#WeNeedDiverseBooks formed in direct response to the all white male panel selected to be the voice of kidlit at BookCon. The movement happened because so many people are so tired of the lack of books that feature characters of diverse ethnicity, sexual preference or religion. This issue is simply the tip of the iceberg and as such, will have no simple solution. What I’m saying is, it ain’t over.
As readers/consumers we have to remain vigilant. Watch the lists and articles to be sure they are truly diverse and if not, call them on it! Request books at your local library and book store by authors of color. There are plenty of suggestions on what we as readers can do but the real work lies with publishers. Not only do books need to be published by authors of color, by Native Americans, authors who are LGBTQ or with different abilities but these works need to have the same support mechanisms as other authors: they need to be promoted and rigorously edited. Except that the models publishers continue to follow only promote top performing authors regardless of their color. How do you get to the top if you’re never given the resources and support to get there?
Maybe you make a shift.
When we look at what readers can do, we’re simply circling the tip iceberg. We need to be there, circling or no one else will see the danger. But circling doesn’t diminish the iceberg.
Lyn Miller Lachmann writes
Book people need to join with other civil rights activists and at the same time make clear that diversity in children’s books is a civil rights issue as much as diversity in film, television — and political participation. The various struggles to establish and defend Mexican-American Studies programs in Arizona and Texas can serve as models of a successful alliance between the book world and the civil rights world. When the State of Arizona banned the program, the resistance demonstrated that books matter, that stories, language, and the written word are important aspects of one’s culture and identity.
Over the next few weeks, I hope to introduce you to few players who are recreating the game for the sake of our children. That’s what we have to remember, this is for our children.
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Thank you for the shout-out, Edi! I’m working on an article now about Chicanas and the Civil Rights Movement, and one of the key works–the anthology This Bridge Called My Back–is out of print and extremely hard to find. This anthology was a political and literary game-changer, but no major publisher would touch it despite steady sales. Its three editions were each published by small presses. I agree with you that “the real work lies with publishers” and it’s telling that publishers are particularly resistant to diverse books that also challenge the dominant power structure.
Last week I was in Kennar Louisiana, I was at the 19th annual Romance Slam Jam conference of African American romance authors. For the first time they held “Teen Scene” where local libraries and schools sent teens to the conference on Saturday May 10. I was one of four African American YA authors who met with the kids. It was inspiring to see them, hear their comments about reading, and to be pummeled by questions from aspiring young writers. The enthusiasm was there, as well as a little shock at seeing actual published black authors. You could tell some of them had not really believed it was possible. They stood in line to get books and have them autographed, and the librarians had to pull them away to get back on their bus to go home. Kids of color are absolutely hungry for books about them, and for authors who look like them to be role models. I applaud the conference for organizing the event, and hope to see it repeated next year.
It’s been a great campaign. I hope it makes a huge impact with long-term effects. Everyone–readers, agents, editors, and everyone else involved–need to now mean it and get into action.
Reblogged this on The Eclectic Kitabu Project.
Lyn, there is so much that needs to change to simply get and sustained a high quantity and high quality of children’s and teen books that feature characters of color
Thanks so much for sharing that! I applaud YOU for attending that conference!
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