Earlier this week, Mia Wenjen of Pragmatic Mom, someone whom we deeply admire, responded to our review of Matt de la Peña’s Carmela: Full of Wishes. She called our attention to de la Peña’s position as one of the accused in the #metoo movement that emerged in recent years among the world of children’s literature.
Rather than respond with another brief comment, we’re taking this as the long overdue moment to acknowledge the #metoo movement and its impact on our work with the Vamos a Leer blog.
While we imagine that many of you are familiar with it, here’s a bit of background. When the #metoo movement in children’s book publishing began in February 2018, prompted by Anne Ursu’s article, “Sexual Harassment in the Children’s Book Industry,” it led to open and difficult conversations across platforms.
A number of acclaimed authors and illustrators drew criticism as women and men began speaking out for the first time. Drew Himmelstein, writing a response piece published by SLJ a month later, observed that “Ursu’s story weaved a narrative that emphasized the patterns and power dynamics that enable sexual harassment at publishing houses, literary conferences and other children’s publishing settings. The piece painted a vivid picture of sexual harassment suffered by authors, illustrators, editors and others that is prevalent even in a female-dominated industry and feeds off of the power discrepancies endemic to the publishing world.”
As space was created to discuss the sexual harassment and unequal power dynamics within the publishing industry, difficult conversations ensued. Among the accused were individuals who had been long revered by many, and whose books held treasured spots on the shelves. This, though, is part of the power of this movement: that individual voices could be heard despite legendary reputations. Matt de la Peña was among those whose names were raised with concerns regarding his conduct toward women.
Similar to many others, de la Peña’s career is characterized by award-winning publications and programming, but these accomplishments should not drown out the voices of the women who have accused him, as Mia Wenjen of Pragmatic Mom pointed out. Thank you, Mia, for making sure that we heard their voices.
We stand with Mia and others working in the field of diversifying children’s literature, particularly for Latinx audiences. To read how others have engaged in this conversation, see De Colores: The Raza Experience in Books for Children and Latinos in Kid Lit – bloggers who responded last year to the #metoo movement, and offered resources to learn more.
Going forward, we will do our best to acknowledge when an author or illustrator has been accused. We will annotate our past posts to include a link to this discussion and will do our best to avoid featuring those individuals in the future. We hear the voices of the men and women who have spoken out, and we stand with them.
~ Vamos a Leer