Constantly on the lookout for how people of color have been represented on book covers over the years, and being in the midst of a weeding (for non-librarians, that means getting rid of old books that nobody takes out anymore) project, I came across this one – Garden of Broken Glass by Emily Cheney Neville (Delacorte 1975). Here is a book which does not include “African American” as a subject (most books that include African American characters seem to). Nothing on the jacket mentions African American characters. Yet here they are in this cover illustration by Jerry Pinkney.
Remember – this is the 70s. It’s my impression that, in that decade, we were far more advanced in representing people of color on books. Even if – as in this one – the subject matter did not focus on color as subject matter (message: regular people come in all colors). In the glitzy 21st century, are we taking giant steps backward?
I fear we are.
Anita Silvey, in Children’s Books and Their Creators (Houghton Mifflin 1995) said this of the book:
Garden of Broken Glass uses shifting viewpoints to examine a group of lower-class multicultureal teenagers. Some readers may find Neville’s use of dialect in the novel to be inauthentic, but it remains a thought-provoking book.
On the positive side, in this century we (or shall I say – publishers) may have gained sensitivity in the way those characters are represented in the text itself?
Garden of Broken Glass: Unable to work out a satisfactory relationship with his brother and sister and cope with their alcoholic mother, a young boy finds solace with neighborhood friends and in his relationship with a stray dog. (What are the Library of Congress subject headings?: Family problems. That’s it. Just family problems.)