George Bernard Shaw said, “You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul.” Yikes. Soul revelation. That’s a big job, probably more than most artists signed up for. But maybe if we get more comfortable with how similar all kids are in heart and soul, we’ll get more courageous about revealing – and reflecting – their differences, the things that make them not just unique, but interesting. Art-worthy, even. And then maybe, finally, we’ll end up with a little piece of glass for each and everyone to see themselves in. That doesn’t seem like too much to ask.
We Need Diverse Books Announces Incorporation as a Non-Profit and Inaugural Advisory Board
Grassroots organization files for incorporation as a non-profit organization in the state of Pennsylvania, and welcomes its first advisory board members, authors Grace Lin, Jacqueline Woodson, Matt de la Peña, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and Cindy Pon
New York City, NY (July 19, 2014) More than just a hashtag, We Need Diverse Books is a grassroots organization created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature. We Need Diverse Books is committed to the ideal that embracing diversity will lead to acceptance, empathy, and ultimately equality. Its mission is to promote or amplify diversification efforts and increase visibility for diverse books and authors, with a goal of empowering a wide range of readers in the process.
In order to accomplish its mission, We Need Diverse Books reaches out to individuals and groups involved in many levels of children’s publishing—including but not limited to publishers, authors, distributors, booksellers, librarians, educators, parents, and students. “Incorporating will give us the legitimacy and standing we need to move forward with our mission,” says Lamar Giles, VP of Communications. “We have many exciting projects in the works.”
In addition to a Diversity Festival planned for 2016, We Need Diverse Books plans to initiate a grant program to support diverse authors, bring Diversity into the Classroom with collaborations with First Book and the National Education Association, and develop a “diversity toolkit” for librarians and booksellers.
Inaugural advisory board members includes Grace Lin, Jacqueline Woodson, Matt de la Peña, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and Cindy Pon. “Each of these members has a history of advocating for diverse books, and is a pioneer in the field of children’s literature. They will not only increase our visibility as an organization, but light the way going forward,” said Ellen Oh, President of We Need Diverse Books.
On the heels of its enormously successful panel at the inaugural Book Con, the We Need Diverse Books team has been invited by the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association (NAIBA) to present the first ever diverse author signing and reception, and present panels at the Baltimore Book Festival, National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), the American Library Association (ALA), and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), among others.
We’re heading into August and those dog days of summer. If your “TBR” (to be read) pile is not already a foot high, then here are two more books to add to your reading list.
Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid
Five strangers. Countless adventures. One epic way to get lost.
Four teens across the country have only one thing in common: a girl named LEILA. She crashes into their lives in her absurdly red car at the moment they need someone the most.
There’s HUDSON, a small-town mechanic who is willing to throw away his dreams for true love. And BREE, a runaway who seizes every Tuesday—and a few stolen goods along the way. ELLIOT believes in happy endings…until his own life goes off-script. And SONIA worries that when she lost her boyfriend, she also lost the ability to love.
Hudson, Bree, Elliot and Sonia find a friend in Leila. And when Leila leaves them, their lives are forever changed. But it is during Leila’s own 4,268-mile journey that she discovers the most important truth— sometimes, what you need most is right where you started. And maybe the only way to find what you’re looking for is to get lost along the way. (Image and summary via Goodreads)
The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco
You may think me biased, being murdered myself. But my state of being has nothing to do with the curiosity toward my own species, if we can be called such. We do not go gently, as your poet encourages, into the good night.
A dead girl walks the streets.
She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago.
And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan.
Because the boy has a terrifying secret – one that would just kill to get out.
The Girl from the Well is A YA Horror novel pitched as “Dexter” meets “The Grudge”, based on a well-loved Japanese ghost story. (Image and summary via Goodreads)
why didn’t i know about her?!!
she is everything.
get into lagoon and she who fears death immediately.
i trust your judgement. new additions to my summer reading list ayyy
Consider the stakes. The lack of diversity and equity in the publishing industry is not a theoretical issue for us to intellectualize over coffee. It is an injustice. The destruction of libraries and burning of books has historically been used to strip peoples of their history and culture. Those in power continue to limit the ability of those they have subjugated to share their stories. They retain ultimate control of the narrative and their power.
For our first anniversary, we’re bringing back the discussion post format! In these posts, we ask our contributors for their thoughts on various topics. We’ll post one every Friday this month. Today, we asked:
Why is it that diversity in young adult, middle grade, and children’s literature is often represented as an either/or, without intersectionality? Characters can either be autistic or gay, for example, or a wheelchair user or Black, but rarely both. Why do you think we see so few characters who are marginalized in more than one way?
Snippets of their responses:
Marieke Nijkamp: And if you feel characters have to have a reason to be multi-dimensional, multi-diverse? I’d love to see an equally legitimate reason for characters to be white AND straight AND able-bodied AND middle class AND AND AND.
S. Jae-Jones: In my opinion, it all comes back to this mainstream idea of a “default”. The “default” is relatable. Stray too far from it, and it won’t sell.
Corinne Duyvis: It’s such a multi-faceted problem: first there’s the fact that most people don’t even see the need for these characters–as though people like me aren’t just as real and valid as the cishet-white-abled people who are often written about, and as though we don’t need representation just as much or more.
s.e. smith: The fact is that many people have intersectional identities. Minority teens rarely get to see themselves in text at all, and those who experience multiple oppressions find it even harder to locate books that tell their stories.
Natalie Monroe: I personally think it’s because writers believe once a diverse element is added (ex: queer, ethnicity…), it’s done. Their book is now ‘diverse’ and ‘realistic’. But real life isn’t just one ball in a column, it’s a whole jumble of multicolored spheres across rows of columns.
Please add our own advice in a reblog or in the comments!
There are whispers of a ghost in the slaughterhouse where sixteen-year-old Wen assists her father in his medical clinic—a ghost who grants wishes to those who need them most. When one of the Noor, men hired as cheap factory labor, humiliates Wen, she makes an impulsive wish of her own, and the Ghost grants it. Brutally.
Guilt-ridden, Wen befriends the Noor, including their outspoken leader, a young man named Melik. At the same time, she is lured by the mystery of the Ghost and learns he has been watching her … for a very long time.
As deadly accidents fuel tensions within the factory, Wen must confront her growing feelings for Melik, who is enraged at the sadistic factory bosses and the prejudice faced by his people at the hand of Wen’s, and her need to appease the Ghost, who is determined to protect her against any threat—real or imagined. She must decide whom she can trust, because as her heart is torn, the factory is exploding around her … and she might go down with it.
CLICHÉ: Using food to describe a character’s skin color or race
Have you noticed how writers sometimes describe the physical appearances of non-white characters? A default strategy is to use food-related metaphors and similes. Does your Chinese character have almond-shaped eyes? Does your Nigerian love interest have skin like dark chocolate or espresso? If so, you may have fallen into the dreaded “Foreigner as Food” trope.