May 25, 2014

Discussion: #WeNeedDiverseBooks

If you have any sort of social media account, specifically a Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram, you may have noticed a popular hashtag going around lately--#WeNeedDiverseBooks. You may have read through a few Tweets to see what it's all about, maybe skim an article or two that pops up on your timeline, or maybe you just continued on with your day without stopping to think. I, however, think it's important to stop and think. Especially about a topic like this. What exactly, though, is this?

Where did this start?
The #WeNeedDiverseBooks social media uproar started when BookCon (which is this Saturday, May 31st) announced the lineup of children's authors (such as James Patterson, Jeff Kinney, and Rick Riordan) that would be attending. It just so happened that all of those authors are white. (We are not saying in any way, shape, or form that BookCon has any racial prejudice--just making that clear.) This little fact was an eye-opener to the community, and it was a shock well needed--our children's literature lacks the important diversity that it needs.

What happened after?
The response to this realization was absolutely overwhelming. It started with just a few authors and publishers venting through social media about how "we needed diverse books" regarding the announcement and just children's literature in general. Shortly after, the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks began, and authors, readers and ordinary people alike started Tweeting like crazy. Here are just a few of them:

"#WeNeedDiverseBooks because we live in a colorful planet." -Stacey Lee

"#WeNeedDiverseBooks because this generation of "minority" kids will grow up to be the majority. Duh." -Lisa Yee

"#WeNeedDiverseBooks because my half-Japanese kids would love to have some role models they can relate to." -Ben L. J. Brooks

"#WeNeedDiverseBooks because books should make readers feel less alone in this world, not more alone in it." -Courtney Summers

"“#WeNeedDiverseBooks because fiction reflects the world, and thankfully, wonderfully!--the world is not monochromatic or uniform.” -Jodi Picoult

What are my views on this?
I agree with this campaign wholeheartedly. When I think about this debate, the first thing that pops into my mind is how everyone was so shocked when surprised when The Princess and the Frog was released and Disney had created the first black princess. The situation isn't exactly the same, but pretty close--Disney was choosing to accept equality and diversity, and man, did people talk about it.

So is #WeNeedDiverseBooks more or less the same? Absolutely. Authors can write whatever they feel they want to--as a writer, you're given that creative freedom--but they need to keep in mind that the world isn't black and white, short and tall, old and new. Our planet is not just this thing and that thing. Our planet is this thing and that thing and that thing over there and that thing in the corner and that thing way over that way and that thing right here. Diversity is slowly trickling into all sorts of cracks and spreading in all sorts of places--so why not this?
"The whole idea of [the] #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign is about the need for people to get involved. We need every single person who cares to do something and let their voice join with ours because their one voice might be the one that makes the difference." -Ellen Oh (www.bookriot.com)
Long story short, I feel that diversity in literature for not only younger children, but also young adults and late teens, needs to not be "enforced," because this isn't a law. It isn't a rule. However, authors should express unique ideas and push boundaries if they see fit--there are no "rules" for how characters should look and behave and act. We need to embrace diversity in reading, because writers and readers are gifted with the ability to open their mind to endless possibilities--why not make diversity in books one of them?










If you're interested in reading more about #WeNeedDiverseBooks, follow their Twitter by clicking here, attend their panel at BookCon (10:00am at the Javits Center in NYC), or read up on the campaign by checking out some of the articles below:

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