack of diversity in books for children, the empirical evidence that she offered from her three-year study of the new books in the genre clearly illustrated the extent of the problem; publishers recognized that it was time for a change. The children’s books circulating today are no longer “all-white,” but they still fall far short of reflecting the diversity of the U.S. population.

The 2014 Children’s Literature Association Conference invited papers that considered the diversification of the genre--and its limits--both within the U.S. and internationally. The most common understanding of “diversity” in Children’s Literature relates to ethnic and/or racial diversity, but this conference considered the concept more broadly to include disabilities, gender, socioeconomic diversity, regional diversity, depictions of the South in children’s books, how children’s books are being impacted by shifting U.S. demographics (migration to the sunbelt, deindustrialization), multiple adaptations of texts, aesthetic shifts within the genre, internationalization of the genre, historical conceptions of plurality within the genre, historical innovations in form, how the “prizing” of children’s and YA literature has succeeded or failed in embracing diversity, etc. Augusta Baker, pioneer in African American children’s literature in the New York Public Library system, served as USC’s Storyteller-in-Residence from 1980 to 1994; papers on her literary legacy were encouraged. Anital Lobel was a featured speaker at the conference, and an exhibition of her work was integral to the conference.

Though certainly not limited to these ideas, essays addressed:

  • The meaning and significance of diversity in Children’s and YA Literature in the 21st century
  • Innovations in form and aesthetics that focus on diverse populations
  • How texts by and about social and cultural minorities have helped to shape mainstream Children’s and YA Literature
  • The impact of bilingual children’s books and books in translation
  • The role of visual images in diversifying children’s literature
  • The social and cultural influence of diversity in non-book media for children and young adults
  • Projections of how recent developments in the field may continue to diversify the genre.
  • The work of Augusta Baker or a focus on USC’s Augusta Baker Collection in the Hollings Rare Books Library
  • The work of Anita Lobel, a featured artist at the conference
  • Regional influences in Children’s and YA Literature

Claudia Mills - 2014 Presidential Address

2014 Conference Program