Barnes & Noble Tried To Create ‘Diversity’ Editions Of Classic Books – And The Internet Said ‘Ummm No’

Representation matters. Diversity is extremely important. This is especially true when it comes to literature. Specifically, literature for children and young adults. For children, the stories they read at a young age are the ones that stay with them forever. Many marginalized children do not see themselves in literature that is considered “classic”. You know, the stories that were written 50 or 100 years ago, but every school forces students to read? In an effort to promote more diversity in literature, Barnes & Noble bookstore has announced that the location on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, NY will be selling a bunch of classics, this time with diverse covers. It’s safe to say that people are do not happy.

Let’s make one thing clear, no one is opposed to the idea of ​​diversity in children’s literature. Although it has made great strides, the lack of diversity in KidLit is still quite pronounced. The reason people are upset is because of How? ‘Or’ What Barnes & Noble has chosen to promote diversity.

On February 4, as part of a special part of Black History Month, Barnes & Noble Fifth Avenue and Penguin Random House announced plans for “various editions” of classic books. Many of the books are children’s or young adult literature. The “Diverse Editions” of the books had five versions per book – each representing a different marginalized group. People are horrified by the decision, which is frankly bullshit. They were also planning a launch party at the store.

Many authors of color, especially the authors of KidLit, were quick to take to Twitter to let Barnes & Noble and Penguin Random House know how badly they had taken a misstep. You can’t just put a black Frankenstein on the cover and call it a day. It’s performative diversity – not only is it the bare minimum, it’s horribly offensive.

What Barnes & Noble didn’t take into account was that a lot of the books were just…racist. You can’t put a native Dorothy on the cover of The Wizard of Oz and ignore L. Frank Baum’s feelings toward native people. You can’t put a dark-skinned girl on the cover of The secret garden and pretending there isn’t a place in the book where the main white character is horrified to hear people think she’s East Asian Indian. Changing a cover is just that – adding a new cover. Inside the pages remains the same racist, outdated crap that has always been there.

On February 5, Barnes & Noble got the message. They shared a tweet announcing the cancellation of the party and the release of the book. Everyone is of course delighted that these trashy versions of the classics do not see the light of day. There are so many ways to show diversity and support marginalized authors. Hitting a Latinx Peter Pan on the cover of a book is definitely not the right way to do it. Not now, never.

As many writers have pointed out, it takes literally nothing to promote the work of marginalized writers. Instead of planning this rebranding, they could use this energy to promote the many modern retellings of classics that exist.

If you’re looking for retellings of those classic stories that are actually diverse, there’s a lot of options there. Here is just a small sample, but the list is longer.

If you want Alice’s Adventures in Wonderlandto verify A blade so black by LL McKinney

This story features a black Alice with a sword. Wonderland is still fantastic, but it’s a dream world full of monsters that only Alice can slay. There are already two books in the series, with the third coming out later this year.

If you want The Wizard of Ozread it Dorothy must die series by Danielle Paige.

Much like L. Frank Baum’s original series, there are several books devoted to this reimagining of Oz. Amy Gumm has a pretty rough life in Kansas. But things only get complicated when a twister transports her and her mother’s pet rat to Oz. When they arrive, the townspeople tell him that they must defeat an evil tyrant queen named Dorothy. There’s nothing sweet or endearing about this version.

If you want CinderellaLily Ash by Malinda Lo.

In this story, not only are Cinderella, or Aisling, or Ash teenage witches, but they’re also super queer. Ash’s stepmother has her sick father transported and killed, making Ash a servant in her home. So she hatches an escape plan by forming an alliance with a fairy prince. But who wants to be a fairy princess when there’s Kaisa, the king’s huntress, who’s single? and warm?

If you want Pride and PrejudiceLily Pride by Ibi Zoboi.

In this story, Elizabeth Bennet is Zuri Benitez. Zuri is an Afro-Latin girl living in Bushwick, Brooklyn. But Bushwick is undergoing major gentrification. In addition to the many Starbucks, the wealthy Darcy family moves across the street with their two sons. Things get complicated and Zuri must understand her feelings for Darius Darcy.

If you like the story of King Arthur, read past and future by Cori McCarthy and Amy Rose Capetta.

First of all, this book is queer AF. And not only that, but the future King Arthur is a brunette girl named Ari who is a space refugee. Merlin is a gay teenager. Ari’s Knights of the Round Table are a cast of mostly brown fellow cast members, but they are also gender and sexually fluid.

If you want FrankensteinLily Destructive by Victor LaValle.

Not only is it a retelling of the Mary Shelley classic, but it also gets a significant and current update. Dr. Jo Baker is one of the last descendants of Victor Frankenstein. When his son Edward is shot dead by the police who will suffer no consequences, Dr. Baker puts his skills as a “mad” scientist to good use.

Hopefully the top brass at Barnes & Noble actually heard what people are saying. If you’re looking to amplify various voices, find them. They’re out there, and the books are so much better than those 100-year-old stories.

About Marcia G. Hussain

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