Friday, May 2, 2014

We Need Diverse Books

Making a quick pop-in (before I re-launch the blog June 1st!) to write a blog post about a topic that has become very dear to my heart.

It's so interesting to me that this whole thing around #WeNeedDiverseBooks is happening right when I started to become very interested in this subject. I am taking an Early Childhood Education class on picture books and we had a whole unit on the lack of diversity in children's literature. I immediately noticed the same can be said for Young Adult fiction as well. I have several thoughts to share on this topic and will list and discuss them below. Please tell me your thoughts, not only on what I have to say, but on the topic in general.

1. I believe most people involved with this movement will agree with me when I say that it should not be about there being a special allotment of books that are published to African American, Latino, Asian, American Indian, etc. writers or protagonists. Because to get to the core of what I'm trying to say here right off the bat, a story about a white girl is just as likely to be as good and genuine and enthralling and well-written as a book about a black boy or an Asian girl or a purple emu...K, the emu one might be a bit strange, but ya get my point, right? We do not need to start discrediting books about white girls and boys, but we do need to start opening our eyes to the fact that there are a lot of them. What's the antidote to this? Not one particular thing, I don't think. But the first step is definitely speaking out about it on a large scale. (Thank you, #WeNeedDiverseBooks Movement.) But spreading the word to friends and family, bookstores, librarians, teachers, random people at the bus stop, can all go a long way. Plus, buying diverse books and talking about them will do a world of help as well. It's all about the awareness people, all about the awareness.

2. In that line of thought, not that I know or foresee anyone doing this, but we SHOULD NOT discredit past books for their lack of diversity. Like I said, a good book is a good book. And there are those sticky entities called publishers that have to OK these books (aka choose these books) before they get published. I hope, most of all, that it is them we get this message to.

3. As writers, despite what I just said about publishers, we can analyze our own character pursuits and choices. I have a total of two book ideas where I know the main character will not be white; and believe me, I have many book ideas, but that's not a bad thing. Because I can have a white character who has dyslexia or is fat or a mental illness or only one leg and that would still be diverse. She or he could also be of mixed race, like me! The bottom line, though, should always be that these characteristics are just that -- a Part of their character, deep, integral, painful, beautiful...or just...there. But not arbitrary. Not glossed over. Not added in for dramatic effect. Not powerless.
Note: Mindy McGinnis, author of the wonderful book, Not a Drop to Drink, tweeted "#WeNeedDiverseBooks because everyone thinks Lynn is white." However, she further developed this thought on FB by saying that she likes to create her characters racially ambiguous so that each reader, regardless of race, might put themselves into the character's shoes. This idea, I really love.

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