Recently, I had the honor of being asked for my thoughts on the We Need Diverse Books campaign and on related topics. The askers, Estelle and Magan, from the Rather Be Reading blog, were conducting an ongoing series of posts devoted to diversity, called Dive into Diversity, and as part of this, they decided to interview several librarians for their ideas and opinions about WNDB. I thank them for their astute questions which encouraged me to delve more closely into my thoughts about the need for books about diverse characters, especially for those written by authors who represent that same diversity. Below I have copied my portion of Estelle’s post as featured in their blog:
On what’s changed since the WNDB campaign became “mainstream”: When I first got into librarianship, if I brought up the need for diversity in YA or kidlit, I’d get uncomfortable silences on listservs and in conversations. Only a few brave souls would answer. There was a deafening silence from the rest. Now that the WNDB campaign is more “mainstream,” many more people are willing to at least listen to the need for diversity.
(Diverse) books and authors you’ve been recommending: Grace Lin, Zetta Elliott, Jacqueline Woodson, Neesha Meminger, Yuyi Morales, Uma Krishnaswami, Mitali Perkins, Janine Macbeth, Misako Rocks, books published by Lee & Low press, Corduroy, the list goes on and on and on!
Patrons and their quest for change: Young parents of color…are keenly aware that they didn’t get to see themselves accurately and genuinely reflected in books as they were growing up, but that they want their kids to have this important connection to literature, in a visceral way. This generation of parents of color are already clamoring for books that represent their lives, their realities, so that they can share these with their children.
On what needs to happen next: …this push for diversity is mistaken as needing to be fulfilled by getting already well-known mainstream white writers to write diverse characters into their books. Don’t get me wrong; this trend is definitely a step in the right direction, for the most part. But what would be WAY more heartening is to see publishers taking chances on a LARGE number of first-time writers of color, to allow the diverse stories to be told through diverse authorial voices.
Note: The original blog post in which the above appears is called Say Hi To a Few Librarians: Dive into Diversity. I also encourage you to check out the rest of their Dive into Diversity challenge, which went from January through December of 2015, and which provides lots of great food for thought as we close out 2015. I also want to give a shout out to Emma at Miss Print, for introducing me via the interwebs to Estelle! :)