Have you heard of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement? It’s a movement that recognizes that kids – hell, all of us – need diversity in our books, not only to reflect the diverse world we live in, but to give kids heroes that they can relate to. How amazing must it have been for kids to see Black Panther, Falcon, and Storm when they debuted? Graphic novels, like X-Men’s “God Loves, Man Kills” spoke to a generation of teens that saw persecution they could relate to, be it sexuality, race, or gender. More often than not, though, most diverse stories still experienced their own version of whitewashing. Thank Cthulhu, we have heroes and heroines like Ms. Marvel, Falcon, currently assuming the Captain America mantle, and Miles Morales, currently zipping around as Spider-Man. Loki, who’s enjoying some time in the limelight, has his own title, and some fabulous gender relations fluidity.
#WeNeedDiverseBooks embraces that need – not a want, folks, a need – to explore diversity in books, be they novels, picture books, or comics and graphic novels. Gene Luen Yang has been giving us some fantastic work, with American Born Chinese, Boxers and Saints, and The Shadow Hero. If you haven’t read Cece Bell’s El Deafo, where the main character explores becoming deaf, I highly encourage it.
The movement began as a hashtag on Twitter, with librarians, authors, and most importantly, kids offered their reasons. Reasons like, “because I grew up thinking brown men couldn’t be anything more than a sidekick”, and “Kids might not judge a book by its cover, but they might judge themselves by books’ covers” make you think, right?
The hashtag became a Tumblr, the Tumblr became a webpage, and now, we’re getting a spotlight at the second annual BookCon, happening this coming May. ReedPop and WeNeedDiverseBooks have announced a partnership that will bring panels curated and moderated by We Need Diverse Books to BookCon2015, with incredible authors, including Jacqueline Woodson, who just won the National Book Award for Brown Girl Dreaming, and Sherman Alexie, whose The Absolutely True Adventures of a Part-Time Indian has been banned and challenged so many times, I’ve lost count, but get a secret thrill over every time I hear one. Because being challenged means more readers, and it means there’s content that makes kids think.
According the press release from BookCon and Reed, the panels are “intended to shine a light on authors of diverse backgrounds and the need for more diverse characters in today’s books, the panels will feature some of the leading names taking on this cause. We Need Diverse Books is a grassroots organization created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature and is committed to the ideal that embracing diversity will lead to acceptance, empathy and ultimately equality.”
More details from the press release follow. More details as they come in!
The first panel will take place on Saturday, May 30 and showcase the best and brightest in Science Fiction and Fantasy when Hugo Award winners Kameron Hurley (The Mirror Empire) and Ken Liu (The Paper Menagerie), World Fantasy Award winner Nnedi Okorafor (Who Fears Death), Daniel Jose Older (Shadowshaper) and Joe Monti (Executive Editor of Saga Press) join together for a moderated conversation about the role diversity plays in the genre, their works and their influences.
Sunday, May 31 will bring together five New York Times bestselling authors for a discussion of children’s literature. This blockbuster panel will feature the 2014 National Book Award winner for Young People’s Literature, Jacqueline Woodson (Brown Girl Dreaming), Sherman Alexie (Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian), Libba Bray (The Diviners), David Levithan (Two Boys Kissing) and Meg Medina (Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass).
We Need Diverse Books was part of last year’s inaugural BookCon playing host to a standing room only panel full of thought-provoking conversation and enthusiastic readers. The overwhelming response from fans and the rapid ascent of We Need Diverse Books, which grew from a social media awareness campaign into a global movement, set the stage for the partnership to expand at this year’s show.
“We’re thrilled that BookCon and We Need Diverse Books are teaming up once again to connect fans with a broader range of voices in the publishing industry,” said Brien McDonald, Show Manager of BookCon. “These panels will once again move the conversation of diversity in books forward and highlight authors who are addressing this head on with their fantastic work.”
“WNDB started with a handful of people and quickly spread through the world,” said Aisha Saeed, VP of Strategy for We Need Diverse Books. “At BookCon this past May we were touched by the outpouring of support, thanks to this we are where we are today: launching initiatives to help change the face of children’s literature.”
When asked about his thoughts on the importance of diversity in literature and conversations like these, best-selling author Sherman Alexie emphasized, “There is no moment in your childhood more important than when you recognize yourself in a book. Diverse literature teaches diverse kids that their lives matter.”
Tickets for BookCon are now available. Additional exciting details about BookCon exhibitors, guests and sponsors will be revealed in the coming weeks. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit www.TheBookCon.com or BookCon’s social media pages (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram).
ABOUT WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS™
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 all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities. 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.