Monday, October 13, 2014

We Need Diverse Everything

There's been a lot of talk in the children's publishing industry around diversity. The #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign started in a Twitter exchange on April 17, 2014 between authors Ellen Oh and Malinda Lo expressing their frustration with the lack of diversity in kidlit in response to the all-white, all-male panel of children's authors assembled for BookCon's reader event.

This need has been expressed many times over the years. From the 1965 article published in The Saturday Review titled "The All-White World of Children's Books" to the 2013 New York Times piece "Where Are the People of Color in Children's Books?"

The sad truth is that the need for diversity is critical in all forms of media, expression and entertainment. And it doesn't end with the color of skin. Whether it be female, sexual orientation, or differently abled, the world is more than your average white guy.

What makes reading such a unique collaboration between author and reader, is that the reader brings their individual perspective and world outlook to add to the story, truly bringing the story to life. I can only speak for myself, but the "visual" that goes on in my head while reading doesn't necessarily match the description on the page (or even the book cover jacket). Most times it's as if I'm in the main character's shoes, experiencing his adventure.

I don't want to be spoon-fed only physical characteristics or stereo-typical traits and situations in order to bring more diversity into the world of books. Books need diverse experiences where the reader connects emotionally to the story line. I'm not a white girl growing up in New Jersey, nor did I ever wear belted sanitary napkins. But I remember being fully in love with the book Are You There God? It's Me Margaret, because I connected with the 6th grader's authentic truth of exploring religion and dealing with preteen female issues (buying a first bra, getting her first period, liking boys, etc). matter if it's a song, movie, book or news segment...connect us with others by "living" through another's experience. I would love more than anything to see greater diversity, on the screen and on the page. The more we see and read other's struggles and triumphs, of people with different beliefs, status and race, the more we'll realize that we all experience the same emotions and desires, just in different ways.

diversify your world,

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