Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A Letter from We Need Diverse Books

I reprint in its entirety this letter from Ellen Oh, president of We Need Diverse Books, because it is so excellent:

A Letter From Our President to the WNDB Family

Dear WNDB team members, Advisory Board and liaisons,
Many of us are hurting deeply this morning. Feeling betrayed, lost, hopeless. We have just been told in the most devastating manner that our lives, our communities do not matter. 
Now more than ever We Need Diverse Books. We must stay strong. We must be willing to continue to work hard and fight for all of our rights. There will be immediate dangers for many in our communities, in particular the immigrant, Muslim, and LGBTQ communities. We must support them and stand by their side. And we must continue to do everything we can to diversify children’s literature with own voices. For there is no doubt in my mind that the lack of good representation in children’s books that could be good windows into other lives, is a key reason for the complete lack of empathy in much of the populace. Imagine if these same people had read Last Stop on Market Street or Brown Girl Dreaming or Better Nate than Ever or American Born Chinese. What if they’d read All American Boy? I can’t help but think that some of them might have made a different decision had they only been exposed to diversity at a young age. 
What this proves more than anything is that representation is not only important for marginalized children, but they are equally, if not more important for white, straight, cis-gendered, able bodied kids to read. The lack of diverse books in children’s books has a direct correlation to what we have seen happen this week. And while it is too late to fix what has already happened, we can and must do better for our future generations. We must work harder to diversify the publishing industry. We must work harder to mentor new marginalized voices, we must work harder to promote and distribute diverse books by own voices authors. 
As Jacqueline Woodson said this morning on facebook - “We’ve lived through harder times, y'all. We can do this, too.”
We can do this. But we can also work harder for a better future for our future generations. For as Walter Dean Myers said in his last NYT op ed in March of 2014 “There is work to be done.”
And I believe that we can do it.
All my best,

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