#WeNeedDiverseBooks

#WeNeedDiverseBooks Mission Statement: 

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.

Reactions – Kissing in America by Margo Robb

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.

Books I’m looking forward to this fall/winter of 2015

Seasons are my favorite part of living in the Midwest. I love fall (like almost everyone I know) and also love the necessity to stay home and read when it’s cold out. Indeed, I would argue cold weather reads are better than warm ones. Here are some of the books I’m looking forward to reading this fall and winter in Chicago when the wind starts to bite and going out becomes too much work with its multi-layer requirement.

From New York Times and internationally bestselling author Isabel Allende, an exquisitely crafted love story and multigenerational epic that sweeps from San Francisco in the present-day to Poland and the United States during the Second World War.

When I was in high school, I read Love in the Time of Cholera and fell in love with literature in translation. I then discovered Allende not long after. There’s something really amazing about reading a book that was essentially written once and then re-written again (as it is being re-interpreted by a translator). I haven’t read every book by Allende, but the ones I have read are some of my all-time favorites. Lastly, just say the world multigenerational and I’m there because I love myself a good epic.

From the author of the beloved New York Times bestselling book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? and the creator and star of The Mindy Project comes a collection of essays that are as hilarious and insightful as they are deeply personal.

When I read her first book, I literally wanted to underline every single sentence. This book comes out simultaneously around the same time that her new show debuts on Hulu. I. cannot. wait.

Two seemingly unrelated stories–one in words, the other in pictures–come together. The illustrated story begins in 1766 with Billy Marvel, the lone survivor of a shipwreck, and charts the adventures of his family of actors over five generations. The prose story opens in 1990 and follows Joseph, who has run away from school to an estranged uncle’s puzzling house in London, where he, along with the reader, must piece together many mysteries.

Selznick’s books are literally works of art that deserve all the awards forever. I cried reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret and have no doubt this will exceed my already incredibly high expectations.

Devon Ravenel, London’s most wickedly charming rake, has just inherited an earldom. But his powerful new rank in society comes with unwanted responsibilities . . . and more than a few surprises. His estate is saddled with debt, and the late earl’s three innocent sisters are still occupying the house . . . along with Kathleen, Lady Trenear, a beautiful young widow whose sharp wit and determination are a match for Devon’s own….

Honestly, the rake story has been overdone so much it’s ridiculous… but Lisa Kleypas is my favorite romance author of all time – In fact, I have read Dreaming of You more often than any other book (all Harry Potter books included). The early buzz on this book is awesome, and this is the first time I seriously considered begging anyone I could for an ARC.

If you love holiday stories, holiday movies, made-for-TV-holiday specials, holiday episodes of your favorite sitcoms and, especially, if you love holiday anthologies, you’re going to fall in love with My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by twelve bestselling young adult writers, edited by international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins. Whether you enjoy celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or New Year’s there’s something here for everyone. So curl up by the fireplace and get cozy. You have twelve reasons this season to stay indoors and fall in love.

I met Stephanie Perkins at Anderson’s YA Lit Conference last year and she promoted this book there. I’ve held off on ordering it but re-read her Anna and the French Kiss series and just had to order this too. I’m waiting for after Thanksgiving to dive in.

Rainbow Rowell continues to break boundaries with Carry On, an epic fantasy following the triumphs and heartaches of Simon and Baz from her beloved bestseller Fangirl.

Simon Snow just wants to relax and savor his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest, and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he’ll be safe. Simon can’t even enjoy the fact that his roommate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can’t stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you’re the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax and savor anything.

This book is a pretty major departure from previous book she’s written with its fantasy label though simultaneous a deep dive into the fan fiction she dabbled in with Fangirl. With an LGBT love story and a fresh approach, I cannot wait to get my hands on this because I Love Ms. Rowell with a capital L.

As an older man, Juan Diego will take a trip to the Philippines, but what travels with him are his dreams and memories; he is most alive in his childhood and early adolescence in Mexico. “An aura of fate had marked him,” John Irving writes, of Juan Diego. “The chain of events, the links in our lives—what leads us where we’re going, the courses we follow to our ends, what we don’t see coming, and what we do—all this can be mysterious, or simply unseen, or even obvious.”

I left this book until the end because I’m not sure I’ll actually read it. I’ve heard some very mixed but mostly negative reviews about it so far. I always cite John Irving as one of my favorite authors of all time, but I’ve admittedly not read his last two books. Nonetheless, I’ll stay current on the conversation and dive in if it starts to trend toward the positive.

If you’re interested in more fall/winter arrivals, I found this list to be more comprehensive. Hoodies, hot coffee, and snuggles under the covers with a good book are approaching, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Reactions – From my TBR list: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks out over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying.

And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio’s back lot—searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.

I recently fell in love with Jess Walter’s podcast with Sherman Alexie called A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment where they discuss author stuff and also humanity (that’s me paraphrasing this awesomeness). I randomly also had just bought Beautiful Ruins for $1 at a used book sale in Oak Park when I discovered this podcast and I’m just so happy I did because it had been on my TBR list forever – admittedly, for its distractingly stunning cover.

My favorite thing about this book is its subtle shifts in perspective that magically demonstrate a stunning, sometimes haunting and other times hilarious, variety of voices. The characters are complex, unique, and captivating; the gradual reveal of story and character is done with a constant and engaging back and forth in time. The discussion of film and pop culture is so satisfying and interesting. The “multigenerational” approach and the satire are both also very interesting without being too long or pedantic. The best part of this book is the climax that is masterfully woven and left me with goosebumps.

I will read this book again. It was phenomenal.

Well

School has started, and I’m exhausted. I hope to keep posting pictures and articles that inspire me and remind me why I do what I do! I saw this posted on Facebook by Patricia Polacco. If you haven’t read a book by her, fix that immediately.