About the Numbers
Characters of Asian descent are most often depicted in stories focused on Asian cultures (Beautiful Life) or in traditional tales (Folklore). Furthermore, very few Asian characters are depicted in books about Oppression & Resilience.
Cultural stories and folktales can provide excellent mirrors* in which Asian children may see themselves reflected, or windows* into Asian cultures for children from other backgrounds. However, an overemphasis on these kinds of stories may also suggest that Asian people are “foreign” or "other," or that Asian cultures existed only long ago and far away. In addition, an absence of books depicting Asian characters experiencing injustice or struggle reinforces the idea that Asian people do not experience oppression.
We argue for balanced portrayals that show the full diversity and humanity of Asian people and cultures, historically and in our modern world.
We invite you to consider the other meanings and effects these numbers may reveal.
*The commonly-used metaphor of “windows and mirrors” was originally articulated by Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop.
Of the 556 books featuring Asian/Pacific Islander/Asian American characters:
|18% are books in which race, ethnicity, tribal affiliation, culture, im/migration, and/or religious, sacred, or origin stories ARE NOT CENTRAL to the story. These elements may be present, but they are not essential to the plot and could be changed without altering the storyline. We call these Any Child Books.|
|45% are books in which race, ethnicity, tribal affiliation, culture, im/migration, and/or religious, sacred, or origin stories ARE CENTRAL to the story. These books explicitly focus on the diverse expressions of human experience, depending on these elements to drive the storyline. We call these Beautiful Life books.|
|10% are Biographies, featuring the life of a particular person or group of people from a historical or contemporary perspective.|
|18% portray relationships between named characters across racial or cultural difference. We call these Cross-Group books.|
|20% are Folklore books, featuring tales, proverbs, songs, or legends and myths that transmit the values, knowledge, traditions, practices and rituals of a people.|
|4% feature a racially diverse cast of non-primary characters or a white or animal main character(s). We call these Incidental books.|
|8% present factual information (with or without a storyline) that does not always have to do with difference. These books may be encyclopedic. We call these Informational books.|
|7% are about group-based injustice and/or struggles for justice. We call these Oppression & Resilience books.|
|6% explore and/or compare specific aspects of human difference, inviting readers to consider varying perspectives related to race, ethnicity, culture, or tribal affiliation. We call these Concept books.|