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Problematic Alphabet Books
But below we’re gonna talk about the terrible ones:
An ABC of Equality
Overall recommended if only because this is the first book of it’s kind in this era – and way better than previous books such as John Seven’s series on Anarchy.
But would love to see this shared with a link/article for parents to follow to identify and discuss the problematic issues with the book, which would appease folks who are more aware and annoyed by these things, and would give newbies a better understanding of how complex books can be both good and problematic.
Issues: White and brown skin seems to be the primary skin tone color, with other people of color (tan yellow, and pink, both shades so light they code as white to me) thrown in almost as tokens. There’s really not an excuse for a book so socially oriented not to have a wider, and darker, range of skin tones.
The token folks with disabilities reduced to wheelchair and white cane users is kind of frustrating. There are many different ways to visually code folks as disabled, and it’s pretty clear the illustrator didn’t bother to run this by any disability advocates.
“We’re all human beings because of abilities like standing, talking, laughing, and pointing your finger” is a weird thing to put in the human section. LOTS of folks with disabilities don’t do these things.
Regarding the ageism in the text – it’s not written for a board book crowd. But I’m actually okay with that. While the writing certainly could use some editing and clearly wasn’t tested with real kids (lazy! childism!), I see the definitions existing for adults to read and paraphrase to be age-and cognitively appropriate for their kids.
Trying to reduce it to infant or toddler speak would have left the book too vague, particularly since most parent’s don’t ACTUALLY know what many of these issues and terms mean. We’re pretending the books are for the kids, but the books are really for adults who are too insecure to admit they don’t know anything.
So for the sake of scaffolding, I’m okay with the world count. I appreciate the use of a few token chubby folks in there. Could have been done better, and I do notice that everyone has hair and limbs, but this tracks with the entry-level tone of the book.
Privilege can be construed as accessibility “Privilege is when a human being receives benefits and advantages based on a category like gender or class or an ability like seeing and hearing.” (which removes power, promoting ideas such as reverse-racism).
The ‘Sex’ page erases intersex kids (they should have known better, given that they even include intersex in LGBTQIA). Also sex is not always assigned by a doctor, and this feeds into the supremacy of the medical industrial complex. Which again, tracks with the sophomoric SJ basics the author is at.
I’m noticing that those token physically disabled folks are fairly rare and aren’t DOING much (getting pushed (YIKES), handing off an umbrella, holding a tennis racquet). Other than these isolated incidents, they they’re just sitting there inactive. Contrast that with the lively and active tone throughout the book with physically non-disabled kids jumping and swinging and smashing stuff.
An ABC book of loanwords from the Americas (boyden) – centers ‘americas’ and that old ‘multicultural’ chestnut just one click above colorblindnes. “America is a melting pot.” surprising given her other work. author appears to be #OwnVoices indigenous based on the use of ‘we’ “Giveaways are a tradition among most Native People. We often give gifts to visitors and friends.” Talks of Columbus ‘and his crew’ almost like pleasant visitors. Despite the whitewashing and multiculturalism, each word goes into detail in a way that would scaffold or be a good companion to other Native books to show the history (and modern endangering due to settler actions and colonialism) on Native traditions and items, particularly about climate change and endangered animals. Would include this in a collection for indigenous, or even climate justice. but it is basically a nonfic encyclopedia, not at all engaging, particularly for kids under 7. centers settlers and others native kids “Most modern Navajo families live in homes like yours” endangered animals, problematic whitewashing and keeps centering ideas on white encounters, which I guess makes sense since it’s specific words that we’ve picked up by europeans for modern american language “In 1804 when captains Lewis and Clark explored the Louisiana Territory, the Native people they met called the plant by different names, too.” Some problematic ableist language on a controversial guy: “Sequoyah, a crippled Cherokee man who could not read English…” Includes Hawaii as a part of the Americans.
The Waldorf Alphabet Book AKA the living alphabet
– zonneveld – Famously problematic for objectifying Indigenous people. This Waldorf standard has been a thorn in the side of Indigenous academics for decades and the [white] Waldorf community, as a general rule, refuse to let this book die. Depicts Indigenous people as fantasy creatures/animals. Deb Reese has a great breakdown of this, which she actually includes as an Amazon review, where some asshats attack her for it.
AB to Jay-Z
Checked this out for research on Black culture back in 2017, but it doesn’t actually tell you anything about the musicians. Something about this felt OFF about this board book, very performative and shallow, felt like mockery. The whole book read very ‘white-folks-using-words-like-ghetto’ so I double checked. In 2017, I found that the kickstarter page rips off a ton of clips from artists’ music videos and the music to go along with it. Which seemed lazy and kind of shitty. Now that I’m compiling this list in 2020, I did another search. It turns out the author is WAY WORSE than I expected, and is currently in a legal battle with Jay-Z GOOD. These assholes! Note, these are also the creators of 1 2 3 with the notorious BIG.