I’ve never thought much about how book awards should be until I took this class, and I’ve thought even less about identity-based awards. My initial response is that they are probably a good thing if they cast light on literature about minorities, as I don’t think it gets as much attention. If these book awards are getting more people to pick up more kinds of books while honoring great writers, then I imagine they are accomplishing their goal.
The discussion of identity-based book awards made me think about what setting racial qualifications for awards and honors does for our society. On one hand, I agree that separating the work of minorities from the “mainstream” awards devalues the work of minority authors. On the other hand though, I suppose you could argue that having separate awards is better than minority authors not receiving recognition at all, as seems to be the case in the past.
I am more apt, however, to lean towards Aronson’s argument. Like Amber said in her blog post, “by accommodating “subtle” racism, we are encouraging it.” Having a book award specifically for African Americans or Hispanics seems to follow the logic of “separate but equal” a little too closely for my comfort. In an ideal world, there would not be a need for identity-based book awards because awards like the Printz Awards would showcase the best literature from all cultural groups. I’m not that naive to think that we live in an ideal world like that, but I think having separate awards like the CSK Awards impedes that dream from being realized.
With that said, I was a little concerned by Aronson’s proposed solution to this problem. He suggested that we keep the identity-based awards in place, but take out the qualification guidelines that require authors to be of the award-specific race. In other words, he thinks that white people should be able to win the awards for literature that express the experience of minorities. This argument of his is consistent with similar arguments later in the book, but I’m not sure I would agree with it. Especially when dealing with racial issues that are rooted in a very complex history, this could get murky. For example, I don’t think a person of a different race could truly capture what it means to be the descendant of an African American slave. Nor should they. Also, abandoning this racial qualification leads us down a road to predicting reader-response, which I don’t think is appropriate. If we pick CSK books based on how we think African American children will relate to the book, we stray from the purpose of book awards. I don’t agree with Aronson’s solution to the problem of identity-based book awards.
The issue of identity-based book awards is a reflection of an ongoing debate in our society regarding opportunities for minorities. Though I agree that there is a need for increased recognition of the work of minorities, I’m not sure that adding another book award is the best solution. Bookhenge.