About the Numbers
The majority of books featuring Indigenous characters are stories about specific tribal and cultural practices such as language, food, celebrations, traditions, etc. (Beautiful Life).
Stories that actively counter the continuing invisibility and erasure of Indigenous cultural productions, practices, and peoples – both historically and today – are hugely important. However, an emphasis on these kinds of stories risks ignoring other equally important dimensions of Indigenous peoples lived experiences. An abundance of these stories may also reinforce the racist stereotype of “the native” as somehow trapped by culture or tradition and incapable of living a “modern life.”
We argue for balanced portrayals that represent the full humanity, and importantly, contemporary and multidimensional experiences of Indigenous peoples today.
We invite you to consider the other meanings and effects these numbers may reveal.
Of the 338 books featuring First/Native Nations/American Indian/Indigenous characters:
|16% 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.|
|59% 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.|
|17% are Biographies, featuring the life of a particular person or group of people from a historical or contemporary perspective.|
|12% portray relationships between named characters across racial or cultural difference. We call these Cross-Group books.|
|3% are Folklore books, featuring tales, proverbs, songs, or legends and myths that transmit the values, knowledge, traditions, practices and rituals of a people.|
|3% feature a racially diverse cast of non-primary characters or a white or animal main character(s). We call these Incidental books.|
|5% 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.|
|13% are about group-based injustice and/or struggles for justice. We call these Oppression & Resilience books.|
|3% 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.|