Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Let's Make More Diverse Books

I recently had the honor of writing this post for the Chronicle Books blog and am happy to get to share it with you here:

If you ask me, by far one of the coolest things to happen to publishing in the 21st century so far is We Need Diverse Books—a grassroots coalition of authors, bloggers, librarians, educators, and industry folks coming together to “advocate essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.”

The organization’s mission is to “put more books featuring diverse characters into the hands of all children” and its vision is “a world in which all children can see themselves in the pages of a book.”

Here at Chronicle Books we admire and love what We Need Diverse Books does, and we partnered with them last Giving Thursday to help get some of our own diverse children’s books into classrooms that need them.

Simply put: it’s a group that’s inspiring as heck. And you know what I wish? I wish the adult publishing world would get inspired by We Need Diverse Books and do something similar for grown-up books.

Because in the same way that that it’s essential for children to see kids like themselves reflected back to them in the books they read, it’s essential for adults to have books that reflect back their own experiences and those of their people.

And in the same way that diverse books help children learn the about the lives of people different from themselves, so too do adults also need a greater understanding of lives different from their own. Both children and adults need constant reminders that different isn’t wrong, that the true nature of our world is one of variety and multiplicity, that fear of otherness is our enemy and empathy our one true purpose.

We need diverse adult fiction. We need diverse art books (my own personal bailiwick). We need diverse history, and spirituality, and humor, and celebrity memoirs. We need diverse books about everything and everybody because books are for everybody.

Do diverse adult books already exist? Of course they do. But could we do better? Of course we could. Just go back to the statistics about who works in publishing—the industry is 79% white—and it’s clear it’s an imperfect system.

So consider this a rallying cry. If you work in adult publishing and are reading this; or if you’re an adult book author or librarian or blogger or anyone who feels inspired by what We Need Diverse Books is doing on the children’s side and, like me, wishes we had some equivalent thing on the adult side, get in touch!

As Toni Morrison said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” Maybe the same thing is true here. If there’s a grassroots organization you wish existed but has yet to be created, then you must create it. Who’s with me?

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