About the Numbers
Over half of the books featuring Indigenous characters are stories about specific cultural practices such as language, food, celebrations, traditions, etc. (Beautiful Life). Significantly, this data does not reflect the many books in our collection featuring Indigenous characters in traditional stories from a variety of tribal nations. After being made aware of the problems of coding these stories – particularly those that may be considered sacred – as Folklore, we removed that tag from all stories featuring Indigenous characters. We are in the process of developing a better way to categorize books that feature Indigenous characters in traditional or sacred stories. (Read about this process)
Stories that actively counter the continuing invisibility and erasure of Indigenous cultural productions and practices – 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 trapped within or by “archaic” cultures 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.
We invite you to consider the other meanings and effects these numbers may reveal.
Of the 187 books featuring First/Native Nations/American Indian/Indigenous characters:
|5% do not make race, ethnicity, or culture part of the plot. We call these Any Child Books.|
|50% take readers into the everyday world of characters in countries around the world, with specific cultural components such as language, food, celebrations, traditions, and/or other elements. We call these Beautiful Life books.|
|16% are biographies.|
|15% portray character interactions across racial or cultural difference. We call these Cross-Group books.|
|2% introduce readers to traditions, activities, languages and experiences, and includes all types of retellings and adaptations of traditional folktales. We call these Folklore books.|
|1% have a white protagonist. We call these Incidental books.|
|4% are nonfiction books that may not have a story line and do not always have to do with difference. These books are factual and may be encyclopedic. We call these Informational books.|
|11% are stories of prejudice, mistreatment and discrimination based on race, ethnicity or culture. We call these Oppression books.|
|4% invite readers to consider new perspectives related to racial, ethnic, or cultural commonalities and differences. We call these Concept books.|