Thursday, May 22, 2014

DIVERSIFYING KIDLIT (Part 1): #WeNeedDiverseBooks


There is a campaign to diversify Kidlit. There has always been conversation concerning the lack of multiculturalism in the publishing industry especially in "Kidlit". But a couple months ago, the conversation was brought to the forefront when Walter Dean Myers and his son, Christopher, wrote articles in the New York Times entitled "Where Are the People of Color in Children's Books?"  and "The Apartheid of Children's Literature." 

The article sparked conversations, comments, and conflicting ideas - both good and bad - about the lack of "People of Color (POC)" in books geared towards children.

 The truth is I love great books. I love books with characters that enables me to feel like I am she and she is me. I love books with awesome settings. Settings I can visualize just by closing my eyes and letting my imagination be my aircraft zooming through a place I long to visit. And I love books with problematic plots. Plots that twist and turn, flip and flop, and whirl and twirl out of control that I am flipping the pages while begging for it to end happily. 

 But I would be telling stories if I said I did not agree with the article. I think it is important that we tell stories so each child can relate. I think it is important that children see themselves in books. As Todd Burleson said to me in a conversation we had, "Books should serve as windows and mirrors. Mirrors so children can see themselves. And windows so they can look into the lives of others." This statement was so profound. I loved it. He is right. That is why #WeNeedDiverseBooks.

As writers, we should all aspire to touch every child. We want them to cry, laugh, and connect with the characters. We want them to dream about the setting as they explore the crooks and crannies with their imaginations. And we want them to walk away saying, "This is one of the best books I've read."

Now, your question is "What is #WeNeedDiverseBooks?" According to their website,

"We Need Diverse Books is a grassroots organization created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature. We Need Diverse Books is committed to the ideal that embracing diversity will lead to acceptance, empathy, and ultimately equality. We recognize many kinds of diversity, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, those impacted by their gender, those with disabilities, ethnic/cultural/religious minorities, etc. Our mission is to promote or amplify diversification efforts and increase visibility for diverse books and authors, with a goal of empowering a wide range of readers in the process.
In order to accomplish our mission, we reach out to individuals and groups involved in many levels of children’s publishing—including (but not limited to) publishers, authors, distributors, booksellers, librarians, educators, parents, and students."

How can you help? You can start off by joining the campaign. Tell us why #WeNeedDiverseBooks. Use the hash tag and tweet your response. Then you can choose to upload a picture of yourself with your reason and post it on Twitter. Join the Facebook group. Follow them on Tumblr. Take Kate Messner's Challenge - I did!

Where to find #WeNeedDiverseBooks:

Tumblr :
Twitter :

What are authors and lit agents saying about this campaign?
Mike Jung@Mike_Jung May 9
because there are people who describe advocacy on behalf of readers who lack privilege as "whining" and "complaining."
Agent Erin Murphy Retweeted by and 1 other
More like these! (Pulled off EMLA archive shelves and EMLA clients' backlists.) More more more!



  1. Great post, Jackie! I like Todd's quote, too.

  2. Thanks for highlighting the Campaign, Jackie! And just to clarify on Todd's wonderful quote—the idea of windows and mirrors has also been around as long as this discussion, and it's important to credit the women who were behind it. From the Lee and Low site: "This quote seems to have originated in the late 1980s from either Rudine Sims Bishop or Ginny Moore Kruse. Neither of them remembers the exact date or situation of its first use, so we cite both of them." Also, Lucille Clifton, poet and children's book author who was a champion for diverse kidlit from 1970-2000s also used this analogy often when she taught. Glad to keep this conversation going!

  3. Thanks, Miranda. I will edit and quote your reference. Thanks for responding. :)

  4. Jackie, as usual, you have lit a fire for conversation and are shining a light on a very important topic. I so agree and have been making sure I include diverse books in my GROG posts, for gifts I buy and for the book talk for grandmas I'm doing early June at an indie bookstore. Go forward and DIVERSIFY!

  5. Such an important campaign, Jackie! Thanks for bringing it to the attention of GROG readers. If we all do our part, we'll make change happen.

  6. Simply, Yes. Brava. Bravo. More, Yes.