Awards Plea/Request

by We Need Diverse Books

The end of the year is coming, and that means awards season! Judges are busily reading books, librarians are compiling lists, and editors at the big magazines are discussing which books will go on the year’s best-of lists. We’ve seen some astonishing diverse books and authors this year, and the We Need Diverse Books team is beyond excited to see which books will rake in the praise.

The team wants to address the librarians, editors, bloggers, and judges involved in this year’s judging. You have some tough decisions ahead–good luck! We’re hoping you’ll keep in mind a few things:

  • Diverse books–particularly those from smaller publishers and midlist authors–often slip off people’s radars. Sometimes, they never make it on people’s radars in the first place. It’s important to read widely and to actively seek out content by and about people from underrepresented groups. Who knows–you just might find a gem worthy of the next Printz or Newbery!
  • Sadly, not all diverse books are created equal. Many of them are absolutely wonderful, but just as many are authored by people unfamiliar with the underrepresented group they’re writing about. These books may promote misconceptions, which are often difficult for those outside that group to recognize. Many extremely problematic books have won awards or received one or more starred reviews. What seems like an insightful, sensitive book, may actually contain dangerous or hurtful stereotypes. For people in a position to provide a huge boost to books, it’s extra important to go beyond gut feeling and do your research. Do you know what people from the group being portrayed say about this book? Do they have any concerns about the portrayal?

Of course, there is no single definition of what “problematic” is, which makes it even more important to evaluate multiple opinions from diverse viewpoints. Aside from your basic Google search, we suggest resources like Disability in Kidlit, American Indians in Children’s Literature, Bisexual Books, et cetera. Don’t forget that many blogs which don’t necessarily focus on diversity may discuss books from that angle, and many individual reviewers may post their thoughts on their personal blogs or Goodreads account.

Another option is simply to reach out to people in the know; if you’re uncertain about  book, someone on the WNDB team will be happy to put you in touch with someone who can help.

You have a huge influence on the world of children’s fiction, and we can’t wait to see this year’s winners!

One thought on “Awards Plea/Request

  1. Thank you for suggesting people visit American Indians in Children’s Literature. Whether people are on an awards committee or not, I welcome questions about the ways that Native people are portrayed in children’s and young adult books.

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