Evaluating authenticity involves considering complex issues, not making a simple yes or no decision about a book. These issues and questions can be useful in thinking about the complexity of cultural authenticity.
- Literary Qualities
How well does the author tell the story? Is it quality literature?
- Origin of book
What is the origin of the book? Who was the original publisher and in what country? Who is the author? illustrator? translator? What are their backgrounds?
How do the author’s experiences connect to the setting and characters in this book? What are the experiences and/or research on which the book is based? Why might the author have chosen this story to tell?
Is this story believable? Could it happen? In what ways does it feel real? Are the characters larger than stereotypes but less than “perfect” heroes?
- Accuracy of details and authenticity of values
What are the inaccuracies within the details of the book? What values are at the heart of the book? How do these values connect to the actual lives of people within the culture? Does this book reflect a specific cultural experience or could it happen anywhere?
Whose perspectives and experiences are portrayed? Who tells the story? What is the range of insider perspectives?
- Power Relationships
Which characters are in roles of power or significance within the book? Who takes action? How is the story resolved? Where does the story go and how does it get there? Who takes it there? Why?
Who is the intended audience? Is the book written for children from that culture or to inform children from other cultural backgrounds about that culture?
- Relationship to other books
How does this book connect with other books about this cultural experience? Do the books reflect a range of perspectives and experiences within the culture?
- Response by insiders
How have insiders responded to this book?
- Connections for your readers
What are the possible connections for students? Is the book accessible?