We Need Diverse Books™ is a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.
How we define diversity:
We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities*, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities.
To say that diversifying my reading is a goal in my reading life is an understatement. I cannot stress enough the extent to which I have been persuaded by brilliant writers and book people on Twitter, this article by Walter Dean Myers that I’ve referenced before, organizers like the people I mention above, or the incredibly smart people over at Book Riot that prosthelytize this need constantly. To quote the article I just linked to: “…in 2013, 3,200 children’s books were published, and only 93 of those were about black children. Young readers of color have very few places to go to read stories where they are represented at all.” We NEED to ensure that we are consciously choosing books that feature characters and authors of color.
“Beyond the importance of providing stories in which readers of all types can see themselves, reading diversely is important because of the racial disparity that exists within publishing itself, and the disproportionate difficulty writers of color have in getting their books publicized. Authors of color have difficulty securing agents who don’t pigeon-hole their stories, and they experience countless racial micro-aggressions in the quest to get published. 89% of the publishing industry is white, with only 1% being African-American. A mostly white publishing industry produces mostly books by white authors (not intentionally, necessarily, just as the result of internalized biases we all carry and of systemic racism) and put publicity money mostly behind white authors. That means those white authors then go on to win most of the awards, land most (or all) the spots on the best-seller lists, and be singled-out for recognition by readers on the biggest bookish social media platforms– whether or not better books were written that year by POC- which means more white authors are signed to publishing houses, and on the cycle goes. The only thing readers can do to break that cycle is to make sure publishers notice that we’re buying more and more books by diverse authors. It’s the thing readers can do to combat prejudice in both the publishing and book world, and within ourselves.”
In the latest Book Riot podcast, the hosts discussed how seeking out more diverse books is by no means an enormous sacrifice – I’m still reading incredibly high quality books. Moreover, I would argue I haven’t even had to try that hard to find these books because they are already pretty mainstream or already pretty dang good. Some of my diverse choices from the past few months include:
I share all this not to sound like a big know-it-all or be all superior and progressive. In fact, all I did here was quote and link to people smarter than me who have been talking about this for ages. I say this because I believe in diverse reading so much and think about it every day. I hope you will think about it a little more too.
In the two years since her father died, sixteen-year-old Eva has found comfort in reading romance novels—118 of them, to be exact—to dull the pain of her loss that’s still so present. Her romantic fantasies become a reality when she meets Will, who seems to truly understand Eva’s grief. Unfortunately, after Eva falls head-over-heels for him, he picks up and moves to California without any warning. Not wanting to lose the only person who has been able to pull her out of sadness—and, perhaps, her shot at real love—Eva and her best friend, Annie, concoct a plan to travel to the west coast to see Will again. As they road trip across America, Eva and Annie confront the complex truth about love.
If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you’ll see I’ve written about this book and how obsessed I was while reading it. The synopsis of this book does not do it justice as it is a story that transcends a simple “will they or won’t they.” What I don’t understand is why this isn’t on everyone’s Best of 2015 list and being talked about everywhere.
Strongly reminiscent of Sharon Creech’s Bloomability (a book that has had an incredibly profound influence on me going on 15+ years), I fell deeply in love with this book’s deft handling of grief, poetry, female relationships, and mother/daughter issues. Maybe I’m biased because I’ve spent years admiring the words of Adrienne Rich, e.e. cummings, and Elizabeth Bishop (shout-out to AP Lit in high school for that last one!); however, how brave and noble for a YA author to dive so deeply into these poems while still making them engaging, thematically relevant, and so strikingly emotional. The prose was stunning, and the story itself was somehow both heart-breaking and healing. I am going to read this book again and again.