Representation is essential and must be accurate. Introducing characters who represent various social, economic, cultural, or racial backgrounds without genuinely investing inaccurate depictions can be viewed as disingenuous to those who share these backgrounds.
A study conducted by Research Gate examined cultural authenticity reflected in multicultural children’s picture books that featured African American, Asian American, and Hispanic American cultures. The study illuminated that authenticity cannot be blanketed because each group is depicted differently in literature.
One argument from the study suggested that in order to depict various cultures in children’s literature accurately, there needs to be a clear definition of cultural authenticity. Another argument noted that someone from inside that culture is needed to ensure authenticity.
“Diversifying literature should be an intentional act.”
An example in media where authenticity was overlooked can be seen in a popular Netflix show, Emily in Paris. The show, which follows a young woman in her twenties leaving the United States to build her marketing career in France, received immediate criticism for its cliche representation of Paris.
The main character eats croissants and has coworkers who show up to work when they want while other cliches continue throughout each episode. French critics quickly called out the show for its characterization of the people of Paris, their culture, and the Capitol itself.
As the push for inclusion in literature and all media continues, it requires an actual investment in educating oneself about the history and culture of the community represented. That prioritization is important because it will reflect in the literature selected for classroom instruction, collections, publication, personal growth, and self-education.
Ireadify.com is a digital collection of children’s books with diverse characters, cultures and people from around the world. Children birth-to-14-years-old can read ebooks and listen to audiobooks in many languages with authentic dialects.