For many children and young adults today, living with people from another cultural background is both reality and normality. Culturally mixed societies, with all their opportunities and challenges, are also reflected in the literature for young people.
Baobab Books promotes throughout its work a respectful stance towards people from different cultural, social or religious background. Our position is based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which we understand as interrelated and indivisable.
Our committee members evaluate the representation of and the exchange between different cultural backgrounds in contemporary books for children and young adults. The following set of criteria and questions are applied in drawing up the appraisal.
Cultural diversity versus ethnocentrism
Ethnocentrism describes an attitude in which one's own feelings, thoughts and behaviour and one's own lifestyle, culture or religion are not only placed at the centre of the world but are also perceived as superior to other ways of life. Ethnocentrism is an expression of a difficulty to engage with the unknown and the different in an open and non-judgemental manner. The strange and the unfamiliar are perceived as threatening and are dismissed as inferior.
We recommend books that make visible the shared values of different cultures and religions.
Parity versus paternalism and sexism
Paternalism has its roots in the patriarchal value system, in which the 'strong', well-meaning and with protective sentiments, make decisions for the 'weak', instead of facilitating independence and encouraging self-awareness. Paternalism is revealed, for example, in the attitude and behaviour of members of consumer societies towards those in so-called developing countries, but also by the stereotyping and discrimination of others on the basis of their sex.
We recommend books that show different societies, classes or genders as diverse but equal.
Respect versus racism
Racists believe that their own group's biological, i.e. innate characteristics place them above other ethnic groups or peoples. The arrogance inherent in racist thinking and racist systems often leads to the repudiation and repression of other ethnic and cultural groups. Power and economic advantage are the goals of such attitudes. In a racist paradigm, the mixing of ethnicities and cultures is condemned.
We recommend books that depict foreign ethnicities with respect, and whose situations and stories allow the reader to experience other human beings as individuals with feelings, needs and abilities.
Dialogue versus fundamentalism
The term fundamentalism can be used in several different ways. In general today, it denotes the tendency within religious communities to interpret holy texts literally and to declare them as absolutely binding and infallible. This position is often accompanied by the rejection of a democratic and emancipatory society. When fundamentalism transforms into fanaticism, the group or individuals often adopt violence to achieve their goals.
We recommend books that contribute to dialogue and understanding between religions.
→ Responses to useful questions do as well help to evaluate the books.