We Need Diverse Books™ Announces the winners of the 2016 WNDB Walter Grants

by We Need Diverse Books

December 5, 2016 (New York) —We Need Diverse Books™ is thrilled to announce the winners of the 2016 WNDB Walter Grants. The following 6 unpublished authors or illustrators have been selected for the grants:

Jacqueline Alcantara
Jennifer De Leon
Jenn Hogan
Anna Nelson
Francesca Padilla
Maurisa Lynne Thompson

In the program’s first year in 2015, grants of $2000 were awarded to each of five unpublished authors or illustrators from diverse backgrounds working on children’s or young adult literature projects. The 2015 recipients included Yamile Saied Méndez, author of ON THESE MAGIC SHORES and winner of Lee & Low’s New Voices Award; Shveta Thakrar, featured in the upcoming YA anthologies HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORD and LEGENDARY; and Angie Thomas, author of THE HATE U GIVE, a highly anticipated YA novel inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, which went to a 13-house auction before selling to Balzer + Bray.

This year, thanks to an additional directed donation of $2000, WNDB was able to award six grants for 2016. The Walter Internship Grant Committee was comprised of seven agents and editors who identify as diverse under WNDB’s definition. A spokesperson of the committee, Marietta Zacker, commented, “Our aim is to give voice to the voiceless, to amplify and elevate people who for too long haven’t had fair or equal representation in the world of books for children and young adults. We have a shared vision for a wonderful, diverse world, and we can respectfully and passionately agree on which writers and illustrators can help us create a world in which all children and young adults can see themselves in the pages of a book.”

The committee is happy to present these diverse creatives as the 2016 Walter Grant recipients and look forward to their contributions to the world of children’s and young adult literature.

We Need Diverse Books™ is a 501(c)(3) organization established in 2014 to address the lack of diverse representation in the children’s publishing industry. The WNDB Walter Grant is one of many initiatives funded or supported by WNDB™. More about the organization is available here. More information about the WNDB Walter Grants is available here.

Contact: Marietta Zacker

Looking Back: Musings on Diversity and Identity in Hispanic and Latin American Children’s Literature

by We Need Diverse Books

By Alma Flor Ada

When My Name is María Isabel was published in 1993 I was delighted to see that many school and some school districts saw the benefit that all teachers would read this brief chapter book, because they recognized that the significance that students’ names, whichever their origin, be respected. Through the years I have seen enthusiastic teachers doing wonderful projects with the book and I have received numerous letters from students sharing with me how themselves, or some in their family, had suffered by having had their names changed or disregarded. I had imagined that this practice would disappear. Because I leave a part of me in every book, of course, my hope is that they will continue to be read, but I had hoped My Name is María Isabel would be read as something that happened in the past, not currently. Unfortunately this is not the case. José Miguel, one of the characters in Yes! We Are Latinos, insists that he is not Joe, nor Mike, defending the name he was given after his grandfather because the issue. The need to respect diversity continues to be a major issue in our society.

In Yes! We Are Latinos, Isabel Campoy and I, combined free verse presentations of significant moments in the lives of young Latinos and Latinas to introduce the thirteen topics about the Latino history and contributions shared in this book, hoping to bring new awareness to Latino identity.

The issue of identity is complex. We could all recognize multiple identities. With regards to my ethnicity: I am camagüeyana, very much aware of the five-hundred year old city of my birth, Camagüey, birth place of two magnificent poets, Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, in the 19th century, and Nicolás Guillén, the Cuban National Poet of the 20th. I am cubana, with deep roots and continuous awareness of the numerous and significant contributions in art, music, ballet, literature, science, education and natural beauty of this island I so much love. I am caribeña, Latin American and Hispanic in my relations with the wide Spanish-speaking world, and Latina in the struggle to bring about recognition to the Latino presence in the United States where I have lived the largest part of my long life.

These multiple identities are in no way, in conflict, but rather like a set of Russian wooden dolls, are nested in each other. They all bring their own richness and make me who I am. But above all of them I am a woman, an activist, a human being devoting my life to foster knowledge and reflection, to celebrate diversity, to struggle for social justice as the only road to everlasting peace.

tesorosAs I write for children and youth it is natural that the values that are important to me would become the theme of my books, whether presented through realistic characters or not. I have recognized how many of these values are part of my legacy, the education received directed from my family, or gleaned by observation of life around me, even when very young. My childhood memories Island Treasures: Growing Up in Cuba, published also as Tesoros de mi isla: Una infancia cubana is an effort to show how it all began.

The value of diversity as opposed to discrimination and prejudice may be expressed as well through geometrical figures as in Friends, where the figures who have been taught to not mix with others who are different discover the joy of sharing with each other, and El reino de la geometría, where King Square VII banished from the kingdom all figures that are not perfect squares, as in a middle grade novel like Dancing Home, co-authored with my son Gabriel Zubizarreta, who is a story of immigration and identity.

Diversity may also be simply celebrated in books for very young readers, A Surprise for Mother Rabbit or Strange Visitors, and is crucial in the four titles of the Hidden Forest series, [Dear Peter Rabbit, Yours truly, Goldilocks, With Love, Little Red Hen, and Extra! Extra!] with extraordinary illustrations by Leslie Tryon. In these books, written in letter format or as a newspaper, characters from traditional stories develop surprising friendships and support each other.

The value of friendship among those who may apparently not be alike, is the theme of Friend Frog, depicting the difficulties of Field Mouse, who can’t croak, or jump, and does not particularly care for swimming in gaining the friendship of outstanding Frog that can do all those things. It is also central to The Unicorn of the West.

saturdays-y-domingosThe joy and strength to be derived from family is present throughout my work as in another book co-authored with my son Gabriel, Love, Amalia. Sometimes the family depicted may be a bi-cultural family as in I Love Saturdays… y domingos.

Recognizing hard work and the need of justice for workers has inspired not only Gathering the Sun, a bilingual alphabet book in honor of migrant farmworkers, but also the biography of César Chávez in Paths and many other pages.

And these are some of the many themes present in my poetry: Coral y espuma [Coral and Foam], a book of poems about the ocean, includes the poem Sol [Sun], enemigo de la sombra, amigo de la verdad, “enemy of shadow, a friend of truth”. The poems in Arrullos de la sirena [The mermaid’s lullabies] are a tribute to motherhood and the unique feelings of being a grandmother. The anthology of my poetry Todo es canción [All is Song] has poems like Canción de todos los niños del mundo, [Songs to all children] written more than forty years ago, and still a message necessary today. It affirms: Yo no hablo tu idioma / tú no hablas el mío/ pero tú te ríes/ cuando yo me río… … vivimos muy lejos / no estamos cercanos / pero yo te digo / que somos hermanos [I don’t speak your language/you do not speak mine/but you laugh/ when I laugh… we live very far away/ we are not nearby/ but I can assure you/ we are all brothers and sisters].

My books, poetry and plays, realistic and fantasy narrative, biographies, folklore and non-fiction, published along many years, with different publishers, and multiple illustrators, are indeed very eclectic. I do not have a specific time or place to write. A single mother, of four precious children, I have been an educator during most of my life, and writing, while very important to me, had to take place after all other responsibilities had been addressed. I have written as ideas, feelings, emotions, filled my mind and soul, many times making initial drafts that later would linger for years on a file drawer, until another moment would bring them to life. I write as I live, as I breathe.

When I was asked recently how I would like to be remembered when I am no longer here the natural answer for me was: “I would feel honored to be remembered as a teacher, as someone who has devoted her life to become a true teacher, and yes, as a teacher who writes.”

Alma Flor Ada is the author of numerous award winning children’s books, and has dedicated her life to promote Transformative Education in the pursue of social justice and peace. Born in Cuba, she has studied in Spain, Peru and the United States of America. A strong advocate of Bilingual Education since 1970, she has spoken nationally and internationally on issues of language rights.

How to Double Your #GivingTuesday Donation to We Need Diverse Books

by We Need Diverse Books

Did you know that #GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration? It’s also the last day of our end-of-the-year fundraiser.

Today we have 3 donors who will match your donations up to $1400! When you donate today, your gift will be doubled (up to $1400) thanks to following generous authors:

Nicola Yoon

Nicola Yoon has pledged to match up to $500 in donations. She’s chosen to support WNDB in the Classroom with her pledge.

Joseph Kuefler

Joseph Kuefler will match up to $400 in donations.

Natalka Burian

Natalka Burian will match donations up to $500.

Are you ready to double your donation on #GivingTuesday to help support our programs? Here’s how you can donate:

  • Make a tax-deductible gift Via PayPal.
  • If you prefer to mail a check:
    • Please make your check to  “We Need Diverse Books” and mail to:  
      WNDB
      10319 Westlake Drive, #104
      Bethesda MD 20817-6403
    • And send an email to info@diversebooks.org to let us know your check amount

All donations received today, November 29, 2016 will count towards the match.

Today Only: Matching Donation Challenge from Andrea Brown Literary Agency

by We Need Diverse Books

Our end-the-year fundraiser has been going strong, thanks to all of you!

However, our fundraiser is not over yet. We still need your help to fund our programs that put more diverse books into children’s hands. As of today, We Need Diverse Books has raised over $24,000. To help us meet our goal of $30,000, our friends at Andrea Brown Literary Agency has issued a matching donation challenge.

Today only, the Andrea Brown Literary Agency will match donations up to $2000.

Andrea Brown Literary Agency

Here’s how you can help We Need Diverse Books meet this matching donation challenge:

  • Make a tax-deductible gift Via PayPal.
  • If you prefer to mail a check:
    • Please make your check to  “We Need Diverse Books” and mail to:  
      WNDB
      10319 Westlake Drive, #104
      Bethesda MD 20817-6403
    • And send an email to info@diversebooks.org to let us know your check amount

All donations received today, November 28, 2016 between 12PM and 3PM Eastern will count towards our Andrea Brown Literary Agency challenge.

For live updates on the challenge, follow us on social media:

Will you help us meet the challenge?

Inspired by today’s matching donation challenge? If you’d like to offer a matching donation, we’d love to hear from you! Please contact Thien-Kim Lam at thienkimlam@diversebooks.org

Image courtesy of Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

WNDB 2016 End of Year Fundraiser

by We Need Diverse Books

We’re just past the midway point of WNDB’s 2016 end of year fundraiser. So far, we’ve raised a little over $20,000 so we’re two-thirds toward our $30,000 goal. But we need your help to get the rest of the way.

We are thrilled to have numerous authors commit to matching donations. Gayle Forman offered a $5000 matching donation and our supporters gave generously for a total of $10,000. Heidi Heilig’s promise of a $1500 match led to a total $3000 (her gift plus matching). Heidi’s and several upcoming match commitments are directed to our highly successful WNDB Internship Grant Program.

But non-directed gifts during this end of year fundraiser are very, very welcome as well. Here are the ways your donations will fund greater diversity in children’s literature so that all children can see themselves in the pages of a book:

If you’d like to offer a matching donation either directed to a particular program or as a general donation, we’d love to hear from you! Please contact Thien-Kim Lam.

If you’d just like to give, we have two ways of donating during this fundraiser. You can:

  • Bid on our silent auction
    • Where we’re auctioning off autographed books and art, author and editorial critiques, and more
  • Make a direct gift
    • Via PayPal or
    • Via check made out to “We Need Diverse Books” and mailed to:

WNDB
10319 Westlake Drive, #104
Bethesda MD 20817-6403

Speaking of the silent auction, we’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who donated books and services. We’re very grateful for the generous in-kind donations from these authors, illustrators, editors, and agents in support of equity in children’s publishing.

Alex Gino
Beth Phelan
Cheryl Klein
Chris Appelhans
Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Dhonielle Clayton
Gayle Forman
Grace Lin
Gwenda Bond
Jo Knowles
Joan Paquette
Renee Ahdieh
Kat Yeh
Kate Messner
Kathi Appelt
Kekla Magoon
Kelly Barnhill
Laura Ruby
Lisa Yee
Madcap Retreats
Martha Brockenbrough
Meg Medina
Nicola Yoon
Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
Phoebe Yeh
Karen Sandler
Roshani Chokshi
Soman Chainini
Sona Charaipotra
Stacy Whitman
Vera Brosgol
Victoria Marini
Zareen Jaffrey

 

Looking Back: Making Accessibility Accessible

by We Need Diverse Books

My life changed Thanksgiving Day 2003. While I was attending a work retreat with my husband at a resort in Mexico my children, who were with their grandparents in Orlando, were in a terrible car accident. My five-year-old son escaped with only a bruise. My ten-year-old daughter suffered a T11 spinal cord injury and was paralyzed. In an instant, she could no longer walk.
I was a teacher at the time. After a holiday season spent in rehab, we were all ready to jump back into our lives and return to school. By January my daughter, Arielle, was back in her fourth-grade classroom with her friends and a new set of wheels.
Arielle was an avid reader. I had always loved finding the right books for my kids and my students. After the accident, I began to search for characters with differing physical abilities.

petey

People were treating Arielle different. To me, she was still the intelligent, social, vibrant child who talked to everyone and lit up a room with her presence. I desperately wanted people to see her and not the wheelchair, but that wasn’t always the case. To some she was invisible. Our lives revolved around learning about accessibility, advocating for it and teaching others about disability. We also had to navigate our feelings about Arielle being able to walk again one day. In other words, would Arielle grow up feeling less than if we took her out of school and placed her in a full-time physical therapy program with no guarantee of recovery? Or would it be better to let her be a kid and teach her self-acceptance from the seat of her wheelchair? When Arielle told me, she wished there were more books with characters who used wheelchairs I kept searching.

I found THE SECRET GARDEN by Frances Hodgson Burnett which Arielle loved.

Then a storyteller came to our school and introduced us to PETEY by Ben Michaelson.

PETEY takes place from 1920-1990. It’s about Petey Corbin who is born with cerebral palsy and sent to live in an insane asylum. Despite a challenging life Petey keeps a positive attitude and shows kindness to his friend Calvin and all his caretakers. Eventually, Petey meets a lonely eighth-grade boy, Trevor, and the two become friends.

out-of-my-mindWhen Arielle reached middle school, her adventurous spirit led her to try volleyball, road racing, and skate parks. It’s no wonder her favorite books were the MAXIMUM RIDE series. She liked the characters because they had different physical bodies. It was during this time that I began writing a middle-grade novel about a young girl who used a wheelchair.

I searched for more books that contained characters with differing physical abilities and found THE LITTLE LAME PRINCE AND HIS TRAVELING CLOAK by Dinah Maria Mulock Craik. It’s the story of a young boy who is paralyzed and exiled in a tower. Then a fairy godmother gives him a magic cloak so he can see the world. Prince Dolor gains wisdom and compassion through his adventures and eventually ends up ruling the land.

OUT OF MY MIND by Sharon Draper was published in 2010. It’s the story of young Melody who was born with cerebral palsy. OUT OF MY MIND has won numerous book awards and was on the New York Times Best Seller list for almost two years.

As part of my research for this post, I asked Arielle to ask her teammates at The University of Illinois if they were influenced by any books that contained characters with differing physical abilities. Some of the favorite books they mentioned were HARRY POTTER, MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN, and HATCHET. One person remembered liking a picture book with a character that used a wheelchair, A VERY SPECIAL CRITTER by Mercer Mayer and Gina Mayer. It was published in 1993.

a-very-special-critterI found through my school visits that students from kindergarten to high school are very interested in learning about the lives of people with different physical abilities. There’s no judgment just curiosity. We end up having wonderful discussions. I leave knowing the next time those students encounter a flight of stairs or an accessible parking space they’ll view it differently because they had a chance to walk in someone else’s shoes—shoes that don’t touch the ground.

K.D. Rausin is a former teacher living in sunny Cape Coral, Florida. MYSTIC, her middle grade fantasy, and Elle & Buddy, her picture book, both feature strong female protagonists who use wheelchairs.

We Need Diverse Books is Giving Books to Schools

by We Need Diverse Books

We Need Diverse Books is excited to announce the opening of the application period for its 2016 WNDB™ in the Classroom program in which schools can apply for boxes of free books. This year, two titles are available: the Walter Award winning and NYT bestseller young adult book ALL AMERICAN BOYS by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely or the middle grade anthology FLYING LESSONS, edited by Ellen Oh (a starred selection from Booklist, Kirkus & SLJ).

Educators and librarians will need to apply here for 36 copies of the book of their choice. The books can be used for any educational purpose in a classroom or school library, or given away to students. They may not be sold. Priority will be given to schools with 60% free or reduced price lunch eligibility. Only one box of books will be awarded per school.

A teacher’s guide will also be made available so educators can discuss the novel with their students. We’ll also choose one classroom to win a free Skype visit from the authors!

At this time, we are only able to ship books within the United States. Selected applicants will be notified early 2017.

We Need Diverse Books™ Announces partnership with Madcap Retreats for diversity-themed author retreats

by We Need Diverse Books

October 20, 2016 (New York) The We Need Diverse Books™ team is proud to partner with Madcap Retreats to run a series of diversity-themed author retreats.

The partnership will present two affordable, workshop-based retreats for 2017. Writing Cross-Culturally will focus on how one can diversify their writing and learn to write cross-culturally responsibly, while the Diverse Aspiring Authors retreat will give authors from marginalized backgrounds craft workshops, industry 101 information, and ways to navigate the roadblocks of the current publishing climate.

“We Need Diverse Books is joining forces with Madcap to address a real need – lifting up marginalized voices while also showing writers how to write outside of their communities in a careful, diligent and thorough way,” says We Need Diverse Books COO Dhonielle Clayton. “The workshops will be guided by published authors who’ve tackled these issues with grace, offering feedback and mentorship in an intimate, low-key setting. We’ll also incorporate sessions that focus on polishing and marketing your work.”

Madcap is a boutique workshop and retreat company run by author-entrepreneur Natalie C. Parker (Director of Madcap Retreats), and has offered retreats featuring authors like Renee Ahdieh, Kiersten White, Brandy Colbert, Julie Murphy, Justina Ireland, Victoria Schwab, and more.

“Workshops and retreats are powerful tools, but they can be difficult to access. The goal of Madcap Retreats is to bring writers and mentors into creative community in structured, small-group settings while also keeping costs reasonable. We are excited to be partnering with WNDB to broaden our scope and continue learning,” says Madcap Retreats Director Natalie C. Parker.

The first spring Writing Cross Culturally retreat will kickoff in March 2017. It will be headlined by Daniel Jose Older, Leigh Bardugo, and Nicola Yoon. A summer Diverse Aspiring Authors will follow. The second Writing Cross Culturally retreat in 2018 will be headlined by Laurie Halse Anderson and Marie Lu.

We Need Diverse Books™ is a 501(c)(3) organization established in 2014 to address the lack of diverse representation in the children’s publishing industry. More about the organization is available at www.diversebooks.org.

For further information contact madcapretreats@gmail.com or visit http://madcapretreats.com/writingcrossculturally.html.

Aminah Mae Safi Wins 2016 We Need Diverse Books Short Story Contest; Schuyler Bailar joins WNDB YA Anthology

by We Need Diverse Books

September 29, 2016 (Washington, DC) – We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) has selected the winner of its young adult short story contest to celebrate previously unpublished fiction by diverse writers of all backgrounds. Aminah Mae Safi will receive a cash prize of $1000, plus the opportunity to publish her short story “Be Cool For Once” in the forthcoming WNDB Young Adult Anthology LIFT OFF, to be published by Crown Books for Young Readers in 2018. Safi is a freelancer who writes about art, fiction, feminism, and film.

Phoebe Yeh, VP/Publisher of Crown Books for Young Readers/Random House acquired publication rights to the anthology and Lamar Giles, Sr. VP of Communications for WNDB, will edit the collection, which reserved a slot for the contest winner. Yeh said of the winning entry, “I was attracted to Safi’s fresh, dynamic voice and the originality of her storytelling.”

Also, joining the anthology is Schuyler Bailar, a member of Harvard men’s varsity swim team, and the first openly transgender man to compete for any Division 1 NCAA sport. Bailar’s story offers a unique perspective to teens.

Other contributors include Melissa de la Cruz, Sara Farizan, Sharon Flake, Eric Gansworth, Malinda Lo, Walter Dean Myers, Daniel José Older, Thien Pham, Jason Reynolds, Gene Luen Yang, and Nicola Yoon.

The anthology will feature 12 stories, including an illustrated tale by Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Gene Luen Yang and Thien Pham, and will be in memory of Walter Dean Myers, inspired by his quote, “We need to bring our young people into the fullness of America’s promise and to do that we must rediscover who they are and who we are and be prepared to make the journey with them whatever it takes. My conceit is that literature can be a small path along that journey.”

LIFT OFF is the second collaboration from We Need Diverse Books and Crown Books for Young Readers. The first collection, FLYING LESSONS & OTHER STORIES, edited by WNDB founder and President Ellen Oh, debuts on January 3, 2017
We Need Diverse Books
Contact: Lamar Giles, Sr. VP of Communications for WNDB and LIFT OFF Editor
lamargiles@diversebooks.org

We Need Diverse Books™ Mentorship committee announces an expansion

by We Need Diverse Books

Contacts:
Miranda Paul, WNDB™ Mentorship Co-Chair
Laurie Ann Thompson, WNDB™ Mentorship Co-Chair
Steven dos Santos, Mentorship Committee Member
mentor@diversebooks.org
www.diversebooks.org

For Release September 23, 2016

On the heels of a successful first year, the We Need Diverse Books™ (WNDB™) Mentorship committee announces an expansion—the 2017 program will include twice as many award-winning writers and illustrators. Beginning in October, upcoming writers and artists will get the chance to apply for one of ten mentorships through this non-profit program.

Two year-long mentorships will be given in each of five categories: picture book text, illustration, nonfiction, middle grade fiction, and young adult fiction. The 2017 WNDB™ mentors include an award-winning lineup of children’s book creators including Jane Yolen, Kevin Lewis, Carole Boston Weatherford, Padma Venkatraman, Alex Sanchez, Tara Lazar, William Alexander, Juana Martinez-Neal, Jessixa Bagley and WNDB™ founder and president Ellen Oh.

In a post announcing 2016 WNDB™ mentee Jacqueline Alcántara’s newly-achieved agent representation, illustrator-mentor Carolyn Dee Flores describes the mentoring process as “magical.” “My primary job as a mentor,” Flores states, “is to see what is already great and encourage it loosely, allowing the mentee’s voice to rise up on its own.” 2016 picture book mentee Lisa Brathwaite (mentor: Patricia Hruby Powell) also announced success earlier this year—a publishing contract for Show and Tell: The Story of Eunice Johnson and the Ebony Fashion Fair, the WNDB™ application manuscript that won her the year-long mentorship.

Children’s writers and illustrators seeking mentorships are invited to submit applications between October 1-31, 2016. The applicants will be reviewed for mentorship need and readiness, and manuscripts will be evaluated on such elements as craft, story, and diversity. WNDB™ mentorship recipients will be announced publicly in early 2017. Additional information about the mentorship and applications are available on the WNDB™ website: http://weneeddiversebooks.org/aboutapply.

We Need Diverse Books™ is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization advocating for essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people. Read about the organization’s broad definition of diversity and more at www.diversebooks.org. For more information about the mentorship program specifically, please email mentor@diversebooks.org.

LOOKING BACK: FROM DEAF CAN’T TO DEAF CAN

by We Need Diverse Books

Change. Progress. Understanding. The biggest word that gets in the way of the first two and undermines the latter, is ignorance. Ignorance. It’s a loaded word, and certainly one that the Deaf and hard of hearing community is working hard to eradicate. Plato’s mentor, Socrates (d. 399 BC), and Plato’s student Aristotle (d. 322 BC), both shared Aristotle’s belief that:
“Men who are born deaf, in all cases remain speechless. They thus become senseless and incapable of reason.”

From the moment Aristotle claimed that the deaf were incapable of speech, learning, or being educated down to the 21st century opinions and inaccuracies of Alexander Graham Bell’s that still plagues the Deaf community; the deaf minority has encountered ignorance and discrimination for more than a few centuries.

While in the 21st century there has been recent celebrities helping to pave the way to an understanding of what it means to be deaf or hard of hearing, there is still much that can be done. Children’s literature has made some great strides in helping the hearing community to understand, in rare small doses, what deaf culture is, and what our challenges and triumphs are.

EL DEAFOGrowing up, I didn’t have EL DEAFO; there was a scarcity of children’s literature that encompassed that world. In fact, there was even less that explained my hard of hearing world to me. I would have loved to relate to a character like myself, especially because I was the only hard of hearing/deaf person in my family, which is the case with most deaf children. More than 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents and only 2% have access to Sign Language. As a statistic, I had no one in my immediate circle that identified with my deafness. I didn’t know right away that I was an heir to this rich, amazing, animated language and culture. That realization came through children’s literature that my parents introduced me to. At least, what little they could find.

The first book I read, now out of print, was I HAVE A SISTER AND MY SISTER IS DEAF. It was introduced to me through the popular television show, Reading Rainbow. While the main character is not deaf, the story revolves around the experience of having a deaf sibling. It was refreshing to have that perspective, especially since I was the only deaf sibling in my family.

IM DEAF AND ITS OKAYReally though, when it comes to picture books there have been roughly 1-2 books published every year or every other year between the years of 1976 and 1999. Titles like JAMIE’S TIGER (1978), I’M DEAF AND IT’S OKAY (1986), ROSA’S PARROT (1999), and SILENT OVSERVER (1993), to name just a few touching on the concept of what it is to be deaf.
From 2000 onward there seemed to be a slight jump in books published with characters that have a complexity and depth beyond their deafness, both in picture books, MG and YA. DAD AND ME IN THE MORNING (2014) is a tranquil recounting of waking early to catch the sunrise, and the wonder that the natural world enchants us with—all through the eyes of a hard of hearing child who uses ASL, voice, and lip reading to communicate. SECRET SIGNS: AN ESCAPE THROUGH THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD (2003) tells the story of a deaf child who uses sign language to help guide and keep slaves safe on the Underground Railroad. GOODBYE TCHAIKOVSKY (2012) explores the life of an eleven year old master violinist who goes deaf at age twelve. READ MY LIPS, a YA novel, delves into the complex and sometimes interesting fortune of lip reading.

In all the books I have come across it was difficult to find characters who happen to be deaf, in a story which does not revolve around deafness or the concept of it. The closest I came to fitting that need was Brian Selznick’s WONDERSTRUCK (2015). It is a book like Selznick’s—with a plot that isn’t strictly focused on what it is to be deaf—that captures my mind and enchants me. Among the many deaf and hard of hearing I’ve asked, including myself, most of us want two things: deaf characters across the spectrum in mainstream books, and plots that do not revolve around the concept of deafness as a disability. There is an attitude among the Deaf/deaf community, “Deaf can!” We are proud, successful, and capable, and we’d like that to reflect in literature.

Angela Dahle is hard-of-hearing, and proud to be. Her articles are published in The Friend. She also writes picture books, MG novels, and is learning American Sign Language.

We Need Diverse Books™ To Publish Two Anthologies With Random House Children’s Books

by We Need Diverse Books

 

Flying Lessons & Other Stories middle-grade anthology to be published January 2017 with original stories by such authors as Kwame Alexander, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Peña, Tim Federle, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Walter Dean Myers, Tim Tingle, Jacqueline Woodson, and our short story contest winner

Lift Off YA anthology to be published Summer 2018 with contributions by such authors as Melissa de la Cruz, Sara Farizan, Sharon Flake, Eric Gansworth, Malinda Lo, Daniel José Older, Thien Pham, Jason Reynolds, Gene Luen Yang, and Nicola Yoon

New York, NY (July 21, 2016)We Need Diverse Books™ (WNDB), a grassroots organization dedicated to advocating for and supporting nonmajority narratives, will publish two books with Random House Children’s Books, it was announced today by Mallory Loehr, SVP, Publisher, Random House/Golden Books, Doubleday, and Crown Books for Young Readers Group. Phoebe Yeh, VP/Publisher of Crown Books for Young Readers, acquired world rights to a middle-grade and a young adult anthology from Barry Goldblatt of BG Literary, and the collections will be edited by Ellen Oh, cofounder and president of We Need Diverse Books™, and Lamar Giles, cofounder and SVP of Communications.

The middle-grade anthology titled FLYING LESSONS & OTHER STORIES is set to be published on January 3, 2017. The book will feature original stories by an award-winning lineup: Kwame Alexander, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Peña, Tim Federle, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Tim Tingle, and Jacqueline Woodson. The collection will also include a story by debut author Kelly J. Baptist, winner of the WNDB short-story contest, and by Walter Dean Myers, the late and beloved award-winning children’s author.

“We are so pleased to be collaborating with the We Need Diverse Books team to bring these important stories by extraordinary author talents to readers everywhere, and to support our collective goals of promoting diversity in children’s literature,” says Yeh.

“This anthology has been one of the most meaningful experiences of my career,” says Oh. “It is a dream come true to work with these amazing authors, and I know that these stories are going to resonate with so many readers.”

The young adult anthology, LIFT OFF, is scheduled for release in Summer 2018 and will be edited by Lamar Giles, author of the Edgar Award–nominated novels Fake ID and Endangered. The book will feature original YA short stories and contributions by authors including Melissa de la Cruz, Sara Farizan, Sharon Flake, Eric Gansworth, Malinda Lo, Walter Dean Myers, Daniel José Older, Thien Pham, Jason Reynolds, Gene Luen Yang, Nicola Yoon, and others. The anthology is dedicated in memory of Walter Dean Myers.

“The stories in this anthology will be the kind I longed for but never found in my formative years,” says Giles.

As with the middle-grade anthology, WNDB hosted a short-story contest for a spot in the anthology by an unpublished diverse author. The winner will be announced on October 1, 2016, and will receive payment of $1,000 US. The contest was open to diverse YA authors who are previously unpublished in any format. WNDB defines diversity as including, but not limited to, LGBTQIA+, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities currently marginalized in North America.

Media Contact:

Dominique Cimina

Vice President, Executive Director, Publicity & Corporate Communications

dcimina@penguinrandomhouse.com / 212-782-9314

 

Jillian Vandall

Publicity Manager

jvandall@penguinrandomhouse.com / 212-782-9039

Crown Books for Young Readers is an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, the world’s largest English-language children’s trade book publisher. Random House Children’s Books is a division of Penguin Random House LLC.

South Asian Kidlit

by We Need Diverse Books

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When I sat down to write this post, I had no idea what to write about. My formative years were in the 80’s and the only South Asian stories I knew were the Amir Chitra Katha books and folktales of Akbar and Birbal from India. Living in rural Pennsylvania I grew up on a steady diet of Richard Scarry picture books, Judy Blume books, and Nancy Drew mysteries. When I started reading teen romances, how I wished there was a South Asian female protagonist, someone who had to explore the culture clash while having a crush on the cute Caucasian guy at school. The closest I got was trying to connect with a Latina teen in TE AMO MEANS I LOVE YOU.

I started researching South Asian history in America and found Uma Krishnaswami’s eloquent and educational post on “Being South Asian”. From here I learned the 1928 Newbery Award winner went to a South Asian, Dhan Gopal Mukerji for GAY-NECK: THE STORY OF A PIGEON. Cool! But why is this fact not more readily known? Why did the foundation of South Asian literature not begin forming for another fifty-sixty years? My guess is this probably has to do with the size of the South Asian population and the exclusionary policies prevalent during the first half of the 20th century. While there were South Asians in the United States most prominently in the farming communities of the Pacific Northwest, the numbers were small. It wasn’t until after the 1965 Immigration Act that immigration restrictions from South Asia eased up. It was these 1st generation peoples that would start building the foundation of South Asian children’s literature.

Since I am a picture book writer, here are a few South Asian picture books that made an impression upon me when I re-entered children’s literature as an adult. These books are my mirror, one that I didn’t even realize I needed until recently.

Kashmira Seth’s MONSOON AFTERNOON (Peachtree, 2008) transports young readers to a lush, tropical India and explores the relationship between grandfather and grandchild. This book reminded me of my summer vacations in India. The hot, balmy June weather and how refreshing it felt after a downpour. I loved the beautiful watercolor illustrations which accurately depicts the setting with its banyan trees, bungalow homes, and of course the roaming cows. Her latest book SONA AND THE WEDDING GAME (Peachtree, 2015) beautifully balances the rich traditions of an Indian wedding ceremony and its accompanying fun ‘n games. The stealing of the groom’s shoes is the top shenanigan that takes place at an Indian wedding, one that I have participated in many times during my youth.

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Rukhsana Khan’s MY BIG RED LOLLIPOP (Viking, 2010) is about an older sister, Rubina, who is invited to her classmate’s birthday party and must take her younger sister at her mother’s insistence. This book cleverly shows the clash of views between two cultures and also how to learn from the experience. Rubina’s mom brought back memories of my mom’s “traditional thinking” which definitely didn’t always work harmoniously with the American way.

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This is just a sampling of the wonderful South Asian children’s books that have been published within the last ten years. For a comprehensive list of South Asian authors do check out this post by Padma Venkatraman. As I look to the future and watch the South Asian population and its history in this country grow, I’m excited to see what type of South Asian stories will be created next.

Darshana Khiani is a computer engineer by day and a children’s writer by night. She writes humorous multicultural picture books and spends way too much time online immersing in all things kidlit. You can find her blogging at www.flowering-minds.com and on Twitter @darshanakhiani.

An Asian American Reader Looks for Herself in Books?

by We Need Diverse Books

I was recently interviewed by an Asian online newspaper. As often happens, the young Taiwanese reporter asked me if I was a prolific reader growing up — and my answer was YES. I loved books. They were my life and lifeline and best friends. When I’m asked to list the books that influenced me the most — there is no hesitation. It’s easy and the list is long and varied. The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, Charlotte’s Web, Little Women, The Last Unicorn. All the Peanuts comics, All of Judy Blume. Read over and over. And over.

I related to these books. I connected to them. I saw part of myself in all the main characters. In Judy Blume’s Margaret, I saw a young, uncertain girl confused by who she was or was supposed to be and looking to a higher power for answers. In Lord of the Rings, I saw a small someone in an impossible fight against huge odds. And in Little Women, I saw a sister who didn’t quite fit in with her big feet and awkwardness, but finally finding her place as a writer. I saw myself. In all these books.

But.

I never really got to see myself.

As often happens, I have been asked to discuss Asian American authors and characters and books that came before mine— and their influences on me.

This is less easy.

It took me a while to start this piece, because I realized that as a child, I didn’t have much experience reading Asian authors who came before me.

So I had to stop and think. When was the first time?

Of course, there was a wonderful start with the magical board books of Gyo Fugikawa. BABIES (Grosset & Dunlap, 1963) in particular I remember. How I loved that book. The Japanese-American author-illustrator was one of the first to consistently show diverse characters in all her work. She wrote & illustrated over fifty books for children, as well as illustrating classic such as A CHILD’S GARDEN OF VERSES by Robert Louis Stevenson. I treasure all my young memories of her works and many, many years later read them to my own children.

From Gyo Fugikawa. BABIES (Grosset & Dunlap, 1963)
From Gyo Fugikawa. BABIES (Grosset & Dunlap, 1963)

As I think about the books I read over the years, it really wasn’t until 1989, as a young adult working in Manhattan, I read Amy Tan’s JOY LUCK CLUB (1989, G. P. Putnam Son’s) and another Asian author came into my life. I know there are some stereotypes that people have problems with in this book, but I loved it. I loved it the way many Asian readers of my generation loved it. We were just was thrilled to see ourselves. I loved reading about the generation of women raised by immigrants. I loved the stories of young Asian-American women finding their way in a world that was a mix of their mothers’ culture and their own contemporary surroundings.

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There would be another rather large space of time before Asian authors would come into my life again. When my daughter came to reading age, I was excited to discover a new generation of books that now included Asian American authors and characters.

First there was Grace Lin for her picture books. UGLY VEGETABLES and DIM SUM FOR EVERYONE! Along with my beloved Gyo Fugikawa board books, these became part of our daily readings. As my daughter grew, she had choices I only wished I could have found in my library. There was Linda Sue Park’s lyrical Newberry Medal winning A SINGLE SHARD (2001, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) during her early novel reading years. And Lisa Yee’s wonderful MILLICENT MIN, GIRL GENIUS (2003, Scholastic)— a character I adored. As my daughter devoured these books, I got a chance to see the reading world from her eyes and imagine what it would have meant to me to have these books at her age.

When my own debut middle grade novel, THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE came out, I received letters that I could not help noticing came from Asian American girls – mentioning how they liked that there were two (two!) very different Asian characters in the story— instead of the typical single token friend.

And they asked if I would be writing books in which these were the main characters.

My next (currently untitled) middle grade novel features a Taiwanese girl who is creative and awkward and hopeful and so many things that I was at twelve. I imagine the girls who will see themselves in my books. I think about how these girls tell me they want to be writers too. I hope they will.

And I can’t help smiling as I write.

Kat Yeh grew up reading, doodling, and scribbling in Westtown, Pennsylvania. She worked as a copywriter for many years in advertising and sports marketing, while writing poems and children’s books in the wee hours of the night. She currently lived in Long Island where she spends any non-writing time being outside as much as possible and exploring all the bay and harbor beaches with her family. She has never cooked a meal without pretending to be the host of a TV cooking show. THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE is her debut middle grade novel.

We Need Diverse Books™ Announces the winners of the 2016 WNDB Internship Grants

by We Need Diverse Books

June 6, 2016 (New York) —We Need Diverse Books™ is thrilled to announce the winners of the 2016 WNDB Internship Grants. In the program’s first year in 2015, grants of $2500 were awarded to each of five interns from diverse backgrounds working in children’s publishing. This year, thanks to a recurring donation from the LJTJ Fund and a generous gift from author Emily Jenkins, WNDB planned to award ten $2500 grants.

However, there was such excitement about the program that additional donations from two WNDB team members, plus a gift from HarperCollins editor Jordan Brown, and another gift from New Leaf Literary, allowed WNDB to add an 11th grant at the last minute.

The following 11 interns have been selected for the 2016 WNDB Internship Grants:

Alexandra Hightower, NYU, to Writers House Literary Agency
Rafiatou Ouro Aguy, Hamilton College, to Simon & Schuster
Talia Chaves, Montclair State, to HarperCollins Publishing
Maya Marlette, Wellesley College, to Scholastic
Pia Ceres, Brown University, to Lee & Low Books
Jessica Harold, American University, to Nancy Gallt Literary Agency
Erin Siu, NYU, to Macmillan
Sophie Erb, Pratt College, to Macmillan (art department)
Jocquelle Caiby, Baruch College (CUNY), to Serendipity Literary Agency
Rae Chang, BYU, to Donald Maass Literary Agency
Manny Blasco, Rutgers University, to HarperCollins Publishing

“We had so many excellent candidates for the grants, it was difficult to choose the winners,” said Linda Sue Park, Honorary Chair of the WNDB Internship Grants Committee. “We’re also very gratified by the enthusiasm of our publishing partners to hire diverse applicants.”

Looking Back: From Trinidad To New York

by We Need Diverse Books

When I arrived in Brooklyn at the age of fifteen, staring a new culture in the face, and the prospect of freezing cold winters, I was excited, but worried. I worried about what I would wear. I worried about whether I would fit in. I worried because so many people did not look like me. Growing up in Trinidad & Tobago, everyone looked like me, more or less. It’s a rainbow of brown hues in the hot Trinidad sun, from blue-black, to red (a color name reserved for people with light skin). In my own family, a mix of Indian and African ancestry, we had every color on the spectrum. But in New York, I was introduced to a whole lot more, plus entire shifts in cultures around every block. The city streets were jarringly weird. School was awkward (it was my first time going to a co-ed school). Finding clothing that didn’t out me as a foreigner and that kept me warm was a bit of a nightmare. But the hardest part of that transition was coming from a family “of means” to one that struggled financially. Then one day I found a book in the library that seemed written for me. It was Rosa Guy’s THE FRIENDS. And finally I didn’t feel like such an anomaly.

Written in 1973, it was Guy’s take on her own trek from Trinidad to New York. The narrator, Phylissia, aged 16 and finding her new life in America flawed and socially fraught, and with the same sudden financial woes, was me in print. Literally. Alice Walker called it a “heart-slammer.” THE FRIENDS was the first of a trilogy followed by RUBY (1976), and EDITH JACKSON (1978), all dealing with the lives of adolescent Black girls in New York, the first two from the perspective of Black Caribbean girls adjusting to American culture. Despite the fact that they were written about the New York of the 70s it was still very familiar. Guy’s books were surprisingly direct and felt to me like a much-needed drink of water. “She’s never afraid of the truth,” Maya Angelou once said. “Some writers dress the truth in a kind of elegant language, so it doesn’t seem quite so blatant, so harsh, so raw. But Rosa was not afraid of that.”

Another trilogy, THE DISAPPEARANCE (1979), NEW GUYS AROUND THE BLOCK (1983), and AND I HEARD A BIRD SING (1987) also called the Imamu Jones Mysteries, are about a Harlem teen who finds himself in and out of trouble—and jail, in an emotional and social landscape that still resonates today.

Standalone young adult novels include MIRROR OF HER OWN (1981), a coming of age story about eighteen-year-old Mary Abbot and THE MUSIC OF SUMMER (1992) which dealt with colorism viewed from the perspective of the darkest-skinned girl in a group of teens during a summer on Cape Cod. For younger readers, Guy wrote PARIS, PEE WEE AND BIG DOG (1984) about ten-year-old Paris and his friends on one adventurous and unsupervised day in New York City, and THE UPS AND DOWNS OF CARL DAVIS III (1992) about a Harlem boy who moves to live with his grandmother in South Carolina.

Guy also wrote picture books. In MOTHER CROCODILE: “MAMAN-CAIMAN” (1988), Guy retold a series of African folktales. The book won a Coretta Scott King Award for the illustrations by John Steptoe. BILLY THE GREAT (1992) explored what happens when parents have different plans for a kid’s future than the kid himself.

Looking Back

But Guy’s career began writing for adults. BIRD AT MY WINDOW (1966) was her first novel. A MEASURE OF TIME (1983) once again delved into her personal experiences living in Harlem, and MY LOVE, MY LOVE, OR THE PEASANT GIRL (1985), which has been described as The Little Mermaid meets Romeo and Juliet, was adapted for stage and became the eight-time Tony Award-winning Once on This Island.

What Guy did for the landscape of literature goes beyond her own writing contributions. In 1950, she was one of the founders (the only woman) of the Harlem Writer’s Guild. Their mission to develop works by writers of the African diaspora helped literary greats including Ossie Davis, Audre Lorde, Maya Angelou, Sidney Poitier, and Walter Dean Myers. In 1977, the group was honored by the United Nations Society of Writers, and by 1986, founder John Oliver Killens estimated that their members “had produced over 300 published works of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, plays, and screen plays.”  

Guy died in 2012 of cancer. While her work never became as popular as Myers’ for example, it was certainly as important and she herself may have been even more influential in the number of writers she helped to develop.  

​Tracey Baptiste, M. Ed is the author of the MG novel THE JUMBIES, which was a New York Public Libraries Staff Pick, and included in the Bank Street Best Books of 2016, among other accolades. She is also the author of the YA novel ANGEL’S GRACE, and several nonfiction books for children. Her latest is THE TOTALLY GROSS HISTORY OF ANCIENT EGYPT. Ms. Baptiste is on the faculty at Lesley University’s MFA program in Creative Writing, and works as a freelance editor for various publishing companies as well as running her own editorial company, Fairy Godauthor.

We Need Diverse Books Announces Master Class at the Library of Congress

by We Need Diverse Books

May 10, 2016 (Washington, DC) – We Need Diverse Books™, in conjunction with the Library of Congress, is pleased to announce a Master Class on writing and publishing for children and young adults. Leading the master class will be Kwame Alexander, winner of the Newbery Medal for his YA book The Crossover, and Jacqueline Woodson, winner of the National Book Award for her middle grade book Brown Girl Dreaming.

The Master Class will take place on Monday, June 13, 2016 at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. It will be free and open to the public, and students must be 18 or older. Lee & Low will provide travel stipends to two participants coming from outside the Washington, DC metro area.

More information about the application process can be found at We Need Diverse Books website: http://weneeddiversebooks.org/locsymposium/. Applications close on May 31, 2016.

The Master Class will be part of a day-long symposium, “Lineage: From The Black Arts Movement to Cave Canem,” which will also include panels and readings at the Library of Congress and the Folger Shakespeare Library. For more information on the symposium, visit www.loc.gov/poetry and www.folger.edu/poetry.

Kwame Alexander organized the Master Class because a similar class helped jumpstart his career. He said, “[That class] not only gave me the confidence and tools to pursue my dream … it gave me an insider’s look at the process of that pursuit.” Alexander hopes this master class, at the world’s largest library and the nation’s oldest federal institution, can do the same for emerging writers and professionals who value diversity.

Along with our experienced faculty, Alexander and Woodson will cover a range of introductory topics from writing children’s books to the role of literary agents and to pursuing a career in publishing. Faculty Jason Low (Publisher at Lee & Low Books), Jennifer Brown (Publisher at Knopf Books for Young Readers, a Penguin Random House imprint, and Cassandra Pelham (Senior Editor at Graphix, a Scholastic imprint) will share an inside look at the publishing industry.

About We Need Diverse Books™

We Need Diverse Books™ is a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people. For more information, visit http://weneeddiversebooks.org/

About Library of Congress

The Library of Congress, the largest library in the world, holds more than 162 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs, publications and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov .

Looking Back: Diversity in Board Books

by We Need Diverse Books

By Joanna Marple

Board books are appropriate for children between ages zero and three at which point children start to move toward simple picture books. In addition to having subject matter, which is appropriate for younger ages, board books are also designed to stand up to heavier wear and tear than picture books (think teething!)

Debbie Barbuto who blogs at Mommy Moo Moo wrote a succinct and informative article about the history of board books. She points out that a child growing up during the early Middle Ages (from a wealthy family at least) amongst the marshes of Essex or budding urban center of Roma might have been exposed to wooden tablets to learn her his ABC’s. She traces the history of these early childhood books on materials such as thick card, animal horn and fabric through to the second half of the 20th century when board books start to be produced as new additions of existing, popular children’s books.

In the seventies and eighties, board books began to emerge in the format we know today, sturdy, with fewer pages than a standard picture book and aimed at the first two or three years of a child’s life. Sandra Boynton was one of the pioneers you will all recognize, but another author/illustrator on discovering the lack of books aimed specifically at this age group while nursing her first baby through nightly eczema itching, decided to do something about it. Married to author/illustrator John Burnham, Helen Oxenbury was emerging as an author/illustrator in her own right in the UK.

1987 was a prolific year for Helen Oxenbury. With Walker Books, she published: ALL FALL DOWN, CLAP HANDS, TICKLE TICKLE and SAY GOODNIGHT. Unlike her first three board books, I CAN, I HEAR and I SEE in 1985, all four books from 1987 contain a diverse cast of babies (see the original covers below).

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These books are still in print and as popular today as they were thirty years ago. Simon and Schuster reissued them in 1999 with very little change to the original illustrations. To set the backdrop to Helen Oxenbury’s choice, it is worth noting that the UK saw a surge of racial tension and serious inner city rioting in the first half of the eighties, which I remember well. This level of racial diversity in children’s literature was welcome, important and pioneering at the time.

On a side note, SAY GOODNIGHT while it doesn’t have gay parents does included male caregivers!

While I believe most of us would agree that babies are not born racist, some would argue that they also do not see color differences, and therefor these portrayals in books for the very young are unimportant distinctions. Are kids color-blind? The researchers behind the book, NURTURE SHOCK by Pro Bronson and Ashley Merriman claim that children as young as six months judge other people based on the color of their skin. They found that while many families try to avoid discussing race in order to raise “color-blind” children, the kids are making their own, often incorrect, conclusions as to why they look different from their friends and neighbors. The authors claim that children as young as six months can judge others by the color of their skin. Even if a caregiver never mentions race, children may well use skin color on their own, along with other differences, to judge themselves and others. While some parents may feel it is too early to address race with their babies and toddlers, by introducing the subject visually through board books such as Helen Oxenbury’s (and many more recently published board books), I believe we can help avoid racial stereotyping, and nurture an inclusive attitude even in the very young. Books featuring children of color can not only help children of color fall in love with the written word, but also give white children an up close and personal view into the worlds of little people who don’t look like them—who, in many ways, are just like them. Maybe these young children don’t notice a character’s color. But maybe a little white girl reading these books with her dads might just decide to play with a little Asian American boy in the playground because he looks like a character in the book she liked. I think the benefits can be this simple and yet this profound.

Looking Back: Sometimes The All of a Kind Family Isn’t

by We Need Diverse Books

By Laurel Snyder

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If I’m being really honest, I have to admit I didn’t grow up with an especially strong sense of Jewish children’s literature.   In fact, when my first middle grade novel, was published, a librarian asked me what made my books Jewish, and I suddenly realized that NOTHING did. I had to accept the fact that my books were not Jewish at all. Furthermore, I realized that this was probably because the books I’d grown up loving most didn’t have any Jews in them.

Of course, I had  The All of a Kind Family books on my shelf.  I had The Diary of Anne Frank. And Zlateh the Goat.  But though I loved them, these books felt old to me, historical, almost like Jewish sacred  texts.  In my head, we had the Talmud, and then we had Zlateh the Goat.  These books were meant to preserve our heritage. They weren’t about me or my life.

Now I realize that part of the reason I didn’t identify these books with my own family was that my heritage was complicated.  Though I grew up Jewish (went to synagogue and Hebrew school, celebrated the holidays, etc.) my mother was Catholic, and intermarried families weren’t something Jewish children’s books addressed in those years.  If Judaism was marginalized by the larger world, intermarriage was marginalized by Jews.  I didn’t really expect to find myself or my family in any literature, ever.  I wasn’t mad about this fact. It absolutely fit with my understanding of the way things worked. Intermarriage was an embarrassment. Why would anyone write about it?

Davita's Harp

 

Then in high school,   I chanced upon  Davita’s Harp, and reading it, I felt an overwhelming shock of recognition.   Chaim Potok’s story of a girl from a mixed family, growing up in Depression-era New York, aware of the adults around her—their conflicting faiths and classes—struck a massive chord. Even though it was set in essentially the same world as The All of a Kind Family, this book was different. It didn’t feel historical. Rather, it dug into the emotional turf I was struggling to understand myself at that age.  It was about a girl who loved her parents, and their very different traditions. Who felt pulled at times, guilty. Like me.

Beyond religion and family, Davita’s Harp was urban. It was about social justice, war, death, art, and the limitations of the body. It was about all the things I was trying to untangle.  When I was fourteen, and I read this book, I don’t think I’d have called it a “Jewish book.” It felt too complex for that sort of simple definition.  The same way I didn’t feel like a “regular” Jew (I was still laboring under the illusion that there was such a thing), but rather, something messier.

And this is why tokenism will never be enough, in demanding diversity from our literature.  Because no “Jewish” book will ever encapsulate “The Jewish experience.”  Any more than a “black” or “Chinese” (much less “Asian”) book will ever define those experiences.  When people ask me, “How many Jewish books do we need?” I have to answer, “ALL of them.”  However many books we produce to satisfy a quota is too few.  Because not every kid came from The All of a Kind Family.

I think it’s important we remain aware of this, as writers.  Because there’s an impulse, sometimes, to broaden our stories. We want to be available to the greatest number of readers, so we reach for the lowest common denominator. But this feels wrong to me. Backwards.  This is how we lose authenticity, particularity.  No book I can write will ever meet the needs of “The Jewish World” or “Girls 8-12.”  The best I can do it to write one story, for one reader, in one moment, and hope it feels true, and resonates.

Of course, I went on to read all of Potok’s books in high school, and  I loved them. The Chosen. My Name is Asher Lev.  They introduced me—however imperfectly— to other Jewish worlds, to aspects of Jewish life I would probably never have encountered otherwise.  They were a point of departure for me, encouraging me to take Jewish Studies classes in college, and giving me a vocabulary with which to enter new Jewish spaces.  I’m grateful to them all. But nothing else Potok wrote ever touched me like Davita’s Harp.  I’m not sure any book has ever touched me in quite that way. It was the first book I really found my messy, confused, conflicted, ashamed Jewish self in, and that was everything.

Laurel Snyder is the author of many picture books, including Baxter, the Pig Who Wanted to Be Kosher, The Longest Night: A Passover Story, and Swan: the life and dance of Anna Pavlova.  She has also written 5 middle grade novels, including Bigger than a Bread Box, which draws on her childhood memories of life in an intermarried Jewish home.  A Baltimore native, Laurel now lives in Atlanta, where she works for InterfaithFamily.

Walter Award Call For Submissions

by We Need Diverse Books

walterMarch 29, 2016 (New York, New York)–WNDB is pleased to invite submissions for the annual Walter Dean Myers Award, also known as “The Walter,” named after the celebrated children’s book author Walter Dean Myers (1937-2014). The 2017 Walter Award will be given in the young adult category. Future Walter Awards will expand to include awards for picture books and middle grade literature.

The inaugural Walter Awards ceremony was celebrated at the Library of Congress on March 18, 2016. The Walter Award winning authors were Jason and Reynolds and Brendan Kiely for All American Boys, and the 2016 Walter Honorees were Margarita Engle for Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir, illustrated by Edel Rodriguez, and Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon for X: A Novel.

The Walter Award will be decided by a judging committee of esteemed librarians, educators, and authors. The co-chairs of the award are Kathie Weinberg and Terry Hong. “We had the pleasure of reading so many outstanding books for the inaugural Walter Award and are excited about starting the 2017 process,” stated Kathie Weinberg.

One book will be awarded the 2017 Walter Award for YA. One to three books will receive 2017 Walters Honors. The 2017 Walter Award winner will be announced in January 2017.

The deadline for submissions is November 1, 2016.

Eligibility

  • A submission must be written by a diverse author and the submission must be a diverse work. If a work has co-authors, at least one of the authors must be diverse.
  • A diverse work constitutes a YA work written by a diverse author featuring a diverse main character. For works without a main character, the work must address diversity in a substantial capacity.
  • Work must be an original work published in the United States for the first time in 2016.
  • Work may have been originally in another language and translated, but the first English publication date in the United States must be in 2016.
  • Work must be determined to be in the young adult genre for an audience of ages 13-18.

What is meant by “diverse”?

Authors must identify as one or more of the following. The main character of the story must also identify as one or more of the following:

  • Person of color
  • Native American
  • LGBTQIA
  • Person with a disability
  • Marginalized religious or cultural minority in the United States.

Please note:

  • If the work does not include a main character, the subject matter must pertain substantially to diverse experiences and content.
  • Socio-economic status and class do not qualify as diverse for the purposes of this award.

Any submission received that does not meet these requirements will not be read.

Submission Guidelines

Publishers are invited to submit eligible titles for consideration to the Walter Award judging committee. One physical book must be provided to each of the committee members. Please contact WalterAward@diversebooks.org to receive members’ shipping addresses.

When publishers submit books, they must supply information regarding which book[s] they are sending. Such information includes:

  1. A tally of the books included in the shipment, with the publication dates for each book
  2. The diversity with which the author identifies
  3. The diversity of the main character or the overall diversity of the work.

Publishers must submit physical copies. Physical copies may be a finished book or an ARC.

Self-published authors are invited to submit print copies of each of the judges for their consideration, with the following information:

  1. The diversity with which the author identifies
  2. The diversity of the main character or the overall diverse subject matter of the work
  3. A brief summary of their work to WalterAward@diversebooks.org .

To maintain a professional boundary between judges and authors, no author, their family member, or their business partner may directly send any materials to a judge. If the structure of your publishing house requires the author, their family member, or their business partner to send the work to judges directly, please follow the guidelines for self-published authors. If any author, their family member, or their business partner sends a work to a judge directly, that work will be disqualified.

Please note: The last date to mail eligible titles is November 1, 2016. Entries must be postmarked by this date to be eligible for consideration.

For any questions, please contact WalterAward@diversebooks.org .

 We look forward to your submissions!

 

We Need Diverse Books Announces $25,000 Sustaining Donation

by We Need Diverse Books

February 29, 2016 (Washington DC) – We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) is thrilled to announce a sustaining donation of $25,000 from the LJTJ Fund. Author Cordelia Jensen nominated WNDB for the award. The donation is earmarked to fund WNDB’s Walter Awards, Walter Grants, and Internship Grants going forward.

The Walter Award, named in honor of the late children’s literature luminary Walter Dean Myers, recognizes the best diverse children’s book written by a diverse author in a given year. The Walter Grants seek to provide financial support to diverse writers who demonstrate outstanding writing skills. The WNDB Internship Grant provides supplemental funding for diverse college students interested in the publishing industry as a career.

“We’re so grateful for donors like the LJTJ Fund whose gift brings us closer to our vision of a world in which all children can see themselves in the pages of a book,” said WNDB president Ellen Oh. “And a special thank you to Ms. Jensen for facilitating this sustaining donation.”

We Need Diverse BooksTM is a 501(c)(3) organization established in 2014 to address the lack of diverse representation in the children’s publishing industry. The WNDB Walter Awards, Walter Grants, and Internship Grants are a few of the initiatives funded or supported by WNDBTM. More about the organization is available at www.weneeddiversebooks.org.

Cordelia Jensen is the author of SKYSCRAPING (Philomel/Penguin), her 2015 debut YA novel in verse that was named a Best Young Adult Book by ALA. THE EXCAVATION OF LINCOLN MALONE, another YA novel in verse, is forthcoming from Philomel/Penguin in 2018. Cordelia teaches Creative Writing at Bryn Mawr College and is also a Writer in Residence at the Big Blue Marble Bookstore, where she runs a kids’ literary journal. Cordelia is represented by Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger, Inc. You can find her at www.cordeliajensen.com and on Twitter @cordeliajensen

South Asian Voices Roundtable: Part 2

by Hannah Gomez

Yesterday, we featured Part One of this series by Padma Venkatraman. This roundtable continues today with her remaining questions.

Padma Venkatraman
Padma Venkatraman

Padma Venkatraman: I’m American – and the American part of my identity is something I have to keep reminding people of. I’m often told I’m not “really American” and/or that my work isn’t “American enough” to appeal widely to readers in this country. This leaves me wondering if my daughter will be labeled American or South Asian, or both, or neither. It also makes me curious about what other authors think of the role of nature versus nurture in the world of writers and writing, so I asked:

The APALA award and the South Asia Book Award are two major prizes awarded to young people’s literature with Asian themes. Both are open to authors of all backgrounds. What do you see as some of the pros/cons arising from this?

Kashmira Sheth: I am happy that the APALA Award as well the newly created South Asian Book Award exist. These awards highlight books with Asian themes and shed light on that region of the world.

I do feel that opening up the awards to authors of all backgrounds can be a little tricky. If the author is outside of a culture, s/he should have background and knowledge about the culture s/he is portraying and not depend on stereotypes and popular media conceptions of the region. At times I have read books set in South Asia written by outsiders that have made me cringe or shake my head.  On the other hand, there are wonderful books written by outsiders that have been emotionally satisfying and culturally genuine.

Mitali Perkins: I prefer it. I would never ask people to show an ethnic credential before I allow them to tell a story with Asian themes. How many genes must one have to qualify if we require a racial/ethnic identity to tell stories? I’ve blogged about this before, and stick with my opinion. In an intermingling society where more and more of us are far from Malfoy-esque when it comes to “purity of blood,” which books will qualify for an Asian-American identity-based award? The bottom line for me, though, is power. Most Asian-Americans don’t face the same kind of power squeeze out of the American mainstream as blacks, Native peoples, and Hispanics.  The intersection of class/education/race might be the place to focus instead of just race on its own when it comes to championing voices from the margins.

Uma Krishnaswami
Uma Krishnaswami

Uma Krishnaswami: If the intent of an award is to encourage new writers, then it makes sense to restrict authorship to voices that are underrepresented. In an ideal world there should be room in the marketplace for insider narratives as well as those from the outside. But books about South Asia have for years tended to be books about social problems. These have been privileged, and they have typically been written by white writers. Not that they are not true or worthy, but do they have to be the single story of the region? So I think we have a history to get over. If the awards committees want to push the quality of the books beyond worthiness to reflecting the richness and dynamism of the region and its diasporic people, then there’s some thinking that needs to go into questions of whose stories are being told and why.

All of which is good reason for me, mostly, not to think about awards and the politics swirling around them. I have too many stories left to write still, and an increasing awareness that there is simply not enough time!

Rachna Gilmore: Well, I guess the pro is that it opens the field and promotes an egalitarian approach. The con is that it can perpetuate the misappropriation and misrepresentation of non-western cultures by white writers, which has been the case historically. However, I firmly believe that writers must write about what moves them, what they relate to and feel strongly about, even if it is about another culture. The onus is on the writers to ensure due diligence to depict that culture accurately. The onus is on readers and reviewers to speak up if there are wild inaccuracies or misrepresentation. The award committee, I am sure, will be skilled enough to distinguish which books are worthy of inclusion and which aren’t. I have read books by white writers, who have written beautifully and insightfully of characters from eastern cultures. I have also read books by such writers that were a travesty.

Rukhsana Khan
Rukhsana Khan

Rukhsana Khan: I think there’s a lot of white authors who have very good intentions but it’s really, really hard for them to make the leap and write about South Asians in a convincing manner.

I can count on one hand the number of books written by white authors, that I thought were ‘authentic’ to South Asian culture. So for the reasons I listed above, no I think it would be better to leave the APALA and SABA awards open to authors from those cultures.

Venkatraman: Often, even if we identify with a particular culture/ethnicity/group, we may vary, in so many ways (socio-economic status, for example). So, finally, I dared to ask about one of these differences–religion–because we so rarely speak about it, although it is a part of our diversity, and South Asian Americans have different faiths. This roundtable included authors informed by several spiritual/religious backgrounds, and they were brave enough to answer the question

Has your religion influenced your writing/writing life? Have editors/reviewers/readers commented on the influence of religion on your writing?

Khan: Oh definitely!

The fact that I wear hijab and am a practicing Muslim seems to require me to address Muslim issues. At this time of rampant Islamophobia and honestly just flat out HATE towards Muslims, it’s been really challenging! And yet totally necessary!

But it feels like I’m ‘pissing against the wind’. I make no secret about the fact that a lot of my writing has an agenda behind the story. It’s to humanize Muslims. But really I just want to tell some good stories! I’ve been required by the current political climate to try to do more.

I’m up against some considerable odds, and trying to tell good stories that happen to be about Muslims and that can still appeal to universal audiences, well it sure ain’t easy! What works in Muslim culture doesn’t always work in mainstream culture, and vice versa. And it doesn’t help that it has to get past all the white editors in the publishing establishment.

I think white editors are too polite to comment on the influence of religion in my writing. If the work doesn’t reinforce their ideas and perceptions of Islam and Muslims or the ideas and perceptions of what they know about western audiences or if the story doesn’t go the way they think it should they won’t usually comment, they’ll just say something like, “It’s not suitable for us. We wish you the best of luck…” blah blah blah. Honestly I can’t blame them. To say anything is a minefield. When I get those kind of comments, then I know that I haven’t been able to make the transition. I haven’t given the appropriate backstory/information/context for the story to work for mainstream audiences.

But I do think sometimes the white publishers and teachers and marketers underestimate children.

Kids have an altruistic streak. They want to know about other cultures. Often the kid readers themselves will tell me that the things they find most fascinating about my stories are the Islamic/religious aspects. It opens up a totally different world and way of thinking to them and they find it fascinating.

Sometimes I feel like I haven’t yet been able to transfer my light-hearted oral storyteller approach to my writing. I have no trouble connecting with any audience even white audiences in person. I can have them laughing and getting emotional and thinking all within the expanse of an hour! And my stories can do that too but sometimes kids or teachers are reluctant to crack my books open until they’ve seen me. Maybe after they’ve seen me, then they hear my voice when they read my words and they know better how to take them.

I don’t know for sure which is the case. It might be a combination of all the above. All I know is that I’ve got to keep trying.

Kashmira Sheth
Kashmira Sheth

Sheth: My religion has influenced my writing life. Growing up in India, not only the festivals and religious holidays but also everyday events and routines like storytelling, gathering flowers for my grandmother for her daily worship, doing yoga and pranayama, eating vegetarian diet, and feeding sadhus were based on Hindu philosophy. To me, Hinduism is a way of life. I don’t remember going to temples often but we lived and breathed the doctrine of dharma (duty), in everyday life. My grandfather taught me the Bhagwat Gita when I was seven and our correspondence over the nature of universe, reincarnation, and various paths of attaining liberation from the cycle of birth and death continued even after I came to this country to attend college.

So far my protagonists have been Hindus and their religion has played a part in their lives, just as mine has in my life. However, religion has been subtly woven into each story. From time to time, people have commented about it.

Perkins: Yes, I hope that my faith defines everything I do, including my writing. Haven’t received too many comments on the influence of religion on my writing. My guiding motto comes from Katherine Paterson: “The challenge for those of us who care about our faith and about a hurting world is to tell stories which will carry the words of grace and hope in their bones and sinews and not wear them like fancy dress.”

Mitali Perkins
Mitali Perkins

Krishnaswami: South Asian art, music, and story have all influenced me, and such a large part of that tradition is Hindu. Not all of it, but certainly the most ancient roots. I’m not religious at all in my daily practice, but the art, the architecture, the sacred geography of India is in my bones. My husband and I went hiking in Nepal a couple of years ago. I’d never been there before, yet I felt as if I’d gone home to those mountains. Their names, their stories, their symbolism ran so very deep; it was a startling and moving experience.

Editors and reviewers have mentioned religious influences when they’re talking about the retold traditional stories, less so in the context of my picture books or middle grade novels. Parents probably write to me most often about The Broken Tusk: Stories of the Hindu God Ganesha, which turns 20 this year, and of course I had a personal and religious connection to that book. Young readers mostly write to me about Book Uncle and Me or the Dini and Dolly books. In Book Uncle, I chose to make Yasmin Muslim. That fact only gets attention when her dad quotes an 18th century Tamil Sufi saint. In The Grand Plan to Fix Everything and the sequel, I think the only mention religion gets is that the town of Swapnagiri has a church, a temple, and a mosque—one each—and they sometimes compete against each other by sending prayers ripping out through the hills over their respective loudspeakers. So I suppose it depends on the book.

Gilmore: I don’t think I know of any reviews that have commented on the influence of religion in my writing. I don’t really have a strong affiliation with any religion. I know it is coy to say so, but I do prefer the term spiritual. My exposure to religion has been wide, from Christianity in the school I attended in India, to Theosophy through my grandfather, Sikhism, as well as Vedanta and Buddhism, the last two of which I perhaps most identify with in terms of religion.

In as far as religion/spirituality shapes and develops the person you are, my own values have crept into my writing. My book, Lights for Gita, was influenced more by a desire to depict a beautiful part of Indian culture, than to reflect the Hindu religion, though.

Rachna Gilmore
Rachna Gilmore

But I think that my spiritual values or awareness have crept into my writing at times. It’s inevitable. In Mina’s Spring of Colors, for instance, the grandfather discusses philosophies from Vedanta, greatly to Mina’s irritation. I’m sure too, that the general values that come through in my books, are informed in part by my spiritual leanings, although I didn’t consciously insert them there.

About the authors:

Rachna Gilmore is a Governor General’s Literary award-winning Canadian author of over twenty best-selling children’s books. Her titles include picture books such Island Morning, My Mother is Weird, The Flute, The Gita trilogy, and others. Her children’s novels include That Boy Red, The Trouble With Dilly, Mina’s Spring of Colors, A Group of One, and others. Rachna’s books have received multiple honours and awards and have been translated into more than a dozen languages. Born in India, Rachna has lived in Mumbai, London, England, Prince Edward Island, and currently lives in Ottawa, Canada, where she continues to plark – play, work and lark – at dreaming up weird and wonder-filled tales.

Rukhsana Khan is an award-winning author and storyteller. She was born in Lahore, Pakistan, and immigrated to Canada at the age of three. She grew up in a small town in southern Ontario and was ruthlessly bullied. When a grade eight teacher told her she was a writer, she thought the idea was crazy. Writers were white people. They were from England and America. Now she has twelve books published (one of which was chosen by the New York Public Library as one of the 100 greatest children’s books in the last 100 years). She has appeared on television and radio lots of times, and has been featured at conferences and festivals around the world.

Uma Krishnaswami is the author of over twenty books for children, from picture books (Out of the Way! Out of the Way!, The Girl of the Wish Garden, and Monsoon) to middle grade novels (The Grand Plan to Fix Everything and The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic). Her story collection, The Broken Tusk, has been in print twenty years. Uma’s chapter book, Book Uncle and Me, won the Scholastic Asian Book Award and the Crossword award (India). Uma teaches Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in Victoria, BC, Canada.

Mitali Perkins has written nine novels for young readers, including Rickshaw Girl (chosen by the New York Public Library as one of the top 100 books for children in the past 100 years) and Bamboo People (an American Library Association’s Top Ten Novels for Young Adults, starred in Publishers Weekly as “a graceful exploration of the redemptive power of love, family, and friendship.”) Her newest novel, Tiger Boy, is a Junior Library Guild selection. She has been honored as a “Most Engaging Author” by independent booksellers across the country and selected as a “Literary Light for Children” by the Associates of the Boston Public Library. Mitali was born in Kolkata, India before immigrating to the Bay Area with her family.

Kashmira Sheth writes picture books, middle grade novels, and young adult fiction. Her 9 books have received many awards and honors, such as the Asian/Pacific American Librarian Association Honor Award, the International Reading Association’s Notable Book for a Global Society and the American Library Association’s Best Books for Young Adults. Kashmira was born and raised in India and comes from a family of storytellers. She studied science in college but her enjoyment of reading and sharing stories nudged her into writing.  Her latest picture book, >Sona and the Wedding Game, has received rave reviews, including a starred review in Kirkus: “Everyone will want to attend this wedding.”

Padma Venkatraman lived in 5 countries, worked as chief scientist on oceanographic vessels, and even spent time underwater before becoming an author. Her latest novel, A Time to Dance (Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin) was released to 5 starred reviews (Kirkus, Booklist, SLJ, VOYA and BCCB) and received numerous awards: ALA Notable, IRA Notable, Kirkus Best Book, NYPL Top 25, IBBY outstanding, etc. Her two earlier novels, Island’s End and Climbing the Stairs, were also released to multiple (7) starred reviews, were ALA/YALSA Best Books, Amelia Bloomer, CCBC and Booklist Editor’s Choices and won several other awards and honors. Venkatraman has spoken at Harvard and other universities; provided commencement speeches at schools; participated on panels at venues such as the PEN World Voices Festival; and been the keynote speaker at national and international conferences and literary festivals. Padma is American and lives in Rhode Island. Her blog is at http://www.padmasbooks.blogspot.com/.

WNDB and Scholastic Announce New Partnership

by Hannah Gomez

NEW YORK ​– February 29, 2016 – Scholastic and the non­profit organization, We Need Diverse BooksTM, today announced the expansion of their collaboration to bring more books by diverse authors and featuring diverse characters into schools nationwide. For the 2016-­17 school year, Scholastic Reading Club and We Need Diverse Books​TM will collaborate on eight flyers to be distributed in classrooms with students ranging in age from toddler to teen. These offers will elevate stories by and about people from traditionally underrepresented communities. The original special edition collection, launched in Fall 2015, remains available along with the diverse titles and authors featured in all Scholastic Reading Club flyers, at: www.scholastic.com/readingclub.

Featuring award­-winning titles, beloved classics, and new releases, these special edition Scholastic Reading Club flyers will reach millions of students during the 2016-­17 school year. The collection will showcase a wide variety of titles representing many types of diversity, including race and ethnicity, religion, LGBTQ, disabled characters, and more.

“We are pleased that the range of titles and authors in our first flyer curated with We Need Diverse BooksTM is resonating with the diverse population of young readers served by Scholastic Reading Club through schools nationwide,” said Judy Newman, President, EVP, Scholastic, the global children’s publishing, education and media company. “We are delighted to expand this collaboration and continue to help our young readers understand and appreciate people, cultures and experiences, alike and different from their own.”

“We are thrilled with the positive response to our Fall flyer, created in partnership with We Need Diverse BooksTM and are excited for the opportunity to expand this effort. We continue to be committed to our goal of reflecting the world as it is by sharing stories and experiences as diverse as the readers we reach,” said Ann Marie Wong, Editorial Director, Scholastic Reading Club. “At Scholastic Reading Club, we want every child to find that just right book. We believe that our collaboration with We Need Diverse BooksTM helps more kids do just that as they discover the joy and power of reading.”

“After the overwhelmingly positive response from teachers, parents and kids, We Need Diverse BooksTM is delighted to continue our partnership with Scholastic Reading Club. Together, we’ll be able to broaden the breadth and scope of the books we’re putting into the hands of children, presenting them with both the necessary windows and mirrors through which they explore the world.” ­­ –Dhonielle Clayton, COO and Sr VP of Librarian Services for We Need Diverse BooksTM.

For more information about Scholastic Reading Club​, a division of Scholastic (NASDAQ: SCHL), the global children’s publishing, education and media company, please visit http://mediaroom.scholastic.com/ScholasticReadingClub.

Please click here to view the full press release and contact information for both parties.

South Asian Voices: A Roundtable Discussion: Part One

by We Need Diverse Books

Introduction and Questions by Padma Venkatraman

PadmaVenkatraman
Padma Venkatraman

Thanks, WNDB, for trusting me to host the South Asian Roundtable, and thanks, readers, for visiting again.As I pointed out recently, while judging SLJ’s Battle of the Books, this field is highly subjective. There are a lot of South Asian writers, and authors who aren’t ethnically South Asian, but write about South Asia (like Paula Yoo, whose wonderful nonfiction picture book Twenty-Two Cents won the South Asia Book award).

Unfortunately, I couldn’t include all of them here, so on my blog I’ve created a list of ethnically South Asian authors (diaspora) who’ve written kids books (such as Vivek Shraya, whose moving YA novel God Loves Hair won the Lambda Literary Award Honor). I’d be delighted if readers would email me (venkatraman dot Padma at gmail – you know the rest) and let me know who is missing, so I can update my list and make it as comprehensive as possible.

I very much appreciated all the thoughtful responses I received, that are listed below in rotating and reverse alphabetical order. Why? Because my last name starts with a V, and I end up being at the tail end of every list. And, I once read an article that claimed that people vote more often for names that are listed closer to the tops of list, because we grow up thinking what’s listed first is what ought to lead! Anyway, I decided to mix it up, in an attempt to give every author a chance to be first.

As an oceanographer, I define Eurasia as one continent (despite cultural differences, if you look at a map of the world, you’ll see it really is one contiguous landmass). Asia, to me, includes every country  “East” of the Caspian Sea. However, I was once told, long ago, and I won’t say quite how long ago, at an “Asian” student gathering, that I wasn’t Asian! So, I began by asking:

The word “Asian” seems to mean different things to different people. How do you define “Asian”?

Uma Krishnaswami
Uma Krishnaswami

Uma Krishnaswami: I define it geographically. For me Asia begins in Afghanistan and ends at the Pacific Ocean. And within that there are words of cultures, languages, religions, belief systems, art forms, stories, ways of thinking and being. I see South Asia as very much a part of Asia. You didn’t ask that, but I’m saying it anyway. What would Asia be without Buddhism, or India without tea?

Kashmira Sheth: I define Asian as anyone who is or traces her/his ancestors to the Asian continent.

Mitali Perkins: Anybody with ancestors from Asia who dwells in Asia. I affiliate more as an Asian American than simply as an Asian.

Rukhsana Khan: The first thing I think of when I hear “Asian” is Chinese, or that area of the world.

Mitali Perkins
Mitali Perkins

Rachna Gilmore: I try not to define. I think it depends on the context. Broadly, though, I’d consider the word “Asian” to refer to someone living in Asia. Or someone who identifies as having come from Asia. I very much believe in the right of each person to name themselves, to state their own identity. So someone who may have been born in Asia may not consider themselves Asian and vice versa. Asia is a huge continent though – it seems absurd to lump all the diversity under that one moniker.

Venkatraman: Growing up, I read many books that portrayed South Asian culture in a less than positive light, and in my opinion, this does still happen in modern books. And, while I’ve met marvelous people and made dear friends in each of the 5 countries I’ve lived in, I’ve experienced privilege, seen prejudice directed against others, and also borne the brunt of racism, sexism and religious chauvinism. So, I asked:

Have negative stereotypes of South Asians that you’ve encountered, either in books or in life, influenced your books or your writing?

Perkins: Not at all. I feel that we have been represented with respect in both adult and children’s fiction.

Rukhsana Khan
Rukhsana Khan

Khan: Yes! Absolutely!

For the longest while and even now to a certain degree, the stories about Muslim/Pakistani South Asians that get the most attention and marketing are those written by white feminist women authors.

It really enrages me when these authors basically take a western girl and plunk her down in a Muslim culture with very little reference to the Muslim cultural foundation she would have grown up with. And in a few of these books, the solutions the authors come up with for these oppressed girls is that they dress up as boys and run away. What does that say to girls in Muslim cultures?

And in one particular book, I was furious that her solution was for white Americans to come in and save the day! Good grief!

I think the books that become the most popular tend to be Western visualizations of what life is like in more conservative societies rather than stories actually written with more nuance from authors from the culture. I think that feminists have an agenda. It’s almost like a proxy war. They’ve been fighting misogyny in their wealthy western societies all their life, and making some considerable gains, and here they see these poor powerless girls in these developing countries and they, with every good intention, want to rush in and save them. But they only show one side of the equation.

While there is a LOT of misogyny in Pakistani and Afghan cultures–there’s no doubt about that!–there is also considerable chivalry. The first time I came across this dual aspect of Afghan culture was reading Naheed Hasnat’s Shooting Kabul. That book is written by an insider to the culture. She married an Afghan and coming from a Muslim background herself, she naturally understands the culture much better, less superficially than white feminists.

Although that being said my personal reaction to these authors I mentioned above varies considerably. Some authors appear to be opportunistic, capitalizing on their travels to South Asian countries, while others do genuinely care about the subject matter. But in terms of the way these negative stereotypes have influenced my books and writing life, well, basically they make me angry enough to keep going.

I probably wouldn’t have written Wanting Mor but for these books. I needed to write the other side of the story, and I’m very proud of the book.

And the anger and outrage these books have generated within me is something I’ve channeled into my writing, giving me the energy to put up with all the rejections and difficulties to keep going in my writing career. I’ve read, listened, watched and observed, and all those observations I bring to my own writing.

Kashmira Sheth
Kashmira Sheth

Honestly, if I could read the kind of books that show my culture in a positive light, then what would I need to write for???

Sheth: Personally I have not encountered negative stereotypes attitudes directed toward me because of my South Asian heritage. Maybe that is why none of my books have that theme.  I have, however, read many reports about discrimination and even violence against South Asians. One of the most tragic and disturbing ones was the attack on a gurdwara, a Sikh temple, in my home state of Wisconsin.  The attack took place during worship hours, resulting in many deaths and serious injuries. It, along with other reports of violence, have made me think deeply about stereotypes and how they may affect young people of the South Asian heritage.

Krishnaswami: I think I might have fallen into writing for young readers anyway. That was probably determined in my childhood. I was a little sponge, absorbing all the stories I could find. But I do remember, as an adult, when I began to think seriously about claiming writing, first as a secret indulgence, then an avocation, and finally as the work of my life. Back in 1994, representations of South Asia in American children’s literature were not so much negative stereotypes as flat-out missing. It was as if we didn’t exist. When I looked in the library, what I found was Rudyard Kipling. Nothing against Kipling, mind you. He was brilliant, and he certainly had his own demons to battle. But you’d think we were all long-ago, faraway, dead. I found Shirley Arora’s book, What Then, Raman? Well, that was better, although still long-ago and faraway, and with the obligatory white character serving as mentor. And I thought, Oh for crying out loud! I have a baby! He’s going to grow up brown in America. How am I going to face him when he begins to read?

Over the years, I’ve done my bit to write against the stereotypes, to turn typical tropes on their heads. What continues to bother me is a kind of hyper-awareness I see in editors and reviewers about “the audience.” Will the audience get this or that about my work? I get asked that from time to time. Well, the unstated assumption there is that the audience is white kids and they won’t get all this cultural flimflam. I see this as well in books by South Asian writers whose voices convey that stance of explaining. I cringe because I know they know, and they had to do it because they were edited into that stance. And I also know no reviewer’s going to pick that up. I’ve felt most liberated from this constraint with a couple of my books that were published first in India and then picked up by the wonderful people at Groundwood for North American editions. With those books, I could occupy that place of centrality Toni Morrison talks about. I could speak to young readers without having to stop my story to explain anything. Now here’s the funny thing. I’ve done two books this way with Groundwood, worked with a total of three editors there. Not one of them ever once raised that audience question. So I know there’s hope. It can be done with integrity, by trusting young readers.

Rachna Gilmore
Rachna Gilmore

Gilmore: Yes, inasmuch as all authors’ life experiences inform who they are, and influence the values they form, which inevitably shapes their writing. More specifically though, as a brown person of Indian heritage in a white world, I have, of course, experienced racism; both the active, vicious kind, although rarely that, as well as the more patronizing and labeling kind, born of stereotyping. I know much of it is simple misunderstanding and ignorance. It has fueled my desire to write in a way that builds bridges. I strongly feel that it is through fiction that we can cut through boundaries. When we read of characters of cultures that we have perceived of as “strange” or “other”, and when we identify with them through the magic of fiction, and recognize that at the core they are not really that different from us, that is when we start to relate to others simply as people. We drop our stereotyping assumptions and see that our common experiences as human beings are far more profound and real than any superficial differences of skin colour or cultural preferences.

In fiction, too, I encountered stereotypes of Indians, from the cringingly precious – I loathed Kipling, whose depiction of India bore no resemblance to the world I lived in, in Mumbai – to the outright racist, so carelessly depicted in western fiction, which was the only kind I had access to growing up in India. Enid Blyton was an example of that. Even L.M. Montgomery, whose Anne books were a huge favourite of mine, depicted people of Indigenous culture, as well as French Canadians, with an off-handed racism that was a part of her time. There were no books reflecting my life. None.

As an adult I came to understand that we need stories in which we can see ourselves reflected. So writing some of the books I did, focusing on Indian culture, was a way to redress the imbalances I knew existed, and which still exist, although to a lesser degree, in the literature available to our children today.

The South Asian Roundtable continues tomorrow with Part 2.

About the authors:

Rachna Gilmore is a Governor General’s Literary award-winning Canadian author of over twenty best-selling children’s books. Her titles include picture books such Island Morning, My Mother is Weird, The Flute, The Gita trilogy, and others. Her children’s novels include That Boy Red, The Trouble With Dilly, Mina’s Spring of Colors, A Group of One, and others. Rachna’s books have received multiple honours and awards and have been translated into more than a dozen languages. Born in India, Rachna has lived in Mumbai, London, England, Prince Edward Island, and currently lives in Ottawa, Canada, where she continues to plark – play, work and lark – at dreaming up weird and wonder-filled tales.

Rukhsana Khan is an award-winning author and storyteller. She was born in Lahore, Pakistan and immigrated to Canada at the age of three. She grew up in a small town in southern Ontario and was ruthlessly bullied. When a grade eight teacher told her she was a writer, she thought the idea was crazy. Writers were white people. They were from England and America. Now she has twelve books published (one of which was chosen by the New York Public Library as one of the 100 greatest children’s books in the last 100 years). She has appeared on television and radio lots of times, and has been featured at conferences and festivals around the world.

Uma Krishnaswami is the author of over twenty books for children, from picture books (Out of the Way! Out of the Way!, The Girl of the Wish Garden, and Monsoon) to middle grade novels (The Grand Plan to Fix Everything and The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic). Her story collection, The Broken Tusk, has been in print twenty years. Uma’s chapter book, Book Uncle and Me, won the Scholastic Asian Book Award and the Crossword award (India). Uma teaches Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in Victoria, BC, Canada.

Mitali Perkins has written nine novels for young readers, including Rickshaw Girl (chosen by the New York Public Library as one of the top 100 books for children in the past 100 years) and Bamboo People (an American Library Association’s Top Ten Novels for Young Adults, starred in Publishers Weekly as “a graceful exploration of the redemptive power of love, family, and friendship.”) Her newest novel, Tiger Boy, is a Junior Library Guild selection. She has been honored as a “Most Engaging Author” by independent booksellers across the country and selected as a “Literary Light for Children” by the Associates of the Boston Public Library. Mitali was born in Kolkata, India, before immigrating to the Bay Area with her family.

Kashmira Sheth writes picture books, middle grade novels, and young adult fiction. Her 9 books have received many awards and honors, such as the Asian/Pacific American Librarian Association Honor Award, the International Reading Association’s Notable Book for a Global Society and the American Library Association’s Best Books for Young Adults. Kashmira was born and raised in India and comes from a family of storytellers. She studied science in college but her enjoyment of reading and sharing stories nudged her into writing.  Her latest picture book, Sona and the Wedding Game, has received rave reviews, including a starred review in Kirkus: “Everyone will want to attend this wedding.”

Padma Venkatraman lived in 5 countries, worked as chief scientist on oceanographic vessels, and even spent time underwater before becoming an author. Her latest novel, A Time to Dance (Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin) was released to 5 starred reviews (Kirkus, Booklist, SLJ, VOYA and BCCB) and received numerous awards: ALA Notable, IRA Notable, Kirkus Best Book, NYPL Top 25, IBBY outstanding, etc. Her two earlier novels, Island’s End and Climbing the Stairs, were also released to multiple (7) starred reviews, were ALA/YALSA Best Books, Amelia Bloomer, CCBC and Booklist Editor’s Choices and won several other awards and honors. Venkatraman has spoken at Harvard and other universities; provided commencement speeches at schools; participated on panels at venues such as the PEN World Voices Festival; and been the keynote speaker at national and international conferences and literary festivals. Padma is American and lives in Rhode Island. Visit her at www.padmasbooks.com and www.padmasbooks.blogspot.com

This roundtable continues with Part 2.

Looking Back: The Brownies’ Book: Groundbreaking Literature for “The Children of the Sun”

by We Need Diverse Books

By Andrea J. Loney

LBS2As a young black child growing up in the suburbs, I was often leery of “old-fashioned” children’s books published before the late 1960s. Sure, there were the lovely and colorful Golden Books with their shiny spines, and the stodgy Dick and Jane primers, always fun for a giggle or two. But in those older books I seldom saw anyone who looked like me or my family members. It seemed that black children were invisible in the early days of children’s books.

Well, not completely invisible. There were books like the wildly popular Little Black Sambo (1899), which often featured grotesque caricatures and painful stereotypes that usually positioned the black characters as buffoons. While those stories may have been written from the author’s perception of black children, none of those stories were actually written for black children. Back then there were few opportunities for African American children to see positive, uplifting, and heroic reflections of themselves in the pages of a book.

But around 1915, the Harlem Renaissance and the New Negro movement brought a boom of cultural, literary, and intellectual empowerment to the African American community. It also brought the first magazine published for African American children. Lovingly illustrated with images of black boys and girls of all shades and types, this publication featured fairytales, African folktales, fantasies, realistic stories, poems, games, songs, articles on current events, and biographies. It even shared photographs of and letters from the readers themselves.

brownies.192109.017Its publisher, the legendary scholar and visionary W.E.B. Du Bois, named it The Brownies’ Book, and it became a foundation of African American children’s literature.

As founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the editor of the popular NAACP publication The Crisis, Du Bois had previously published the “Children’s Number,” a yearly issue of The Crisis for kids featuring stories, photographs, poetry, and games. But these issues still reported on the rise of racial violence against black Americans, such as lynchings and riots. Du Bois grew concerned for the emotional welfare of the children reading these issues.

So in 1919 Du Bois decided to create a monthly magazine – “for all children, but especially for ours, ‘the Children of the Sun.'” He wanted the publication for children ages six to sixteen to be a thing of joy, beauty, happiness, laughter, and emulation. He wanted to promote self-esteem, education, and leadership skills in young black children. Most of all he wanted to help African American children realize that being black was a normal, beautiful thing.

The Brownies’ Book was the first concerted effort to create a body of literature exclusively addressing the needs of African American children. The magazine ran from January 1920 to December 1921 under the leadership of Du Bois (editor), Augustus Granville Dill (business manager), and Jessie Fauset, (literary editor in 1920 and managing editor in 1921). It cost 15 cents a copy or $1.50 for a year’s subscription.

july 21 coverThis magazine was instrumental in promoting future African American children’s literature. It advertised and sold books that were not readily available in bookstores – works by writers such as Benjamin Brawley, poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar, and more. The Brownies’ Book ran an ad for Unsung Heroes (1921), Elizabeth Ross Haynes’s acclaimed book on African American historical figures. After writing for several issues of The Brownies’ Book, poet and naturalist Effie Lee Newsome later published a volume of poetry for young children called Gladiola Garden (1940), which was gorgeously illustrated by the African American painter Lois Mailou Jones.

In 1921, The Brownies’ Book was the first magazine to publish the poetry of Langston Hughes, one of the most celebrated writers of the Harlem Renaissance. The Dream Keeper (1932) contains many of his poems for children. Throughout his career Hughes wrote many books for children, and he also wrote with his friend Arna Bontemps. Under Hughes’ influence, Bontemps also enjoyed a long and productive career in children’s literature.

May 20 coverThe Brownies’ Book was the first magazine to take black children and the vast range of their particular life experiences seriously. The magazine encouraged imagination and play, but it also faced the reality of racial prejudice while celebrating cultural distinctions specific to the African American childhood experience. Through story and history, photos and illustrations, The Brownies’ Book fostered a deep cultural pride in young African American readers that still resonates to this day.

Online bibliography:
The Crisis. Vol. 18, No. 6 (October 1919), Pg. 285 http://library.brown.edu/pdfs/1295989365421875.pdf

The Tar Baby and the Tomahawk: Race and Ethnic Images in American Children’s Literature, 1880-1939
http://childlit.unl.edu/crisis.191910.html

Appropriating Change Through The Brownies’ Book
http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma03/pricola/brownies/essay3.html

A nearly complete set of all the issues of The Brownies’ Book
http://childlit.unl.edu/topics/edi.brownies.html

Andrea J. Loney was the winner of Lee & Low’s 2014 New Voices Award and her picture book, BUNNYBEAR, will be published by Albert Whitman and Co this fall.

We Need Diverse Books Announces the Opening of Applications for the 2016 WNDB Internship Grants

by We Need Diverse Books

February 19, 2016 (New York) — We Need Diverse Books(TM) has announced that the application process is now open for the 2016 WNDB Internship Grants. In the program’s successful first year in 2015, grants of $2500 were awarded to each of five diverse publishing interns, one of whom has already gained a permanent position in publishing. This year nine $2500 grants are available to diverse publishing interns, and the program has expanded to include interns at literary agencies as well as partner publishing houses.

According to the 2015 Publishers Weekly Salary Survey and Lee and Low Books’ Diversity Baseline Survey, the publishing industry is still predominantly white. An internship is an important gateway into positions at publishing houses and agencies, but the expense of living in New York City can be a barrier to many well qualified candidates. The WNDB Internship Grants help those who might otherwise not be able to accept a position.

“We’re delighted to not only award grants to worthy interns for a second year, but to also be able to expand the program further.” Linda Sue Park, Honorary Chair of the WNDB Internship Grants Committee said.

We Need Diverse Books(TM) is a 501(c)(3) organization established in 2014 to address the lack of diverse representation in the children’s publishing industry. The WNDB Internship Grant is one of many initiatives funded or supported by WNDBTM. More about the organization is available at weneeddiversebooks.org. More information about the WNDB Internship Grants is available at weneeddiversebooks.org/wndb-­internship-­grant/.

Looking Back: Charlemae Hill-Rollins

by We Need Diverse Books

alexandria library
The contents of the Library of Alexandria may have been intended more to display the splendor of Egypt at the time than the lesser goal of research, but this library also had a mandate to collect all the world’s knowledge at that time. The library staff was occupied with the task of translating these works onto papyrus paper and archiving them. Part of the librarians’ job description included a well-funded royal demand involving trips to the book fairs of the day in Rhodes and Athens; not so dissimilar to today’s acquisitions procedures (Bologna, Frankfurt, anyone?) Also, any books found on ships that came into the port were taken to the library, copied and stored. This makes me hopeful that there was an element of diversity in this splendid ancient bibliographic center.

I am a librarian. I know how much (or at times how frustratingly little) a modern librarian can influence the content and promotion in her library. I have just completed an annual book order and one of my guiding principles was diversity. I am fortunate that this happens to be one of the values of my school. I could not curate a series about the forerunners of diversity in children’s literature without including one or two librarians. There are many to chose from, but today’s focus lies with Charlemae Hill-Rollins.

Charlemae Hill-Rollins McCain Library and Archives University of Southern Mississippi
Charlemae Hill-Rollins
McCain Library and Archives
University of Southern Mississippi

In a poor, rural Mississippi community at the end of the 19th century, Charlemae Hill-Rollins was born, the oldest child of a farmer and a teacher. It was maybe her grandmother, a former slave, who had the greatest influence on her childhood. Her grandmother shared oral stories and her collection of books with her grandchildren. Rollins recalled her grandmother’s influence in More Books by More People: Interviews with 65 Authors of Books for Children: “She gave us all the books that belonged to her master who was the father of her children, one of whom was my father. We enjoyed the books in his library, even though most of them were medical books. But I would read anything and everything.”

Rollins began her Chicago library career in 1927, and six years later, she was named head of the children’s department of the new George Cleveland Hall Library, where she remained for 36 years.

Though all this took place ¾ of a century ago, her activism reads like so many present day diversity articles in School Library Journal or Publishers Weekly. In time her fame was to spread from her Chicago library, the first branch to be located in a black neighborhood and serving such a diverse population, across the nation. While pursuing graduate studies at the University of Chicago, Rollins wrote a research paper on representations of African Americans in children’s literature and their impact on children, which would eventually be published as the pamphlet The Negro in Children’s Books. This publication began the crusade for which I especially want to honor and acknowledge Rollins. Working to have children’s books depicting racist stereotypes removed from library purchasing lists, Rollins’ We Build Together: A Reader’s Guide to Negro Life and Literature for Elementary and High School Use was published by the National Council of Teachers of English in 1941. This pamphlet outlined criteria for the selection of literature relating to African Americans, one of the first writings of its kind and truly a precursor of our thrust in the We Need Diverse Books movement. She helped raise the level of consciousness among fellow librarians, teachers, and publishers to the need for more honest portrayals of African Americans in children’s literature.

we buildRollins became the ALA’s first black president in 1957. She retired in 1963 at the age of 66 but didn’t stop what had become her life’s passion. During her retirement she wrote many books of her own, including several YA biographies of black men and women. And in 1972 she was the first African American to receive an honorary lifetime membership in the ALA. Rollins’ role in promoting African Americans in children’s books deservedly earned her awards from library, education, and humanitarian organizations. Among other notable awards she received, was the Coretta Scott King Award in 1971 for her biography Black Troubadour: Langston Hughes. And it deserves our gratitude as we continue to promote Rollins’ values of improving the image of African Americans in children’s books and helping young patrons learn about their heritage.

Rollins said exactly what we are still saying — “Children as they are growing up need special interpretations of the lives of other peoples,” she maintained, “[and] must be helped to an understanding and tolerance. They cannot develop these qualities through contacts with others, if those closest to them are prejudiced and unsympathetic with other races and groups. Tolerance and understanding can be gained through reading the right books.”

Joanna Marple

Online Sources:
http://mts.lib.uchicago.edu/
http://historymatters.gmu.edu
http://biography.yourdictionary.com
http://www.lib.usm.edu/~degrum/blackexperience/homepage.html
http://www.encyclopedia.com
http://www.chicagomag.com/city-life/December-2014/Studs-Terkel-and-Charlemae-Rollins-Read-From-Christmas-Gif/

We Need Diverse Books Announces The 2016 Winners of the Walter Dean Myers Award for Outstanding Children’s Literature – Young Adult Category

by We Need Diverse Books

January 20, 2016 (New York) – The We Need Diverse Books(TM) Walter Award Judges Committee has confirmed selections for the inaugural Walter Dean Myers Award for Outstanding Children’s Literature – Young Adult Category. One winner and two honors have been named.

Walter Awards at Library of CongressThe Walter Dean Myers Award, also known as “The Walter,” is named for prolific children’s and young adult author Walter Dean Myers (1937 – 2014). Myers was a National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature as well as a champion of diversity in children’s and YA books.

The winner of the first annual Walter award (2016) is the young adult novel All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. The judges also selected two Walter honor books: Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings by Margarita Engle and X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon.

The Judges Panel reviewed titles published during the 2015 calendar year by diverse authors whose work featured a diverse main character or addressed diversity in a meaningful way. In the case of author pairs (or author-illustrator pairs), at least one member of the pair must be from an uWalter Awards 2016 Winners with Plaquesnderrepresented community. The books covered many genres and included both fiction and nonfiction works. The award’s mission is to honor the memory of Walter Dean Myers and his literary heritage, as well as celebrate diversity in teen literature.

Walter Award Judges Panel: Rita Painter, Rafe Pose, Edi Campbell, Mindy Rhiger, Todd Krueger, Adeeba Rana, Maria Gentle, Christine Taylor-Butler, Lessa Pelayo-Lozada, Dhonielle Clayton and Kathie Weinberg.

“We are thrilled that the judges read so many high quality submissions meeting our criteria,” Dhonielle Clayton, COO of WNDB said. “Thank you to the publishers who embraced the mission of the Walter Award and submitted books for consideration.”

Walter Awards 2016-96We Need Diverse Books(TM) is a 501(c)(3) organization established in 2014 to address the lack of diverse representation in the children’s publishing industry. The Walter Dean Myers Award is one of many initiatives funded or supported by WNDB(TM).

All photos by Thien-Kim Lam.

January Newsletter

by We Need Diverse Books

January Updates
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Here’s what we’re up to this month:

Start 2016 off with a good book! Check out our 2015 End-of-Year book lists. There’s something for everyone, from YA to Middle Grade to picture books! 

In Boston for the ALA Midwinter Meeting? Come see us at the WNDB Panel on Sunday, January 10th at 11AM with Kody Keplinger, Malinda Lo, Adam Silvera, Heidi Heilig, and Marieke Nijkamp. We’ll discuss ways to introduce LBGTQIA+ and disabled characters to library patrons. Click here for more information.

Congratulations to Gene Luen Yang, the newly appointed National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by the Library of Congress. Gene, the author of the Printz Award-winning American Born Chinese, is the first graphic novelist to hold the post since it was created in 2008.
Congratulations to our inaugural Mentorship Program winners! Lisa Brathwaite, Deirdre D Havelock, Sun Jones, Charlene Willing-McMannis, and Jacqueline Alcántara will be working with award-winning authors and illustrators this year.
#DrumItUp for Drum Dream Girl continues! We are extending the campaign until January 31st, highlighting Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music, by Newbery Honor winner Margarita Engle and award-winning illustrator Rafael López. This poetic narrative of a young girl following her dreams in the face of naysayers is a must-read. Help us drum up interest in this amazing story: read it, buy it, talk about it, and help us sell as many copies as possible throughout the month! In other words, #DrumItUp! 
Penguin Young Readers has partnered with WNDB to announce a writing contest to honor the 40th anniversary of Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Ms. Taylor’s manuscript was  discovered through a writing contest in 1974, and  now, Penguin Young Readers is looking to inspire a new generation of diverse authors. The submission period will begin in April 2016. For more details, click here.
Thanks to everyone who contributed to our end of year fundraising drive. We exceeded our goal! Your generous donations will allow us to continue our mission of putting more books featuring diverse characters into the hands of all children. 
Interested in a partnership or want to suggest an author for a panel? Visit our contact page and send us a message! 
Keep up with us on social media for updates, Twitter chats, book suggestions, and more! 
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We Need Diverse Books™ Announces Mentees in Newly Launched Program

by We Need Diverse Books

January 6, 2016 (New York, New York) – The We Need Diverse Books™ Mentorship Committee and mentors have confirmed selections for the inaugural Mentorship program. Of the nearly 300 applications received, five applicants have been chosen to work with award-winning authors and illustrators.

The winners are: Lisa Brathwaite, nonfiction mentee with Patricia Hruby-Powell; Deirdre D Havelock, picture book mentee with Nikki Grimes; Sun Jones, young adult mentee with Malinda Lo; Charlene Willing-McMannis, middle grade mentee with Margarita Engle, and Jacqueline Alcántara, illustration mentee with Carolyn Dee Flores.

Photos and bios of the mentors are available online. Additional mentee bios will be published later this month.

“The selection committee praised the high quality of the manuscripts received,” said Miranda Paul, chair of the WNDB™ Mentorship Committee. “Because so many deserving writers and illustrators applied, I’d like to see the program expand next year. I’m also hoping we can provide all of the applicants some kind of opportunity to get feedback or learn from our mentors, most likely through a web-based event in the coming months.”

The mentorship program is one of many initiatives funded or supported by WNDB™ since it incorporated as a 501c3 nonprofit organization. Other WNDB programs include the Walter Dean Myers awards and grants, publishing internships, Title I school visits, and a series of online and on-the-ground discussions and panels at key events nationwide to keep the conversation progressing within the industry.

Penguin Young Readers and We Need Diverse Books Announce Writing Contest to Honor Mildred D. Taylor’s ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY

by We Need Diverse Books

(New York, NY – January 7, 2016) — Penguin Young Readers is pleased to announce a writing contest in partnership with We Need Diverse Books™ to honor the 40th anniversary of Mildred D. Taylor’s award winning Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Ms. Taylor’s writing, first discovered in 1974 through a contest sponsored by the Council of Interracial Books, will now inspire a new generation of authors from diverse backgrounds.

In 1974, the CounRollofThunder_JKT_3P.inddcil on Interracial Books sponsored a writing contest seeking out diverse voices. Mildred D. Taylor was the winner of the African-American segment for the manuscript that became Song of the Trees (Dial, 1975), her first book. It introduced the Logan family and was followed by Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1976), which won the Newbery Medal.

Forty years later, in partnership with We Need Diverse Books™, Penguin Young Readers celebrates this momentous publication by launching a debut children’s fiction contest to find talented, ethnically diverse authors writing for readers ages 8-14. The submission period will begin in April 2016 with additional details to be posted on www.rollofthunderbook.com.

Ms. Taylor commented, “Without the Council on Interracial Books contest, my books about the Logan family might not have been published. The contest gave many aspiring writers the opportunity to be heard. Now the Roll of Thunder Publishing Contest is renewing that opportunity for new minority writers. It is amazing to me!”

Dhonielle Clayton, COO of We Need Diverse Books™ , says “We Need Diverse Books™ is thrilled to partner with Penguin Young Readers to honor the 40th anniversary of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. This award-winning book is pivotal, life-changing, and timeless for so many readers. As one of the first mirrors of Depression-era African American life for children, it brought so many forgotten readers onto the page, giving them cathartic access to a family’s triumph over the injustice of racism. Taylor gave the children’s book world a strong heroine whose perseverance sticks with readers long after her story is complete. As an African American child spending summers with my grandparents on their farm in Mississippi, I learned that my family had undergone many of the same challenges as the Logans, and this parallel made Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry the first book where I could find a part of my history and culture contained within the most treasured of places – a book.”

Jen Loja, President of Penguin Young Readers, said, “We are tremendously excited to partner with We Need Diverse Books™, an organization committed to increasing diversity within the children’s book industry and raising awareness, just as the Council of Interracial Books intended when they launched the contest through which Ms. Taylor’s own writing was discovered. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry has been read by generations of young readers, and we look forward to launching a new voice to honor this tradition of diversity in American literature.”

ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY was first published in 1976. Set in Mississippi at the height of the Depression, this is the story of one family’s struggle to maintain their integrity, pride, and independence in the face of racism and social injustice. It is also the story of Cassie Logan, an independent girl who discovers over the course of an important year why having land of their own is so crucial to the Logan family, even as she learns to draw strength from her own sense of dignity and self-respect.

The book was followed by eight additional novels to form the Logan family saga. The 40th anniversary edition of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry was released with new jacket art by Kadir Nelson, an introduction by Jacqueline Woodson, and additional content from Ms. Taylor on January 5, 2016.The complete series – Let the Circle be Unbroken, The Road to Memphis, Mississippi Bridge, Song of the Trees, The Friendship, The Land, The Well, The Gold Cadillac – will be reissued in paperback with original art by Mr. Nelson for release in April – July 2016. The final book in the Logan family saga will be released by Viking in 2017.

Mildred D. Taylor is the author of nine books including The Road to Memphis, Let the Circle Be Unbroken, The Land, The Well and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Her books have won numerous awards, among them a Newbery Medal and Germany’s Buxtehude Bulle Award (both for Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry), four Coretta Scott King Awards, and a Boston Globe—Horn Book Award. Her book The Land was awarded the L.A. Times Book Prize and the PEN Award for Children’s Literature. In 2003, Ms. Taylor was named the First Laureate of the NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature. In 2004, Mississippi celebrated a Mildred D. Taylor Day, and Mildred Taylor returned to her roots to address several hundred school children and adults at The University of Mississippi.

Mildred Taylor was born in Jackson, Mississippi, and grew up in Toledo, Ohio. After graduating from the University of Toledo, she served in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia for two years and then spent the next year traveling throughout the United States, working and recruiting for the Peace Corps. At the University of Colorado’s School of Journalism, she helped created a Black Studies program and taught in the program for two years. Ms. Taylor has worked as a proofreader-editor and as program coordinator for an international house and a community free school. She now devotes her time to her family, writing, and what she terms “the family ranch” in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

We Need Diverse Books™ is a 501(c)(3) organization established in 2014 to address the lack of diverse representation in the children’s publishing industry. With the announcement in 2014 of an all-white, all-male panel at BookCon, a major publishing event, a group of children’s book authors responded with an aggressive social media campaign to draw attention to the need for books that authentically reflect the experience of all children. We Need Diverse Books™ is now a team of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people. Our mission is to put more books featuring diverse characters into the hands of all children. We Need Diverse Books™ has a national platform in the area of diversity in children’s literature, and funds six distinct programs and awards that seek to:

  • support and mentor authors of diverse backgrounds
  • develop editorial and marketing staff of diverse backgrounds
  • assist teachers, librarians, and booksellers in broadening their collections

Penguin Random House  is the world’s most global trade book publisher. It was formed on July 1, 2013, upon the completion of an agreement between Bertelsmann and Pearson to merge their respective trade publishing companies, Random House and Penguin, with the parent companies owning 53% and 47%, respectively.  Penguin Random House comprises the adult and children’s fiction and nonfiction print and digital trade book publishing businesses of Penguin and Random House in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa, and Penguin’s trade publishing activity in Asia and Brazil; DK worldwide; and Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial’s Spanish-language companies in Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia, and Chile. Penguin Random House employs more than 10,000 people globally across almost 250 editorially and creatively independent imprints and publishing houses that collectively publish more than 15,000 new titles annually. Its publishing lists include more than 70 Nobel Prize laureates and hundreds of the world’s most widely read authors.

Native Voices Roundtable: Sharing Stories & Talking Back (Part 2 of 2)

by We Need Diverse Books

Native Voices Roundtable: Sharing Stories & Talking Back (Part 2 of 2)

Yesterday, we posted Part 1 of this roundtable, including an introduction by Cynthia Leitich Smith. Here were the questions she posed to participants:

  1. How did you process–emotionally, intellectually, and/or on a pragmatic/outward response level–societal/media misrepresentations of Native people as a child? Did that change for you as an adult, and, if so, how?
  1. To what extent is your individual Nation well represented in the arts, including literature? Where would you point your own daughter to see her reflection or your dearest friend to be respectfully educated?

 

Julie Flett

As a young person, I yearned for books about my community and culture. I remember reading one book about a First Nations longhouse, or it was set in a longhouse or pit house. I can’t remember the title, but it was likely written in the latJulie Flette 1960s or early ‘70s. I imagine the content was not well written or accurate, as tends to be the case with most children’s books about First Nations people from that period. I don’t remember the story itself, just getting lost in the images. The pictures were grainy and warm, possibly stonecut or pencil crayon. There was something unique about the images from that period.

It was clear to me that it was a book about the history of the people, but I wanted to know more, whether any of these people of the longhouse were my ancestors (they were not), and how I fit in. I think there were just so few resources that I tried to find a connection anywhere I could.

When coming across images at that age that were stereotypes of First Nations people, I would tend either to disassociate, go into denial, or experience a sort of kicked-in-the gut feeling. Usually those responses intermingled. At the time, of course, I couldn’t make heads nor tails of the feelings, as so much of that experience was internalized.

Sadly, as a child, what I took away from those conflicted feelings, is that one should not be “so sensitive.” Consequently, I spent too many years feeling I should keep to myself, keep my mixed ancestry to myself, and I avoided making the connections I’d needed to make. I wish I’d known earlier on and had access to books such as Beatrice Culleton’s In Search of April Raintree (1983), the story of two sisters struggling to find their own identities. Culleton writes:

“Before she could reply, the other man voiced his opinion, and the two soon walked away, discussing their concepts of native life, without having allowed Cheryl to say one thing.”

I know this experience all too well.

As an adult, I studied fine arts at Concordia University and Emily Carr University of Art + Design. At that time, there was an Aboriginal Students’ Centre at Concordia. I remember feeling shy to join, but they were so welcoming. A group of about fifteen of us would get together to share our work and just connect. I had a son, just a baby at the time, and I would bring him along. It was there that I was introduced to what our First Nations Métis and Inuit communities and individuals were working on in a significant way during the mid-1990’s. I was gradually immersing myself in the work, whether it was film, fine arts, or literature. This is one of the projects a number of us worked on together at that time.

There are many Cree, Cross Lake/Norway House, as well as Métis and Cree-Métis artists whose work I admire. Here are just a few: Christie Belcourt, Kevin Lee Burton, Gil Cardinal, Sherry Farrell Racette, Rosalie Favell, Kurt Flett, Shannon Letandre, Leanne L’Hirondelle, Cheryl L’Hirondelle, Dylan Miner, Tannis Neilsen, Skeena Reece, and Christine Welsh.

While publishing is slowly picking up momentum toward diversity, there are still too few First Nations, Métis and Inuit children’s books, too few Indigenous children’s books overall. There is some beautiful work out there that doesn’t make its way into the world as readily. As far as children’s books go, we need more that reflect the reality of our communities, contemporary as well as traditional historical books. They need to be written in an accurate and authentic way.

Categories can be challenging because categorization tends to compartmentalize the work. I personally appreciate having access to a First Nations, Métis and Inuit section in bookstores as I often go there first to check out resources. Yet at the same time, I believe those books could also be included in broader categories, whether that is picture books, children’s fiction, adventure books, poetry, non-fiction or information books, traditional stories, fantasy, or science fiction and so on.

There are some really good resources out there – notably Debbie Reese’s blog, American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL), and Lee and Low Books, dedicated to multicultural children’s books. There are also some really good resources here in Canada: the First Nation Communities READ program, Gabriel Dumont Institute (GDI), Goodminds, Inhabit Media (an Inuit-owned publisher), Pemmican Publications (promoting Métis authors, illustrators and stories), Theytus Books (a First Nations-owned and operated publisher of indigenous voices), and Strong Nations (First Nations, Aboriginal, Inuit, Métis, Indigenous and Native American book recommendations and resources).

Some of the Indigenous writers and storytellers I would point my nieces, son, and dearest friends to are Reneltta Arluk, Jeannette Armstrong, Maria Campbell, Leah Dorion, Dawn Dumont, Marilyn Dumont, Basil Johnson, Joanne Arnott, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Thomas King, Michael Kusugak, Larry Loyie and Constance Brissenden, Victor Lethbridge, Tracey Lindberg, Lee Maracle, Patricia Monture, Beatrice Culleton Mosionier, Aaron Paquette, Waubgeshig Rice, Eden Robinson, Gregory Scofield, Bev Sellars, Sharon Shorty, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Monique Grey Smith, Andrea Spalding, Ningeokuluk Teevee, Penny M. Thomas, Richard Van Camp, Katherena Vermette, Richard Wagamese, and Sheila Watt-Cloutier. These authors are a start. The resource guides above are also helpful.

Julie Flett is an award-winning author, illustrator, and artist currently living in Vancouver, BC. She is Cree-Métis. Julie studied fine arts at Concordia University in Montreal and Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver. She received the Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize and was nominated for the Governor General’s Award for Children’s Literature for her book Owls See Clearly at Night (Lii Yiiboo Nayaapiwak lii Swer): A Michif Alphabet (L’alphabet di Michif). Most recently, Julie’s book Wild Berries/Pakwa che Menisu was chosen as the First Nation Communities READ title selection for 2014-2015. As the author and illustrator of the 2014-2015 selection, Julie is the first-time recipient of the 2014 Aboriginal Literature Award, sponsored by the Periodical Marketers of Canada.

 

Eric Gansworth

The media and Indians. Always a tricky one. I was four the first time I saw an Indian on TV. This was the era of three TV networks and their local affiliates. The first Indian I saw on TV was my brother. I don’t mean this metaphorically. It Eric Gansworthwas my real brother, four years older than me. He was on the local news, the star of a “feel good” segment on a new language revitalization program at the reservation’s elementary school.

The second Indian I saw was my mother. Her bowling team, reservation women, was selected for a local TV game show called Strikes! Spares! and Misses! on which bowlers received prizes for their performance. This is how non-existent Indians were on TV when I was a kid. These are the only examples I can conjure from my early childhood.

A year later, the first local independent TV station debuted, giving us a wider variety of programming options—mostly old shows in syndication and low-budget movies. Aside from the occasional glimpse of Buffy Sainte-Marie on Sesame Street, the three consistent Indians I saw in the media were men: Jay Silverheels as Tonto, the Lone Ranger’s sidekick; “Iron Eyes” Cody, keeping America Beautiful, and Tom Laughlin as Billy Jack, a half-Indian war vet, doing barefoot martial arts in too tight jeans for social justice toward Indians.

No one I knew was really fooled by Iron Eyes Cody, the latest in a long line of non-Indians playing Indians in media. Though Jay Silverheels was Mohawk, from a nearby reservation, and though he had relatives who lived on my road, people from home didn’t seem to connect with him. Maybe it was Tonto’s subservient role, or the way Iron Eyes and Tonto dressed alike—Indians of a different era. Billy Jack was another matter. He dressed like a lot of guys on the Rez, except he had That Hat: a black dome-top western brim hat, with a beadwork hatband to clinch the pedigree. Since that time, That Hat has had an improbably long life.

Billy Jack is, by most aesthetic measures, not a good movie, but for a generation of Indian men, it was what we had. That alone should speak to the need for there being more than one voice for young people to hear. I don’t know to what degree this is true across Indian country, or if it’s even true for young people from my community today, but Billy Jack is alive and well among my middle aged Indian peers. As an adult, I’ve noticed a good number of guys on the Rez sporting That Hat, often at informal events, but sometimes at weddings, and even funerals. I’ve seen someone sporting it in the past year. Most people in America don’t know who Billy Jack was anymore. Why would they know the hero of four obscure drive-in movies from the seventies? But in this one small indigenous community, it lives.

I’ve never owned one of those hats, but I do know firsthand about making personal choices influenced by media. When I was eight, my mother had found a fringed buckskin jacket like Tonto’s, at a rummage sale. I couldn’t wait for that school year to start, but the jacket didn’t last long in my wardrobe. Kids on the bus—other reservation kids—tore at the fringe, until it looked like teeth in an unhygienic mouth. One of the assailants was a cousin of mine. What had so provoked these guys I’d known all my young life? I didn’t know, but in response, I chose a pacifist resolution and stopped wearing it, claiming at home that it wasn’t warm enough.

I lamented the loss of my jacket when it happened, but I’ve come to understand why Tonto did not speak to my peers the way Billy Jack had. They preferred a white actor to a Haudenosaunee actor. They wanted to signify “tough,” to be the denim-jacketed Indian who could stop a white town’s corrupt leader with one swift barefoot kick to the head, and dispatch his cronies with a few more before putting his boots back on. They didn’t want to be anyone’s kemo sabe, despite the word’s theorized Ojibwe origins (giimoozaabi). They wanted to signify defiance and strength, not accommodation. Those traits were desirable.

We had been children when the United States Congress used Eminent Domain to disrupt the lives of my entire community. Despite our formal, legal assertion of sovereignty, and our efforts at peaceful, and then more assertive protest, the United States took a significant part of reservation land. They partly justified this move because to use non-reservation land would “cause unwanted community disruption,” as if they were not causing exactly the same disruption in my home lands. This happened in my lifetime and the ramifications continue to this day.

We find the media images that give voice to our needs, and I can see why so many of my reservation peers have hung on to Billy Jack’s hat as a talisman of sorts, a glimpse of what might have been. I was never going to be tough enough to sport a Billy Jack anything, but in 1976, I got lucky and found a different media representation of my world.

Ted C. Williams, a man from my community, and a sort of second cousin of mine, wrote a book, The Reservation, and, improbably, was able to get it published. I was eleven at the time. The book was maybe a little challenging for me at that age, but its existence was a life changer for me. It showed me, a bookish kid, that there could be books about lives like mine, places like my home. I have no way of knowing if I would have become a writer without this one immeasurably important book, but it was certainly a guiding beacon that had not existed for me before.

In the time of my mother and brother’s appearances on local TV, my specific community, Tuscarora Nation, had a fairly lively group of traditional artists, but little in the way of contemporary artists. I’ve been fortunate that a group of contemporary artists just a little older than I am began professional careers slightly before I was at a professional stage of my life. Visual artists like Jolene Rickard, Rick Hill, Erwin Printup, Simon Brascoupe, and artists from other Haudenosaunee communities chose to merge their traditional sensibilities with contemporary aesthetics. They illuminated a bridge for younger artists like me. Gary Farmer, who has been called an indigenous National Treasure, spent part of his younger years here, and I occasionally run into him at community events. It’s nice to see young people in my community recognize him as their own celebrity.

For reflections to offer friends and family, I’d recommend Erwin Printup and Jake Swamp’s beautiful collaborative children’s picture book, Giving Thanks. It is an earnest and respectful version of our Thanksgiving Address for a young and broad audience. Ted C. Williams’s The Reservation will always be the gold standard for me, so I am just elated it exists. It captures my community at a point just before my life. In addition to showing me our stories were valuable, it also delivered my world in a way that would otherwise have been lost to me. He only published one other book, Big Medicine from Six Nations, and even that happened posthumously. Mohawk poet James Thomas Stevens has spent parts of his life in my community and has family here. His work, though often experimental in form and transnational in scope, sometimes includes nuanced glimpses of our shared world. Anishinaabe poet and intellect, Kristi Leora Gansworth has experiential connections to my individual Nation as well, though her work reflects the larger complications of living with multiple tribal influences. My own work will continue to explore my community because it’s a world I find rich with a sense of its own wondrous place in the world. If I Ever Get Out of Here, my first Young Adult novel, has been used in the seventh grade culture class here (the outgrowth of the language class I mentioned at the beginning of this piece). My hope is that it may do for some young person what Ted’s book did for me–that it will provide evidence our stories are as worthy as anyone else’s to tell.

In the publishing world, we are not exceptionally well represented. That said, we are a community of about a thousand people. That one writer has successfully sent work out into the larger world is remarkable. That five have done it this century seems like a major, delightful statistical anomaly. For this, I give eternal thanks.

Eric Gansworth (Onondaga) is a writer and visual artist from the Tuscarora Nation. He is Lowery Writer-in-Residence at Canisius College. His first YA novel is If I Ever Get Out of Here, for which he also recorded the audiobook. His other books include Extra Indians (American Book Award, NAIBA Trade Book of the Year) and Mending Skins (PEN Oakland Award). His play, Re-Creation Story, was selected for the Public Theater’s Native Theater Festival in New York City. He’s had numerous visual art shows, and his written work has been widely published. Samples may be seen at www.ericgansworth.com.

 

Naomi Bishop

As a child growing up in the late 80s and 90s, I was exposed to misrepresentations of Native people in school and in the media. Disney hits like Pocahontas were actually very appealing to me. My favorite character was Meeko the little Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 6.05.03 PMraccoon from the movie. I remember I had a stuffed animal raccoon and would sing to him. I never really thought about how these misrepresentations were brainwashing me to buy into lies. As I grew older, I began to recognize how historically inaccurate the movie and other movies about Native people were.

When I was growing up, people assumed I was Mexican because of my dark skin and dark hair and would say mean things to me and my sisters. People would yell at us for no reason in the grocery stores or at the movies. I would always say to them I’m Native American and speak only English.

I think most American adults are ignorant on Native American cultures because the U.S. Government purposefully excluded our cultures, languages, and people from society. When I went to college on the East Coast I was one of five American Indians at Smith College. I became aware of the ignorance of people. People would ask me, “What are you? Where are you from?” I told them I was half Native American (Pima) and half white and from Arizona. They would respond, “I’ve never met an Indian before.” I was the only Native person that they had ever met. It was strange because in Arizona and all over the US there are Native people, but these kids had never had any experience with a 21st century Indian before and did not know what to say to me. I would tell them that they should visit a reservation sometime and meet more Native people.

I think society has misrepresented Native people so much in literature (non-fiction and fiction), the media, and history that students don’t know the truth. As an adult I have dedicated much of my efforts in sharing my present day culture with friends, co-workers, and students so that they will gain a better understanding of what it means to be Native American in the 21st century. I invite my friends to come with me to the reservation to visit my grandparents. I speak out against stereotypes and misrepresentations of Native people every chance I get and have frank discussions with strangers about why misrepresentations are so harmful to society. How would you like it if people said your culture does this and that and it was all a lie? What if people told lies about your culture? What would you do if teachers made you wear feathers for Thanksgiving? How do we as Native people tell others to stop spreading lies and start telling the truth about us?

I’ve written emails to authors and publishers informing them that their work is contains stereotypes and misrepresentations of Native Americans. We are not all one tribe, we are 562 different tribes. We have different languages, food, and cultures. As an adult I feel responsible for speaking up and telling the truth so future generations don’t have to experience the harmful stereotypes and lies about their people that I have.

My tribe is not well represented in the literature. There are few books that represent my tribe, but there are more representation in the arts. We are a creative community. We are basket makers, musicians, and storytellers.

If I was to point my friend or daughter somewhere to be educated I would send her to talk with my grandparents. Grandparents and other elders are our most important resources, and the stories they share give me inspiration. My grandparents are living libraries full of stories and memories of growing up in Montana and Arizona before modern life and technology. I would also take my friend or daughter to our tribal museum and the National Museum of the American Indian in D.C. to see collections on our tribe.

I hope that one day people will understand why they should stop misrepresenting other cultures in their writing. If an author wants to write fiction, and a publisher wants to publish it, then they should respect other cultures enough to write accurately.

If the author or the publisher is so misinformed they don’t know whether or not a depiction of other cultures is offensive, they shouldn’t publish it. If you leave out the lies, stereotypes, and misrepresentations, you will have a better story and a better book.

I once reviewed a book that had a character from my tribe. This book was full of stereotypes and inaccurate information about my tribe. I tried to speak with the author and publisher about the book, but they dismissed my comments and critiques. I think publishers and authors don’t care much about Native people. They are trying to make a profit so they don’t really care about complaints from one or two people. I feel very proud and thankful that I am a Native librarian in the 21st century and have the opportunity to speak up and share my thoughts and experience with others about being Native.

Naomi Bishop received her MLIS from the University of Washington iSchool in 2010. She is the 2016 American Indian Youth Literature Awards committee chair, a member of the American Indian Library Association, and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Community (Akimel-O’odham/Pima). In 2009, she interned at the National Museum of the American Indian in Archives and Repatriation. She lives in Denver, Colorado and works as the Science and Engineering Reference Librarian at the University of Denver.

 

Joseph Bruchac

As a child I was not that aware of my own Native American heritage. I knew that my grandparents, and especially my grandfather who was quite dark-skinned and visibly Native, were raising me in a way that was different from many of Joseph Bruchacmy peers. I never experienced corporal punishment, for example. My grandfather told me that was the way his father raised him–to never raise a hand to a child but just to talk to them. My grandfather also told me of his leaving school in 4th grade–jumping out the window because they kept calling him a dirty Indian.

Perhaps that was why I usually identified more with the Native characters in the films and movies and radio shows I experienced as a child, even though many of those representations, even the “positive” ones, either bordered on stereotype or were full on stereotypes of Native people. Jay Silverheels as Tonto. The character of Red Ryder’s “Little Beaver” who rode “Papoose.” Straight Arrow. And then, when I was in high school, Michael Ansara (Syrian American and Klingon) portraying Cochise.

I also recall being disturbed as a child by the way Indians were mowed down by righteous cowboys and pioneers. And I recall hurtful remarks being made about my grandfather–that he was “as black as an Abenaki” for example, or using the “N” word about him. (Though there were far more people who respected him for his generosity and his kindness, running a general store where anyone and everyone could get things on credit, even when they never paid him.)

Did it change for me as an adult? Are you kidding? I would have had to be blind for it not to change. From my college years on I was deeply aware of the racism in the misrepresentations of Native people at every level in American culture. I was also able to meet and interact with elders of my own and other Native nations who were some of the most patient teachers anyone could ever hope for.

As an adult, a poet, then as a writer for young people (and adults), I have endeavored to provide very different images and more accurate portrayals than those that I grew up surrounded by. I am still doing that. There have been changes for the better. That is due, in large part, to the work being done by Native people in education and in the media. Native teachers, writers, filmmakers are doing valiant work (including my son, who maintains a Western Abenaki language site). But sadly, so much misinformation and prejudice still remain both in the US and Canada. Those of us who are Native authors still have an immense amount of work to do.

To be quite honest, one reason that I write what I write is because I could find virtually no honest representation of Western Abenaki people and culture in any books, whether they were for children or adults. We were frequently referred to as the bloody St. Francis Indians. That epithet was included in school textbooks in the state of Vermont, where the prevailing view was that there had never been any Native Americans in that state. That despite the fact that there are numerous archaeological evidences, to say nothing of the continuing presence of thousands of people of Abenaki ancestry.

Things were a bit better for the more Eastern Wabanaki peoples, such as the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy. And there are several recent picture books by writers from those tribal nations: Thanks to the Animals by Allen Sockabasin (Passamaquoddy); Kunu’s Basket by Lee DeCora Francis (Penobscot/Ho-Chunk); and Remember Me, Tomah Joseph’s Gift to Franklin Roosevelt by Donald Soctomah (Passamaquoddy) and Jean Flahive. But I will mostly confine myself to the Western Abenakis.

One of my books, The Winter People, was written to give an entirely different viewpoint of the 1759 raid on St. Francis by the Rogers Rangers. And my book, Hidden Roots, deals with the little known Vermont eugenics project that affected Western Abenaki people deeply in the early part of the 20th century.

There are other native people who are Western Abenaki or have Abenaki ancestry who are beginning to produce some very fine work for younger readers. The most recent example is Wabanaki Blues, a young adult novel written by Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel. I also have to cite Cheryl Savageau and her picture book Muskrat Was Swimming, which was recently reissued. I would certainly recommend those books to my grandkids. I hope to see more work for young readers from Cheryl in the future.

However, and this is an industry wide problem, beginning writers who are Native American are still finding it very hard to connect with publishers willing to seriously consider their work. For some reason, I have been very fortunate as far as getting my own work published. But even when I strongly recommend a younger native author to a publisher they often do not accept that person’s work. Self publishing is sometimes the only way to get a book into print. Luckily, the new options offered through on-demand makes it easier and cheaper to do that.

Joseph Bruchac is a writer and traditional storyteller from the Adirondack Mountains region of northern New York, where he lives in the house he was raised in by his grandparents. His work often reflects his Abenaki Indian ancestry. Author of over 130 books in several genres for young readers and adults, his experiences include running a college program in a maximum security prison and teaching in West Africa. Winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas, his newest book Four Directions, New and Recollected Poems appeared Fall 2015 from Mongrel Empire Press.

Native Voices Roundtable Part 1: Sharing Stories & Talking Back (Part 1 of 2)

by We Need Diverse Books

Introduction by Cynthia Leitich Smith

I remember sitting too close to the television, watching Buffy St. Marie on Sesame Street. How strange that a real Indian woman had somehow found her way onto the screen. What a blessing!

Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 5.52.29 PMAnd yet, she also was the exception that proved the rule.

Native people were rare in the popular media of the 1970s and 1980s, Native women even more so. Tiger Lily from Disney’s animated Peter Pan was arguably the best known.

If you haven’t watched it since childhood, look up the video of the song “What Makes the Red Man Red” and consider what it felt like for Native children to witness and what the takeaways were for their non-Indian peers.

Still today, as an adult, I clench up during those once-in-a-series occasions when an American Indian reference (because actors are even more unusual) appears in a storyline.

Only this fall, I found myself vaguely baffled by the “magical” dreamcatcher on Once Upon a Time, a show which has yet to feature a single Native actor/character. From a world-building perspective, how did that become a tool of Camelot’s Merlin or of the daughter of Prince Charming and, yes, Snow White?

And yet, I’m hopeful—in part because of voices like those I’m welcoming to this circle today, in part because I’ve seen Native and non-Indian children embrace contemporary Native characters and historical ones who’re depicted as three-dimensional human beings. I’m grateful not to be the only woman of my Nation writing for children (shout out to author-poet-musician Joy Harjo).

I pray that the ranks of Native voices, well-crafted Native characters, and content will grow more quickly in days to come. I’m also honored and proud to celebrate all who are here now. So let’s hear from several of the voices in the children’s/YA literature industry and community, in response to the following questions:

  1. How did you process–emotionally, intellectually, and/or on a pragmatic/outward response level–societal/media misrepresentations of Native people as a child? Did that change for you as an adult, and, if so, how?
  1. To what extent is your individual Nation well represented in the arts, including literature? Where would you point your own daughter to see her reflection or your dearest friend to be respectfully educated?

We’ll begin with author-storyteller Tim Tingle (Choctaw), then continue with author Yvonne Wakim Dennis (Cherokee/Sand Hill/Syrian), blogger and activist scholar Debbie Reese (Nambe Pueblo), author-illustrator Julie Flett (Cree-Metis), author-artist Eric Gansworth (Onondaga), and librarian-reviewer Naomi Bishop (Akimel O’odham/Pima), concluding with author-musician Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki)–whose contemporary Native novels numbered among my mentor texts when I was a beginning children’s writer.

Cynthia Leitich Smith(Mvskoke Nation) is the acclaimed New York Times bestselling YA author of the Tantalize series, the Feral trilogy, and award-winning books for younger children such as Jingle Dancer, Indian Shoes, and Rain Is Not My Indian Name. She’s also well-published in the short story, her writing recently appearing in Things I’ll Never Say and Violent Ends. Cynthia is a popular author-speaker and most enjoys leading writing workshops for children and teens. She makes her home in Austin, Texas, and teaches on the MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults faculty at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

 

Tim Tingle

To understand my response to misrepresentations of Native people you must consider the time and place of my upbringing. I am an old man. By the time you read this, I will be 67 years old. I was raised on the Texas Gulf Coast, far Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 5.54.02 PMfrom my Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. When I watched television as a child, we had a choice of three channels. Only three channels. Total. They were all in black-and-white and cowboy shows were very popular—shows like “Bonanza” and “Gunsmoke” and “Wagon Train.”

Out of curiosity, I recently watched several episodes of Bonanza, and was surprised and impressed by a few plot lines depicting unwarranted racism directed against Native American characters. The villains of these episodes are thieving and deceitful Anglos. However I also remember, from over half a century ago, Wagon Train as often showing savage Indians attacking innocent travellers west.

As a child we often played Cowboys and Indians, and nobody wanted to be the Indians. They threw hatchets and spears and killed everyone around them, then stole their horses and rode away hollering war cries. I didn’t want to be an Indian, either. I was Choctaw, not the kind of Indian I saw on television.

As an elementary-aged student, I had no concept that most Americans believed that all Indians were savages. I did not understand why my grandmother made all forty-two of her grandchildren promise never to tell even our closest friends that we were Indian. I never associated this with her fear that we would be considered savage, or that we might be punished for being American Indian. As I grew older, I heard stories of how she had suffered severe punishment at Goodland Academy, an Indian Boarding school, for speaking the Choctaw language.

Later, as I became junior high school age and my curiosity was awakened, I realized that although Choctaws, my people, were civilized Americans, non-Indians lumped us all together. They believed that we all wore moccasins, lived in teepees, and scalped innocent people. This was untrue. Choctaws lived in wooden houses and had an elected system of government long before the United States of America became a nation.

My Mawmaw’s warnings began to make sense. She was afraid for us, afraid of what would happen to us if anyone found out we were Indian. Only my closest friend, Charles Savell, knew I was Choctaw. His mother was Chickasaw and his mother and mine were best friends, so we shared a well-kept secret.

As I pursued my education at the University of Oklahoma at the age of fifty, with a focus on Native American studies, I discovered many hidden and little-known facts regarding Indian issues. I began applying this knowledge to my family life and history. I was always told my grandparents left Oklahoma because of better jobs on the Gulf Coast. That might be the reason, but I suspect another factor led to the move as well.

Until the late 1920s in Oklahoma, it was against the law for a member of an Indian tribe to testify against a white man in a legal hearing or trial. If an Indian witnessed a crime committed against an Indian by a white man, no matter how serious, nothing he said could ever be heard by a jury.

An elderly gentleman who became a close friend and advisor on my thesis, Jay MacAlvain, told me of the shooting death of his uncle on a train bound for Oklahoma City in the early 1920s. He was sitting peacefully at a small town where the train had stopped, when a drunken sheriff entered the train and shot him in the chest. The shooting is well-documented, but no charges were ever filed. This crime inspired my first adult novel, House of Purple Cedar, which I wrote to honor my now deceased friend.

How things have changed. Following the encouragement of our parents and aunts and uncles, my generation of Tingle cousins decided to pull back the masks and step into the light.

Chata hapia hoke.

We are proud to be Choctaw.

I wrote the book Saltypie to celebrate our family’s decision to speak openly of our Choctaw heritage.

Both the Mississippi and Oklahoma Choctaw Nations have focused so strongly on education for the past half century–of music, culture and language–that great writers and artists have emerged naturally. We celebrate and make readily accessible our Choctaw religious hymns and our chants from bygone eras. Beadwork, flute-making, and tribal clothing dating back to early contact with Europeans is common and readily available.

Our tribal game, stickball, is still played–not as an ancient ritualistic celebration, but as a highly competitive contest. The best Choctaw stickball teams travel hundred of miles seeking tournament championships.

Our history is now proudly demonstrated. The Republic of Ireland has commissioned a beautiful sculpture commemorating the Choctaw gift of monies to Irish families starving during the Potato Famine. Private Joseph Oklahombi, a Choctaw Codetalker of World War I, was awarded the prestigious French medallion, the Croix de Guerre, and his portrait is on display at Orly Airport in Paris. I feel very fortunate that for Choctaws seeking knowledge of our past, the information is published and studied on a university level.

Because of this high visibility of “what it means to be Choctaw,” great literary works for all target audiences are flourishing. Children’s illustrated titles, for pre-K through early grades, Middle Grade and Young Adult novels, and a fine number of adult-themed books have been published in the past three decades. Choctaws Louis Owens, Rilla Askew, and LeAnne Howe have gained international recognition with their literary masterpieces.

Is my Choctaw pride seeping through? I hope so.

Are Americans better informed about Native Americans? I fear not. I am often asked, when I present at public schools, if I grew up in a teepee. When I ask questions such as “What do Indians wear?” I hear the usual stereotypes in reply. We need more authors, more posters and visual depictions of modern Native Americans, and more accurate lesson plans for teachers to present the present-day reality. To quote Dr. Kevin Gover, Director of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., we must “meet them on the bridge they cross upon.” We must reach out and inform, teach, entertain, and enlighten our fellow countrymen about who we are and who we have always been—hardworking and dedicated American natives.

Where would I point my own daughter to see her reflection or my dearest friend to be respectfully educated?

For my dearest friend and my son or daughter:

I would hope to accompany, or better yet to lead them, on a journey to the Kiamichi Mountains of Choctaw Nation, southeast Oklahoma. I would start with the old boarding schools, many of which are museums, and we would stop often at quiet and wood-shaded graveyards. We would listen to the grass whisper and feel the songs of the old people wrapping around us at Jones Academy, the old capitol at Tushkahoma, and the cabins of Robbers Cave near Wilburton. And we would sip hot coffee by an open fire overlooking the railroad tracks of Spiro, near the Arkansas River.

After this life-changing journey, I would present each of my fellow travellers with a library of books to help explain why the air now hums and the clouds send greetings as never before. Greg Rodgers, whose children’s book Chukfi Rabbit’s Big, Bad Bellyache won the 2015 Oklahoma Book Award, sends his warmth from above. Chatah hapia hoke. We are proud to be Choctaws.

Tim Tingle is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and a frequent presenter at tribal events. His ancestral grandfather, John Carnes, walked the Trail of Tears in 1835, and memories of this family epic fuel his writing. Author of fifteen books, Tingle has performed at the Kennedy Center, the Library of Congress, and the National Museum of the American Indian. Tingle’s first children’s book, Crossing Bok Chitto, was an Editor’s Choice in the New York Times Book Review. Following critical acclaim for How I Became A Ghost, Tingle was featured at the 2014 National Book Festival.

 

Yvonne Wakim Dennis

When my sister and I lived with our Native grandparents, we were happy and felt like we belonged. Looking back, we never questioned our place in the world. We were not comfortable living with either of our parents, who divorced when Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 5.54.58 PMwe were toddlers. When we became school-age, we went to live with our mother and really felt like outsiders in the community. She was Arab-American, brown, and the subject of great gossip and curiosity in the small mainly Anglo town where we lived.

We got the message that to be “as good” as the other children, we had to be better at everything. My mother had to prove to the world that her Native-Arab-American children were the smartest, prettiest, best musicians, best athletes, most mannerly, most respected, most popular, best read, etc. Of course, we only achieved a few of those expectations!

Several times, we were asked to tell the Indian story in the classroom–just called upon with no preparation to speak to a classroom of smirking, “woo-wooing” uninformed children. It was quite daunting to us.

First of all, it was usually after some mention in our school books of bad, bloodthirsty, ignorant savages, with whom we had no connection. (I always felt simpatico with the buffalo, bears, and horses!) We did not identify with those images, and it was a source of embarrassment and ridicule for us to be connected to them by the other children.

Second, we were just kids. We were not well-schooled in the 500 years of oppression and history that Native peoples experienced.

Third, we knew that if we reported these embarrassing episodes to our mother, she’d come to school and threaten everyone from the teacher to the principal. We did not want any part of the discussions, although that changed when we got into high school.

Then I became aware of many different issues: the Black civil rights movement, Syrian and Palestinian displaced peoples, genocide of the Roma and Armenians, ecological struggles. I think all of that gave me permission to both explore and extol my own background, Native issues, and why there was never any mention of Indians in the news or curriculum.

I was just plain mad about that. It didn’t help that I was a hormonally challenged, marginalized, smart, reactive teenager from a very dysfunctional home. Looking back I think I developed coping skills: to be well-read, to pretend to be confident (I faked it), to be friendly and genuinely interested in people, to be a stellar volunteer and a Miss Goody-Two Shoes. My peers respected me and my opinion, but I was seen as a brainiac who could become quite passionate about my opinions. The kids learned to back off.

I was an avid reader and never had any books that portrayed Native folks as just “normal” contemporary people. I turned to foreign writers, African American writers or U.S. authors who wrote about foreign places. Some of my favorites were Yukio Mishima, James Baldwin, Pearl Buck, Hurston, Wright, Gibran, Tolstoy and lots of other authors who wrote depressing works. I thought my choices set me apart from my classmates. But after working with so many teen girls as an adult, I now understand that girls often choose literature chock full of pathos, drama, and unrequited love.

Of course, I loved fantasy and mystery and the occasional romance that teen girls like. But mostly, I read adult books. In those days I don’t remember any YA literature. I felt alienated from the characters in those gloomy books and had a longing to be in their world, even if it was not such a great place to be.

I sort of came to writing through the back door. Throughout school and college, I was a pretty good writer and won every contest I entered. My classmates knew I would always get the best grades on anything I wrote. But life happened and my activism took me to a career in social work. I did write, but usually articles, proposals, reports, curriculum or newsletters, and sometimes stories for my students.

While working in NYC at the Native American Education Program, a federally funded project for Native American elementary and high school students, I contracted a debilitating chronic illness and could only work part time. My life changed. I wanted to still be an activist, but I could not take to the streets or fight battles with the same ferocity. I was just too sick. I had to find a way to make a difference. A dear friend and colleague asked me to help her update a book. I did and it got me into looking at being an activist in a different way–going back to my love of writing. I am happiest when I am writing!

During my years working at Native Ed, I had enough funds and resources to purchase all the Native books I could find. I wanted our students to have a better experience than I had and to find characters they could identify with in literature. I never minded if they kept the books–I just found a way to buy more. Also, I was obsessed with acquiring curriculum developed by Native programs, educators and at one time, we had the largest repository of curriculum materials of any Title IV project. People came from all over the country and from abroad to use the library. It thrilled me to see Indian kids reading Indian authors.

There are some great Cherokee artists in every discipline. I mean just fabulous artists from Nadema Agard to Jamie Hendricks to Louis Owens to Dorothy Sullivan to Mike Wolfe to Mary Kathryn Nagle, etc. Although we may have the same representation as other groups, there is a lack of diversity within the group. There are not many resources about Urban Cherokee or those not living in NC or OK. There are too many “legend” books and too few books based in modern times.

I would guide my daughter (and did guide my real-life son!) to speak with Elders first. There is so much to learn that is not in literature. Then I would continue her education with very ancient history and present her with everything I could find from anthro to archeological to “Eurocentric accounts” to a real understanding of the Doctrine of Discovery to the latest “scientific” info which often disputes the anthropological and archeological theories. I would teach her to compare and question. Does Euro-based science conflict with traditional info? Why are the peoples who developed most of the food consumed in the world today not considered scientists? How do the historical accounts written by Eurocentric scholars differ from those written by Native scholars? Do both Native and non-Native scholars differ from traditionalists?

I would also direct her to watch television and read different newspapers/magazines and keep a log on Native people in the news. If she were really young, I would provide her with materials that I would choose, from picture books to chapter books. Some of those choices would be written by some of the authors participating in this roundtable.

If she were older, I would direct her to websites (including those hosted by the people on this roundtable) and reviews of books. I would never restrict her choices, but would certainly encourage discussion. Also, I would take her to as many live performances, museums, and art shows as possible and make sure we had a variety of Native musicians from different disciplines playing in our home. I feel it is vital to embrace the diversity of living in an international city and would introduce her to Indigenous cultures from Nunavut to Tierra del Fuego and all points in between. And most importantly, I would ensure that she had community.

I believe that the values, wisdom and science of Indigenous peoples hold the solutions to most contemporary issues, and everyone has the responsibility to learn the “soul” of this place no matter the birthplace of their ancestors. I would certainly direct a friend to the Internet. Native newspapers, language lessons, research papers are all there and mostly free. I would tell my friend that there are no more excuses for being ignorant.

The author of several award-winning non-fiction books for children and adults, Yvonne Wakim Dennis interweaves environmental justice, activism and multiculturalism into all she creates and credits her diverse family (Cherokee/Sand Hill/Syrian) for her commitment to inclusivity. Her focus is on First Peoples, but she also has written about the many cultures that make up the United States. Recent publications include: Native American Almanac (2016); A Kid’s Guide to Arab American History (National Arab American Museum Children’s Book of the Year – 2014); and A Kid’s Guide to Native American History (2010 Gold Moonbeam Award; 2010 Silver IPPY Award).

 

Debbie Reese

I grew up on our reservation, immersed in our dances and ceremonies. It was the norm for us there to do all of that, pretty much like it is the norm for kids in other cultures who, say, go to church on Sunday. Of course, we didn’t go to Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 5.56.04 PMchurch on Sunday. Our ways of doing things were not day-limited. I knew the Indians I saw on TV weren’t real because they looked nothing like us. I don’t think I thought much about those TV Indians as a kid. There were so many of us that my Hispanic and White classmates weren’t informed by stereotypes and misrepresentations, either.

That did change as I got older and moved around in increasingly larger circles. In high school I went on college visits with Native kids from our school, where we met Native kids from other states. And then college where I started hanging out with students from other Nations, and then grad school, where I learned even more about the diversity in Native Nations.

The downside of stepping farther and farther away from my home? I also learned that the farther I moved into spaces that were increasingly white and not-Native, that stereotypes were not even recognized as stereotypes. Specifically, I mean the mascot at the University of Illinois and the experiences of the handful of Native students there who, on top of our studies, worked to inform the campus community about why that mascot was a problem. Who we were as Native people didn’t conform to the romantic/tragic hero that the mascot depicted, and so we were dismissed as not real. Unbelievable, but true. What I experienced at Illinois became the driving force of my work in children’s literature, where I promote accurate books about Native peoples and point to problematic depictions in books.

There’s not a single book about Nambe Pueblo available–that I recommend, anyway. You will find Nambe in Huxley’s Brave New World. But the depictions of the “savages” on the Savage Reservation are incredibly problematic. Sometime I’ll write that up for my blog.

There is one nonfiction photo essay that is about pueblo peoples in northern New Mexico. I absolutely adore that book. It is Swentzell’s Children of Clay. It is who we are, in a matter of fact way. Sadly, it is out of print. The child on the cover could be my own daughter, who had fine fair hair that color when she was that age.

And as Cynthia knows, my all time favorite children’s picture book is her Jingle Dancer, a book I wish I’d had when my daughter was dancing for the first time. Though it features a child of an entirely different nation, it conveys something that is found across our nations: the strong sense of family coming together for important moments in the lives of Native youth and a strong commitment to young people and our nations, too.

Another book I’ll point to is Simon Ortiz’s The People Shall Continue. It was published in the ‘70s and is out of print, but would be so perfect for today! In it, he starts by naming several Native Nations and things that are unique about each one. He moves on through harrowing points in our history, like boarding schools, but through all of those points, we push through, we survive–indeed, we thrive. He closes by talking about the need to come together, across race and nation, to fight greed that destroys all of us, if we let it. Coming together, as he notes, is how the people shall continue. Indeed, his message in that book is what I see within We Need Diverse Books. People coming together, across many different demographics, to fight the ills that are harmful to all of us.

Debbie Reese is tribally enrolled at Nambe Pueblo in northern New Mexico. A former school teacher and professor, her book chapters and articles are taught in Education, English, and Library Science courses in the US and Canada. Her blog, American Indians in Children’s Literature, is her way of reaching a broad audience of people who work within children’s literature. She gives workshops and lectures widely, in person and through social media.

 

This roundtable will continue tomorrow with Part 2.

December Newsletter

by We Need Diverse Books

Updates from the WNDB team
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Here's what we're up to this month: 

#DrumItUp for Drum Dream Girl! This holiday season, our team is highlighting Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music, by Newbery Honor winner Margarita Engle and award-winning illustrator Rafael López. This poetic narrative of a young girl following her dreams in the face of naysayers is a must-read. Help us drum up interest in this amazing story: read it, buy it, talk about it, and help us sell as many copies as possible throughout the month! In other words, #DrumItUp! 
Scholastic and WNDB have partnered to offer over 75 diversity-themed books inScholastic's Reading Club flyers, including award-winners, classics, and new releases. The flyer highlights themes of race and ethnicity, multiculturalism, religions, LGBTQ+ stories, disability, and more.

For more information, click here to read a Q&A with WNDB member and author Dhonielle Clayton about the partnership. 

A BIG thank you to Picture Book Summit for their donation of $7,000 to WNDB! This generous contribution will support our WNDB in the Classroom program, which brings diverse authors and books into Title 1 schools. 

We Need Diverse Books needs you to give a gift today!  Why? Because you will help WNDB reach its vision:

A world in which all children can see themselves in the pages of a book

Need another reason to Donate $25, $50, $100, $200 or more between now and December 31st?

  • You will get a great tax deduction on your 2015 return
  • You will get a Warm Fuzzy right to the heart

Gifts of all amounts advance diversity in the children's publishing industry and support artists working right now.

To sustain that forward motion, and get diverse books into the hands of all children, we continue to rely on your support. Please donate by December 31st using the Donate button below. Thank you very much for your gift.

Keep up with us on social media for updates, Twitter chats, book suggestions, and more! 
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Joseph Bruchac: A Strong, Early Voice in Indigenous Children’s Literature

by We Need Diverse Books

Bruchac-7Imagine a lake with its shimmering, glass-like top – quiet and calm. Yet just below, fish dart and snakes swim in search of food. Above, water striders glide and dragonflies flit on the smooth surface. This image is Joseph Bruchac – a picture of calm, yet teeming with incredible activity inside and around him. For over forty years, this Abenaki author’s award-winning stories about indigenous peoples have crossed all genres of children’s literature. Still as he describes his worst day as a writer, that reality almost never materialized. After a frustrating first semester in graduate school with a visiting instructor who not only gave him the only “B” he ever earned in a writing course and made him rewrite his novel several times in various voices, the teacher told Bruchac he was too lyrical in his prose and not a storyteller. Bruchac left, smashed and trashed his typewriter. Then, he built a fire in his back yard at married student housing and burnt all of his writing. Thankfully, for the world at large, Bruchac bought another typewriter and the following semester met Grace Paley, a new teacher, lifelong mentor and friend with great respect for Native cultures.

I first found Bruchac’s abundant work as an undergraduate through his 1990 ​Keepers of the Earth: Native American Stories and Environmental Activities for Children​ (with Michael J. Caduto), an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. From there, books about my own tribe demonstrated a commitment to writing accurate and authentic stories.

Bruchac Milky Way PB

​[See The First Strawberries: A Cherokee Story​ and ​The Story of the Milky Way: A Cherokee Tale (co-authored with Gayle Ross)​; early reader – ​The Trail of Tears​; and, his middle grade novel​, My Name is America: The Journal of Jesse Smoke, A Cherokee Boy​.] Bruchac finds that is one of the biggest challenges in sharing stories about indigenous people. “Don’t make things up,” he advises. “Go directly to Native people themselves. Not to books, not on-line, but to actual living people. And never expect any one member of a Native culture to know everything or accurately tell every story from her culture.” His upcoming novel, ​Talking Leaves​, on Sequoyah, creator of the Cherokee syllabary, reflects this practice as he drew on his consultations and collaborations with many Cherokee citizens both in Oklahoma and North Carolina over the years as well as submitting the manuscript to the Cherokee Nation’s language program for review and comment. The tribe previously awarded Bruchac its Prose Award; and, he credits receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas as his best day as a writer.

In addition to continually creating and publishing “the world of stories around us,” the septuagenarian tends a large garden and teaches martial arts 5-6 days a week, cultivating a “Zen mindedness about living and writing.” He also works alongside his two sons, Jim and Jesse, who are active in bringing Native language and stories to film. Together, they created a new imprint, Bowman Books, within their Greenfield Review Press, to showcase the poetry, traditional stories and shorter fiction of Native writers in the Northeastern US. Even with his success, Bruchac still finds challenges from traditional publishing houses to consider using Native illustrators, but credits many of his editors “who have been willing to listen and glad to learn” about Native cultures in editing his work. As Bruchac considers what excites him about children’s literature, he believes it is “some of the best and most interesting writing being produced these days,” citing Louise Erdrich’s work for younger readers as one example. He is also energized by what can be done with movies, the “possibilities of the graphic novel” and “new media on-line,” thus providing a hint of all the stories Bruchac still has to share with the world.

For a complete listing of Joseph Bruchac’s wide body of work, visit www.josephbruchac.com and his Bowman Books imprint at www.lulu.com/spotlight/jbruchac. To learn more about his formative years and journey as a writer and storyteller, read Michelle Parker-Rock’s kid-friendly and insightful ​Joseph Bruchac: An Author Kids Love​, Enslow Elementary, 2010. The current WNDB-Scholastic Reading Club Special Edition flyer features Bruchac’s ​The Journal of Jesse Smoke​ and ​Eagle Boy​, a contemporary middle grade novel about a Mohawk boy facing bullying and prejudice in Brooklyn.

Traci Sorell is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee nation and a writer of picture books, both fiction
and non-fiction.

Picture Book Summit 2015 Raises Over $7000 for We Need Diverse Books

by We Need Diverse Books

 

Event Featured Mac Barnett, Peter Brown, Andrea Davis Pinkney and Other Top Children’s Authors

New York, NY – The first annual Picture Book Summit, an international online conference for children’s picture book authors, raised more than $7000 for the nonprofit group We Need Diverse Books. The announcement was made at New York Media Works, the headquarters of Kidlit.TV – a sponsor of Picture Book Summit.

WNDB DonationPicture Book Summit 2015 took place on October 3rd, and featured keynotes from bestselling authors Mac Barnett, Peter Brown and Andrea Davis Pinkney, as well as workshops led by the co-founders and panel discussions with editors and agents. Hundreds of working and aspiring children’s book writers attended the event, logging in from six continents.

“We’re thrilled to be making this contribution,” said children’s book author and Picture Book Summit co-founder Emma Walton Hamilton. “We’d hoped to raise a significant amount, but attendance at the Summit exceeded our expectations – so our contribution was even greater than we’d hoped.”

“We selected We Need Diverse Books as this year’s recipient because of the great work they’re doing bringing awareness to this important cause,” added author/illustrator and Picture Book Summit cofounder, Katie Davis.

The five founders of Picture Book Summit – including picture book author Julie Hedlund, and Jon Bard and Laura Backes of Children’s Book Insider – are longtime colleagues and friends who joined forces to create a unique event to help working and aspiring picture book authors improve their craft and chances of publication.

In addition to Kidlit.TV, sponsors for Picture Book Summit 2015 included the Institute of Children’s Literature, the 12 X 12 Picture Book Challenge, Just Write Children’s Books, and Children’s Book Insider.

We Need Diverse Books is a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people. The organization recognizes all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities. According to WNDB president, Ellen Oh, the Picture Book Summit contribution will be used to support the WNDB in the Classroom program – an initiative that brings diverse authors and their books into Title One schools.

The 2016 Picture Book Summit is scheduled for October 1st, 2016. For more information, visit http://picturebooksummit.com.

November Newsletter

by We Need Diverse Books



Updates from the WNDB team 
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Here’s what we’re up to this month: 

Walter Grand Winners Announced! Congratulations to the inaugural Walter Dean Myers Grant recipients, who were each awarded $2,000 to support their writing to illustrating career goals: Naadeyah Haseeb, Jami Nakamura Lin, Yamile Saied Mendez, Shveta Thakrar, and Angela Thomas. 

Scholastic and WNDB have partnered to offer over 75 diversity-themed books in Scholastic’s Reading Club flyers, including award-winners, classics, and new releases. The flyer highlights themes of race and ethnicity, multiculturalism, religions, LGBTQ+ stories, disability, and more.

For more information, click here to read a Q&A with WNDB member and author Dhonielle Clayton about the partnership. 

Attending this year’s NCTE? Check out the Austistic Heroes of Kidlit panel with authors Corinne Duyvis, Lyn Miller-Lachmann, and Anne Ursu. Corinne and Lyn will also be at NCTE’s WNDB panel on November 21st at 4:15 pm. 
Congratulations to Jacqueline Woodson, 2015 recipient of the Langston Hughes Medal! Jacqueline will be honored in a ceremony on November 20th at the City College of New York. She will also be taking part in a Q&A session, as well as a symposium, before the awards ceremony. All events are free, but require an online RSVP. Please click here to learn more or to sign up for the event. 
Curious about what it’s like to be a WNDB publishing intern? Visit our official Tumblr, where interns are posting their thoughts and experiences. Feather Flores reflects on her time at HarperCollins here
Keep up with us on social media for updates, Twitter chats, book suggestions, and more! 

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Emily Jenkins Donates to We Need Diverse Books

by We Need Diverse Books
November 7, 2015 (New York, New York) – We Need Diverse Books received an unexpected donation from Emily Jenkins that will be applied, in its entirety, to fund the WNDB publishing internship program.
Linda Sue Park, honorary chair of the We Need Diverse Books Internship Committee, stated, “We’re excited about being able to expand the program because of this donation. From our inaugural group of five interns, one is already a full-time employee. This program is having both immediate and long-term effects, and the donation will enhance those effects.”

#WEHAVEDIVERSEBOOKS FOR KIDS IN SCHOLASTIC READING CLUB THIS HOLIDAY

by We Need Diverse Books

Scholastic Reading Club and We Need Diverse Books™ Team Up to Offer Special Collection of More than 75 Diversity-Themed Books for Children

Share: http://bit.ly/1McGJo1

NEW YORK – November 3, 2015 – Recent research indicates that children say one of the top things they look for in choosing books to read for fun is “having characters that look like me.”1 Scholastic Reading Club and the non-profit organization, We Need Diverse Books™, are teaming-up this holiday season with a specially curated book club flyer, for grades 4-8, to provide more than 75 books that feature diverse characters and storylines.

SRC_DiverseBooksFeaturing award-winning titles, beloved classics and new releases, this special edition Scholastic Reading Club flyer will reach more than 100,000 classrooms and 2.5 million students in time for the holidays. The collection showcases a wide variety of titles highlighting important themes about race and ethnicity, multiculturalism, different religions, LGBTQ stories, individuals with disabilities and more. The range of titles and the diversity of the authors will resonate with the widely diverse population of young readers served by Scholastic Reading Club through schools nationwide and help them understand and appreciate people, cultures and experiences different from their own. Additional titles beyond those featured in the flyers will be available online at Scholastic.com/ReadingClub. All book orders are submitted by a teacher on behalf of his or her classroom, and, for every purchase, the classroom earns reward points that are redeemable for books and other classroom materials.

“The goal of this offer is to reflect the world as it is: filled with stories and experiences as diverse as you find in American classrooms today,” said Ann Marie Wong, Editorial Director, Scholastic Reading Club, a division of Scholastic (NASDAQ: SCHL), the global children’s publishing, education and media company. “Scholastic Reading Club evokes such strong emotional memories for children when they find the perfect book for the first time. This special collaboration with We Need Diverse Books™ helps all kids discover the power and joy of reading.”
“We are thrilled to partner with Scholastic on the Reading Club flyer, and to help all kids find both mirrors of their own experiences and windows into the experiences of others,” said Dhonielle Clayton, Vice President of Librarian Services for We Need Diverse Books™.

For more information about Scholastic Reading Club, please visit http://mediaroom.scholastic.com/ScholasticReadingClub.

SRC_DiverseBooks_BBD_H

REFERENCE:
• (1) Kids & Family Reading Report, 5th edition conducted by YouGov and Scholastic, 2014. Things Children Look for When Picking Out Books to Read for Fun (Base: Children Ages 6-17)

 

WNDB Interns Share Their Experience: Yana Makuwa

by We Need Diverse Books

Yana MakuwaIt is an undisputed fact that internships are valuable sources of experience and exposure in whatever industry a person could hope to enter. I found my summer at Macmillan to be no different—I rubbed elbows with successful professionals who had years of experience under their belts, I sat in on crucial meetings, and I got a feel for the day-to-day work done in an active publishing office. But what most people don’t get a chance to see, and what I found was the most valuable addition that We Need Diverse Books provided, is the construction of the moral backbone of the industry. The WNDB program provided access to the work that goes into making sure the daily grind of publishing is part of a grander scheme to make the book world a better place.

The internship program encouraged us to attend and participate in the Children’s Book Council Diversity panels and dialogues, and I am so glad I took them up on the offer. It was inspiring to see people from all different aspects of the industry, with different backgrounds and from various publishers, come together to contemplate and problem-solve issues that are important to them. The attendance at these events showed me that pursuing a job in publishing will allow me to effect change for social issues that I value.

The We Need Diverse Books internship showed me what was possible for my future and made me feel like I was participating in real time as well. The fact that the CBC’s diversity planning committee asked the internship participants to come to their meeting and discuss how the program affected us proved that the organization valued the diverse perspectives of people of color. It helped me believe that I really did have a place in that world, and that it was important that I pursue it.

We Need Diverse Books™ Announces Inaugural Walter Dean Myers Grant Recipients

by We Need Diverse Books

 

October 29, 2015 (New York, New York) – We Need Diverse Books™ (WNDB™)has selected  the first five winners of its first ever Walter Dean Myers Grant: Naadeyah Haseeb, Jami Nakamura Lin, Yamile Saied Méndez, Shveta Thakrar, and Angela Thomas. The winners will each receive a monetary award of $2,000 to support their writing or illustrating career goals.

The inaugural Walter Dean Myers judging committee consisted of seven highly regarded agents and editors who generously gave of their time and expertise to select the five winners: Marietta Zacker [chair of the committee], Saba Sulaiman, Monica Odom, Michael Strother, Andrew Harwell, Lisa Cheng, and Michael Bourret. In a joint statement the judges stated:

“The members of the WNDB Walter Dean Myers Grant committee would like to recognize the depth and breadth of the applicants’ diverse experiences and to celebrate the number of people who, despite being marginalized, had the courage to write, to illustrate, and to submit applications in order to continue the legacy left by Walter Dean Myers. We would like to encourage all applicants to continue to tell their stories, whether through words or illustrations, because we firmly believe and acknowledge that each of their voices matters.”

Aisha Saeed, VP of Strategy for WNDB, lauded the judges’ efforts. “We are thankful to our judges who worked tirelessly in reviewing the applications. We hope these grants will enable the winners to better pursue their writing careers.”

Marietta Zacker of the Nancy Gallt Literary Agency, chair of the Walter Grant committee, added, “I am confident that the conversations we had as we reviewed all applications will inspire us to continue to bring essential changes to the publishing industry. I hope that awarding these grants will be a catalyst for even more writers and illustrators with diverse experiences to share their stories. It is only through them that we can produce and promote the literature young readers seek.”

The Walter Dean Myers Grant is named in honor of the celebrated children’s book author Walter Dean Myers (1937-2014). Walter Dean Myers was a lifelong advocate for diversity in youth literature, and a National Book Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. His legacy can be seen in the thousands of lives he touched, including those of readers and authors alike. His legacy is also reflected in the We Need Diverse Books™ organization. WNDB™ seeks to honor his memory by establishing this grant in his name. Winners of the Walter Dean Myers Grant receive a monetary award of $2,000 to support their writing career goals.

WNDB Interns Share Their Experience: Kandace Coston

by We Need Diverse Books

Kandace CostonWhen I received the email from We Need Diverse Books offering me one of their five summer internship grants, I was so excited I almost forgot to send a thankful response. To be honest, “excited” is a profound understatement. Just the day before, I was offered the internship position at Lee & Low Books, a dream come true in itself. So when I read the email of acceptance from WNDB while on my way to work, my first reaction felt less like excitement and more like disbelief overcome by immense gratitude. I stopped walking and reread the email two more times to be sure I wasn’t mistaken, and as the good news sank in it manifested into a victory dance. I dropped my tote bag on the sidewalk, and got-down-with-my-bad-self right there on the street corner.

Three weeks later I began my summer internship at the country’s largest independent publisher of diverse children’s books. As enthusiastic as I was, the thought of being in an office executing administrative tasks was very unnerving. Thankfully, the transition was effortless due to the welcoming and approachable nature of the Lee & Low staff. I could also breathe easier knowing I had the support of WNDB, a community whose agenda aligns with Lee & Low Books’ efforts. I was working in and supported by institutions that shared a mission I believed in. The camaraderie between them also helped facilitate my learning of the children’s book industry. WNDB encouraged me to be receptive, and Lee & Low Books was eager to teach—a winning combination!

As an aspiring writer/illustrator suddenly immersed in the world of publishing, I had a lot of questions regarding my personal writing and goals. Thankfully WNDB’s assistance only began with a grant and complimentary tote bag full of award-winning titles. WNDB was an endless resource! They held luncheons, dinners, panels, and provided well-established industry professionals as personal mentors. A few of the other grant recipients are also aspiring writers and illustrators, so our luncheon and dinner together were especially insightful. During these occasions we shared our experiences working at different publishing houses and got to pick the brains of the WNDB membership which included industry leaders, published authors, and the President of WNDB herself! Each outing WNDB provided was an invaluable opportunity to learn from my peers and professionals.

As the summer came to a close, I could proudly reflect on my internship experience. All five of us WNDB grant recipients were fortunate to have had this summer opportunity, but I felt especially privileged to have had it with WNDB through Lee & Low Books. Armed with a solid understanding of the industry and the support of the WNDB community I knew I’d be an asset to any publishing house. Recognizing this as well, Lee & Low Books made my dreams come true a second time by offering me a full time position as their Editorial Assistant. Instantly overcome by that familiar feeling of disbelieving gratitude I excused myself from the office. The quiet, empty corridor comforted me as I waited for the good news to sink in. Once it did I celebrated the best way I know how…a victory dance.

WNDB Interns Share Their Experience: Julie Jarema

by We Need Diverse Books

Julie JaremaThis past summer, I was thrilled to intern at Simon and Schuster. I worked with the vibrant and friendly Children’s Publicity and Marketing teams. My daily tasks included writing press releases, researching bloggers, and sending out the nonstop mailings. Every day brought new projects and more familiarity with the process that it takes to get a book out into the world.

The WNDB grant greatly assisted me this summer in countless ways, providing me the funds to live in the city (I’m from Florida) and other invaluable resources. Thanks to the grant, I was able to devote my full attention and energy to my internship to learn all I could in such a short span of time.

One of the greatest resources WNDB gave to me was the incredible community of welcoming and generous book lovers in and around the publishing industry. Everyone’s advice and encouragement enriched my experience and expanded my knowledge of different aspects of and career opportunities in children’s literature. The opportunities to attend the CBC panels gave me insight into challenges that publishing still faces and eased some of my concerns about the perception of diverse books being categorized solely as “diverse.” Being a part of the WNDB community also helped me to realize how necessary it is to have wide representation at all levels and in every department, from the authors to the editors to the design team, in creating books for all sorts of young readers.

WNDB has provided me with an incredible foundation to build from. Meeting the other WNDB interns and hearing about their experiences at the various publishing houses was another highlight. It was also wonderful to meet my mentor Gbemi Rhuday-Perkovich, and authors, librarians, and other members affiliated with the organization. After talking to and learning from so many people in publishing this summer in addition to the support of WNDB, I feel better equipped to continue pursuing a career in the field. I loved working with children’s books, and I hope to continue to find a job that allows me to return to books, unafraid to veer off the path in order to seek out unique and unheard stories for the readers who have been waiting.

Look Back In Pride

by We Need Diverse Books

In this first post in our LOOK BACK series, I shall focus on two LGBTQ YA authors/books. Of course, back in the 70’s and 80’s it was mainly L and G. B, T, Q, I, non-binary characters etc. rarely appeared, but more on that in later posts. (Note, Malinda Lo has compiled some interesting statistics of LGBT YA novels from 1969 to 2011 in a post on her website​.)

If I had known about and been able to lay my hands on ​Annie On My Mind ​by Nancy Gardner when it was published by Farrar, Strauss Giroux in 1982, I firmly believe my coming out story could have been different! I also want to acknowledge the important role of early LGBTQ ​publishers like FSG, who took quite a risk on these controversial and marginalized themes at the time.

AOMM

This was not the first modern lesbian YA novel but it was groundbreaking as the first happy ending in a YA novel with a lesbian theme. It was also unusual in including two gay generations: Liza, the protagonist, and her
girlfriend Annie; and the two ‘spinster’ teachers who ‘shared’ a house, Ms.Stevenson and Ms. Widmer. Okay, so the ending is in fact not so happy for these two adults whose teaching careers at the private girls school, which Liza attends, are cut short by the young lesbians’ rash behavior. After a couple of decades of tragic endings to gay novels (mostly adult romances), often through car crashes, the hard won and optimistic conclusion for Annie and Liza broke a mold in the gay problem novel trend of its day.

Also, as Roger Sutton points out in a 2007 Horn Book article on the subject, it is most definitely an “us” not “them” story, “The dedication — ‘to all of us’ — has ardency and high-mindedness in its unspoken declaration. It also signals a sense of community between author and readers, at least among those who can decode the ‘us’ to include themselves.” My Fosters Academy style school in Cambridge (UK) contained no gay YA novels (though looking back it may have had some Ms. Stevens and Ms. Widmers!) and while I came to Annie ​much later than high school, my identification with Liza was immediate and life-changing. While the story is dated with regards vocabulary, e.g. “lovers” rather than girlfriends, and the more closeted nature of the two couples’ sexuality, it still reads as a wonderful rollercoaster first romance between two adolescents. While many teens still struggle with coming out; some face intense bullying and discrimination; and gays do not always have equality in the workplace, it is important to note the different social milieu in Liza and Annie’s Brooklyn. As of this year’s supreme court ruling, two lesbian eighteen year-olds in NYC can marry and it is quite likely they would have attended a gay/straight alliance club at school, whereas ​Annie on My Mind was published at the same time AIDS was beginning to make international headlines and fuel the already existing homophobia in many nations.

The School Library Journal included ​Annie On My Mind on its list of the 100 most influential books of the 20th century. And according to the ALA​, it was number 48 in the top 100 most frequently challenged books during the period 1990 to 2000. It has been banned in many school libraries over the years and was publicly burned in Kansas City. It remains a classic lesbian coming-of-age story and Nancy Garden, who died last year, was a trailblazer.

IGTIGTWhile ​Annie ​is still in print and still garnering regular readers and reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, the first gay YA novel​, I’ll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip by John Donovan had been out-of-print for years until Flux Books brought out a “40th anniversary” edition in 2010. It was published in 1969, just six months before the Stonewall Riots. It is more humorous and cynical than ​Annie​, and definitely more ambiguous. I think it is also worth noting that the main characters in both novels as well as their authors and the authors of are white.

The protagonist of Donovan’s novel, a thirteen-year-old named Davy Ross, is forced to move to an unwelcoming Manhattan apartment to live with his estranged alcoholic mother after the tragic loss of his grandmother who was his rock. About 1/3 of the way into the story, at his private school in New York, he meets another boy called
Altschuler, who treats him like dirt at first. But the two start to explore a confusing romantic relationship. Any physical scenes take place off stage and are referenced obtusely. The slow pace of the novel and unresolved ending might lose some 21​st century teen readers, but like Annie, ​it is historic in that it isn’t a tragic and coming-of-age story undermined by hopelessness. Davy hasn’t the self-confidence of a modern gay teen character like Tiny from ​Will Grayson Will Grayson, but Tiny and we owe a debt to Davy’s tentative exploration of his homosexuality and Donovan’s courage in writing this novel.
I would love to hear your first LGBTQ YA reads and how they
impacted you.

Joanna Marple

WNDB Interns Share Their Experience: Feather Flores

by We Need Diverse Books

Feather FloresGrowing up, I was the kind of reader most large publishing houses market to. I stayed away from historical fiction. A blurb that started with “The year is [insert year]” was a guarantee I wouldn’t even finish the sentence. I was repelled by books who promised me a plot involving mental illness, family troubles, diaspora, war, or issues of race, gender, and identity in general. As you can imagine, I was very well-read in the fantasy genre.
Sitting in meetings at HarperCollins Children’s Book Group this summer meant I got to hear a lot of comments about what would or wouldn’t sell. This book, for example, is too much of an “issue book,” so its cover and marketing campaign should play up the romance aspect to make it more accessible. And that book might have a great main character, but it just isn’t high-concept enough to stand out from other books about, say, foster children. Because nobody wants to read about foster children. Unless this book is absolutely, undeniably incredible, it just isn’t going to sell well.
The worst part is that I knew my colleagues, some of the best in the business, were often right. I can’t tell you how many times I found myself getting frustrated with young readers who are as dismissive as I used to be. “This book is about a girl with autism, but it’s an amazing fantasy novel too!” I wanted to say to them. “And you may not want to give this book a chance because it’s set in Ecuador, but you’re going to end up loving it so much! And you may think you can’t relate to the main character of this book at all, because she’s black and she lives in New York City, but trust me, it’s so good that you’re going to be in tears by the end.
“Won’t you just look past your own discomfort and give it a chance?”
I am a woman of color who grew up denying important aspects of my identity without fully realizing it. Unconsciously, I felt the allure of whiteness. I felt it in my preference for the Samantha and Molly American Girls, in my willful ignorance of Addy and Kaya. I felt it in my avoidance of Khaled Hosseini and other authors whose names didn’t look like names to me. I felt it in how uncomfortable I was reading Sandra Cisneros and Pam Muñoz Ryan in class for the first time, in the sudden recognition that their experiences spoke to mine in some ways. But I wasn’t half Latina. In my mind, I was white. And that was okay, because race, and difference more broadly, didn’t matter to me. I knew that all people deserved the same respect, so it was perfectly okay for them to stay relegated to their spaces while I chose instead to read the things I wanted to read—the stories, I now understand, that didn’t challenge my concept of myself or the world around me.
We need diverse books because children like me deserve to grow up without denying parts of themselves, especially unconsciously or without knowing any better, that are different from what our society continues to perpetuate as being “normal.” We need diverse books because visibility matters, because celebrating deviation from the arbitrary norm is the first step toward eliminating the negative connotation of the words “difference” and “diversity.” And honestly, we need diverse books because the term “issue book” is a term that really shouldn’t exist.
To all of the young readers like me, please believe me when I say: I understand. I don’t think less of you for wanting the privileges that come with being “normal.” In fact, I think you’re incredibly brave. I think you’re brave enough to take this first, most important step: look past your own discomfort, and give diverse books a chance.

WNDB Interns Share Their Experience: Esther Cajahuaringa

by We Need Diverse Books

I remember feeling like a fish out of water on my first day of my internship with Hachette Book Group.

Esther Cajahuaringa I found myself in a room with other interns who had previous editorial and marketing experiences or had interned with literary agencies. Everyone had been dreaming of working for a publishing house for a long time. I was incredibly excited to be the editorial intern for Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, but I was also equally terrified for a number of reasons:

  1. This was my first internship ever
  2. I had no extensive editorial experience
  3. I was trying something that had never been a “dream” for me

After reading that, you might be wondering how I came to work at LBYR, why I was chosen. Even though this is my first internship, I had spent two terms as an AmeriCorps member with City Year (an educational non-profit) and 826LA. I’d worked at a writing and tutor center where I acquired the editing, multi-tasking, project managing, team building, and organizational skills I needed to flourish in my internship. I just hadn’t recognized that my skills were transferrable to editorial yet.

What I was absolutely sure of was my love for books, and the fervent belief that books hold tremendous power in the lives of people. I grew up in libraries and lived in the worlds of Frog and Toad, Arthur, Sammy Keys, The Boxcar Children, Harry Potter, and so many more. As I got older, books would join me for breakfast (my mom wasn’t too pleased about that), books would bounce around in my backpack waiting to be opened during the long car rides home, and pages would even become smeared in spaghetti sauce during dinner. Ultimately they would not be put down until I finished a story. Of course, I had other interests, but getting lost in a book, in a world either real or imagined, has always been an undeniable joy for me.

I just never thought this joy of reading could be translated professionally into the position and place I find myself today. I am a daughter of two Peruvian parents who emigrated here with the firm belief of giving their family an opportunity to dream big. And much to their surprise, dreaming big for me meant leaving Los Angeles to pursue my Masters in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. It’s been in the middle of my educational pursuit that I have come across a new possibility as an editor, the seed of a new dream.

Throughout my time as an LBYR editorial intern, I have become immersed in the publishing world, working and learning alongside passionate book readers. I sought opportunities to ask questions, sit in jacket and edit meetings, read through manuscripts (the true joy), and even have the chance to draft jacket copy for a book coming out next year. I realized I wasn’t a fish on dry land but one in uncharted waters. All I had to was jump in and give myself the space to take in my new surroundings. The WNDB internship grant gave me the opportunity to fully invest in everything book-related throughout my ten weeks and I am truly grateful.

WNDB Mentorship Program Open For Applications

by We Need Diverse Books

WNDB is pleased to announce that the WNDB Mentorship Program is now accepting applications!

Successful applicants will be paired with award-winning writers and illustrators recognized for their diverse publications in a year-long mentorship in the following five categories:

  • Picture book text
  • Illustration
  • Non-fiction
  • Middle grade fiction
  • Young adult fiction

Find out more here!

We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) will present the first Walter Dean Myers Award on March 18, 2016

by We Need Diverse Books

We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) will present the first Walter Dean Myers Award on March 18, 2016, at 10:00AM at the Library of Congress in collaboration with the Center for the Book and the Young Readers Center.

walterThe Walter Dean Myers Award, also known as “The Walter,” is given to a diverse author whose work features a diverse main character or addresses diversity in a meaningful way. The award is named for prolific children’s and young adult author Walter Dean Myers (1937 – 2014). Myers was a National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature as well as a champion of diversity in children’s and YA books.

“We are honored the Myers family granted us permission to name this award after the great Walter Dean Myers. He had an incredible influence in the world of literature and WNDB feels privileged to honor his legacy in this way,” says Ellen Oh, president of WNDB. “We are also very proud to unveil the logo for the Walter award which has been designed by the incredibly talented Phyllis Sa.”

As part of its promotional campaign for The Walter Dean Myers award, WNDB will help the award-winning book reach a large audience of young readers by purchasing several thousand copies for participating schools and libraries. WNDB will also work with the book’s author and publisher to provide Skype visits for schools and libraries. Some lucky schools and libraries may receive an in-person visit from the award-winning author.

WalterAwardThe award ceremony will showcase and honor the winner of The Walter. Christopher Myers, the son of Walter Dean Myers, will serve as Master of Ceremonies and Jon Scieszka, Inaugural Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, will speak about Walter Dean Myers and his legacy.

“Walter Dean Myers was the third Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, a partnership between the Library of Congress and the Children’s Book Council. It is a fitting legacy to Walter to honor his distinguished literary career, as well as his successful Ambassadorship, with this award in his name to be launched at the Library of Congress,” says Karen Jaffe, head of the Young Readers Center.

For further information contact Hannah Gomez at weneeddiverseboooks@yahoo.com.

We Need Diverse Books POSTPONES 2016 DIVERSITY FESTIVAL

by We Need Diverse Books

September 21, 2015 (Washington, DC) – We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) will postpone its 2016 diversity festival.

“We’ve decided to extend the event planning window so we can focus on our current initiatives and infrastructure,” says Ellen Oh, President of We Need Diverse Books. “With programs like internships and mentorships for aspiring publishing professionals and authors, WNDB in the Classroom, and The Walter Award in full swing, taking additional time will ensure we get the festival we all envision.”

 

Originally slated for July 23rd, 2016, the non-profit organization’s first annual festival will now debut in either 2017 or 2018.

WNDB Announced the Winner of its First Short Story Contest

by We Need Diverse Books

September 8, 2015 (Washington, DC) – We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) has selected the winners of its short story contest to celebrate unpublished, diverse writers of all backgrounds. Kelly Baptist, the first place winner, will receive a cash prize of $1000, plus the opportunity to be published in the WNDB Middle Grade Anthology, official title to be announced, published by Crown Books for Young Readers in January 2017. Baptist is a Human Resource Specialist in Michigan. Ami Boghani, awarded second place, and Reese Eschmann, the third place winner, will receive $250 and $100 respectively. Boghani is a writer and producer based in Brooklyn, NY and Eschmann is an elementary school social worker in North Chicago.

Phoebe Yeh, VP/Publisher of Crown Books for Young Readers/Random House acquired publication rights to the anthology and Ellen Oh, President of WNDB, will edit it. Contributing authors include Kwame Alexander, Sherman Alexie, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Pena, Tim Federle, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Walter Dean Myers, Tim Tingle, and Jacqueline Woodson. The anthology reserved one slot for a previously unpublished author, which will be filled by Baptist’s winning entry.

Yeh said of the winning entry, “I immediately responded to the strong voice and characterization in ‘The Beans and Rice Chronicles of Isaiah Dunn.’ I was also impressed with the way Ms. Baptist created a realistic family and school dynamic. Most powerful of all, Ms. Baptist shows how words are transformative: just as writing the Chronicles gave his father a creative outlet, reading the Chronicles helps Isaiah remember the father he misses.”

The anthology, in memory of Walter Dean Myers, is inspired by Myers’s quote, “Once I began to read, I began to exist.”

We Need Diverse Books™ (WNDB™) Announces Mentorship program

by We Need Diverse Books

Working to develop diverse writers and diverse books, We Need Diverse Books™ (WNDB™) announces a mentorship program partnering award-winning writers and illustrators recognized for their diverse publications with upcoming writers and illustrators who are diverse or working on diverse publications.

Year-long mentorships will be awarded in five categories: picture book text, illustration, nonfiction, middle grade fiction, and young adult fiction. The WNDB™ mentors include an impressive lineup: Coretta Scott-King Award winner Nikki Grimes, Robert F. Sibert Honor recipient Patricia Hruby Powell, William C. Morris and Lambda Literary Award finalist Malinda Lo, and Newbery Honor recipient Margarita Engle. The illustrator-mentor will be announced within the coming weeks.

“Writing is often a lonely venture, and this industry can be perplexing,” says committee chair and VP of Outreach Miranda Paul, who in her early career received a year-long mentorship through a different organization. “A mentor offers support and guidance, but also access to knowledge and experience that can prove invaluable. That’s what we want to provide for upcoming writers and illustrators who are diverse or working on diverse books.”

Children’s writers and illustrators seeking mentorships are invited to submit applications between October 1 to October 31, 2015. The applicants will be reviewed for mentorship need and readiness, and manuscripts will be evaluated on such elements as craft, story, and diversity. WNDB™ mentorship recipients will be announced in December 2015, and mentees will begin working with mentors in 2016. Additional information about the mentorship and applications are available on the WNDB™ website: About/Apply

Cover Reveal for ON THE EDGE OF GONE

by We Need Diverse Books

One of the goals of We Need Diverse Books™ is to enable underrepresented authors to tell their own stories.

Denise, the protagonist in my next book On the Edge of Gone, is not all me—but a lot about her is me, and a lot of her story is the kind that I don’t see being told. As a teenager, I found precisely zero autism narratives that I could see myself in. While there is far more choice now, there are still frightfully few books I’d feel comfortable handing to an autistic teenager going through the same things I’ve gone through. I wanted to change that. I wanted—needed—to see more girls like me. Autistic girls. Insecure girls. Troubled girls. Girls trying to untangle what they know, feel, and have been told about themselves.

Best of all, I wanted to see a girl like that smack-dab in the genre I’ve loved my whole life.

On the Edge of Gone is set in the final stages of a mass exodus as the world tries to flee from a destructive comet … which arrives within the first chapters. It’s part spaceship sci-fi, part contemporary character study, and part disaster novel.

It will release in March 2016, and I’m so very excited to share the gorgeous cover that my publisher Amulet Books/ABRAMS created.

January 29, 2035. That’s the day the comet is scheduled to hit—the big one.

Denise and her mother and sister, Iris, have been assigned to a temporary shelter outside their hometown of Amsterdam to wait out the blast, but Iris is nowhere to be found, and at the rate Denise’s drug-addicted mother is going, they’ll never reach the shelter in time.

A last-minute meeting leads them to something better than a temporary shelter: a generation ship, scheduled to leave Earth behind to colonize new worlds after the comet hits. But everyone on the ship has been chosen because of their usefulness. Denise is autistic and fears that she’ll never be allowed to stay. Can she obtain a spot before the ship takes flight? What about her mother and sister?

When the future of the human race is at stake, whose lives matter most?

cover_on-the-edge-of-gone_medium

On the Edge of Gone will be available for pre-order at all the major retailers soon; in the meantime, add it on Goodreads or keep an eye on the book at my website.

corinneduyvis3-crop-small

A lifelong Amsterdammer, Corinne Duyvis spends her days writing speculative young adult and middle grade novels. She enjoys brutal martial arts and gets her geek on whenever possible. Otherbound, her YA fantasy debut, released from Amulet Books/ABRAMS in the summer of 2014. It received four starred reviews—Kirkus called it “original and compelling; a stunning debut,” while the Bulletin praised its “subtle, nuanced examinations of power dynamics and privilege.”

Find Corinne at her Twitter or Tumblr. She is a co-founder of Disability in Kidlit.

Writing for Charity donates $10,000 to We Need Diverse Books

by We Need Diverse Books

July 7, 2015 (Washington, DC) – We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) is extremely honored to be the recipient of a generous donation of $10,000 from Writing for Charity. WNDB President Ellen Oh was at hand to receive the check from Mette Ivie Harrison, Chair of Writing for Charity, at the annual American Library Association conference in San Francisco.

writing-for-charity-ellen

The donation came about when Ally Condie, a volunteer writer for Writing for Charity, suggested WNDB and committee member Valynne Maetani, seconded the notion. The committee was then unanimous in support for finding better representation in the books they donate to kids in need.

Writing for Charity began in 2007 when YA author Shannon Hale decided to do a one-day writing conference for her readers in order to earn money to give to a good cause. Almost every year since then, it has been ongoing. Writing for Charity has also joined with the Children’s Literature Association of Utah as their non-profit, combining efforts to get books into the hands of needy kids.

Mette Ivie Harrison is in her fourth year as chair for Writing for Charity and it has been growing steadily since then. She is author of seven YA books, and the adult mystery, The Bishop’s Wife. She is also a Mormon mother of five and a competitive triathlete.

Additionally, local Utah writers donate their time for the day, offering critiques, presentations and panels. Local businesses often contribute, as well as other volunteers to further Writing for Charity’s cause.

WNDB is thrilled and grateful to be Writing for Charity’s non profit recipient for 2015. The donation will go directly into WNDB programs, specifically the Walter Dean Myers’ Awards and Grants.

Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators Partners with We Need Diverse Books’ Internship Program

by We Need Diverse Books

June 23, 2015 (New York, New York) – SCBWI, the largest international professional organization for writers and illustrators, has partnered with WNDB to provide free one year SCBWI memberships for the five interns selected for the first WNDB internship grants.

The WNDB Internship Program is designed to open up the children’s book publishing industry to talented job-seekers from diverse backgrounds, giving them an invaluable opportunity to learn about the industry through professional guidance and hands-on experience. Membership in SCBWI will provide these first five interns with broad networking opportunities within the publishing industry. SCBWI regional, national, and international conferences bring together a who’s who of publishing including bestselling and aspiring authors, editors, and agents.

“We want to support this internship effort wholeheartedly,” said SCBWI President Lin Oliver. “Anything the SCBWI can do to enhance and promote diversity in our field, we are glad to do.”

WNDB president Ellen Oh said, “SCBWI has given these interns a wonderful opportunity. We’re thrilled to partner with an organization that has meant so much to the children’s book community.”

The WNDB Internship Program, chaired by award-winning author Linda Sue Park, recently announced the first five recipients of their inaugural Internship Grants: Julie Jarema (Simon & Schuster); Feather Flores (HarperCollins); Kandace Coston (Lee & Low); Esther Cajahuaringa (Hachette); Yananisai Makuwa (Macmillan).

SCBWI joins the Children’s Book Council as a supporting partner of the Internship Program.

 

June Updates

by We Need Diverse Books



Updates from the WNDB team 
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Happy Summer! Here are some updates from the We Need Diverse Books team…


Booktalking Kit: 

WNDB and School Library Journal have partnered to produce the Booktalking Kit, which highlights children’s literature with diverse characters or authors. The kit will help teachers, librarians, and booksellers discuss these diverse works with students and customers, which includes book lists, brief descriptions, comparative titles, and signs to help spread the word about excellent diverse reads. 

Download the kit here.

Internship Program: 

Thanks to funds raised during the IndieGoGo campaign, WNDB is kicking off the internship program, designed to foster the publishing careers of promising individuals from diverse backgrounds. Five diverse recipients have been awarded with grants to fund internships at major publishing houses. Congratulations to the first-ever recipients, Julie Jarema, Feather Flores, Kandance Coston, Esther Cajahuaringa, and Yananisai Makuwa. 

BEA/BookCon: 
WNDB was present and active at BEA and BookCon, prompting discussion and conversation, including: 

  • A feature on NPR with Ellen Oh and Daniel Jose Older, discussing WNDB one year later
  • Bustle’s article about the power of diverse books
  • Overviews of the FridaySaturday, and Sunday panels
  • A C-SPAN video of the BEA panel focusing on diversity in publishing
BEA panel with Ellen Oh, L.R. Giles, Linda Sue Park, Matt de la Pena, and Tim Federle. 
ALA Annual Preview

WNDB will be at the ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco this weekend.

On Friday, June 25th, WNDB will be honored as one of Library Journal’s “Movers & Shakers 2015.” 

Find us at two panels: 

  • Sunday, June 28th at 9:00 AM: a WNDB panel, co-sponsored with ALA-OIF featuring E.E. Charton, Susan Kuklin, Lyn Miller-Lachman, Karen Sandler, Tim Federle, and Greg Neri. The panelists will discuss censorship and the top challenged books in 2014.
 
  • Sunday, June 28th at 3:00 PM: an official WNDB panel sponsored by the APALA (the Asian Pacific American Librarian’s Association) on how librarians can engage in dialogue about diverse books will feature Aisha Saeed, Cindy Pon, Cynthia Leitich-Smith, Ellen Oh, Soman Chainini, and Stephanie Kuehn.
Keep up with us on social media for further updates, discussion, and the 2015 Summer Reading Series for some diverse book suggestions! 
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WNDB Welcomes New Advisory Board Members and Executive Committee Members

by We Need Diverse Books

June 12, 2015 (Washington, D.C.)

Gene Luen Yang joins We Need Diverse Books Advisory Board.

Gene Luen Yang, the acclaimed, award winning writer and artist joins We Need Diverse Books Advisory Board. In 2006, Yang’s American Born Chinese was the first graphic novel to be nominated for a National Book Award and the first to win the American Library Association’s Michael L. Printz Award. His 2013 two-volume graphic novel Boxers & Saints was also nominated for a National Book Award and won the L.A. Times Book Prize.  Yang currently writes Dark Horse Comics’ Avatar: The Last Airbender and DC Comics’ Superman.

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Meg Medina moves from Executive Committee to Advisory Board Chair.

Meg Medina, an award-winning author moves from We Need Diverse Books Executive Committee to Advisory Board Chair. “I feel very fortunate to have been a part of the WNDB campaign from its beginning. Moving to the advisory board gives me the opportunity to stay in touch with an amazing group of people who are working hard to change the face of publishing. I look forward to advocating and fundraising for this wonderful organization,” Medina said.

In 2014, Medina was recognized as one of the CNN 10 Visionary Women in America and was also the recipient of the Pura Belpre medal. Her young adult novel Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass was the CYBILS Fiction winner in 2013, and in 2012, she received the Ezra Jack Keats New Writers Medal for her picture book Tia Isa Wants a Car.

We Need Diverse Books™ Announces Inaugural Internship Grant Awardees

by We Need Diverse Books

Intern Grant Announcement 2015

 

New York, New York – June 9, 2015 – Less than one year after achieving its stretch goals during its Fall 2014 IndieGoGo campaign, We Need Diverse Books™ (WNDB™) is thrilled to announce the first five recipients of one of its biggest projects to date – the WNDB™ Publishing Internship Project. Each recipient will receive a supplementary grant and will also have access to a mentor from the WNDB™ team of writing and publishing professionals.

The WNDB™ Internship Committee, an internal group made up of several volunteer team members and headed by award-winning author Linda Sue Park, began accepting applications and essays from hopeful internship applicants earlier this year. By working closely with publishing partners to inform them of the scope and requirements of the grant, the committee wished to encourage the consideration of diverse candidates. Once an applicant was officially offered an internship with a children’s literature imprint, they informed the WNDB™ Internship Committee of their acceptance and were then fully eligible for the grant.

After extensive and careful deliberation by the team, five applicants were ultimately selected as the very first recipients of the grant. Those recipients are:

Julie Jarema of Bard College, who accepted an internship with Simon and Schuster.

Feather Flores of Pomona College, who accepted an internship with HarperCollins.

Kandace Coston of Barnard College and Columbia University, who accepted an internship with Lee & Low Books.

Esther Cajahuaringa of Teachers College and Columbia University, who accepted an internship with Hachette Book Group.

Yananisai Makuwa of Cornell University, who accepted an internship with Macmillan.

Through this program, WNDB™ hopes to allow for greater networking and opportunities for people of diverse backgrounds seeking to enter children’s publishing. They are ecstatic to begin the program with such a promising group of young professionals. Though there are many miles left to go, this is a fantastic start. The WNDB™ Internship Grant Program will return in 2016, and in the meantime, WNDB™ has several other programs rolling out, including Booktalking Kits (recently released), the first Walter Awards (Fall 2015), and the first Diversity Festival in Washington, D.C. (Summer 2016).

WNDB™ would like to thank the Children’s Book Council for providing informational materials and educational opportunities for this year’s WNDB™ grant recipients. Thanks also to all the new publishing interns who will be taking part in the future of children’s publishing.

 

WNDB Launches Summer Reading Series 2015

by We Need Diverse Books

June 8th marks Day One of one of We Need Diverse Books’ most popular features: the Summer Reading Series. We are proud to collaborate with the Smithsonian BookDragon on this project. Every weekday throughout the summer, we will provide a comparison between two titles: “If you like X, try Y, because Z.”

The “If you like” titles are popular, well-known titles, written largely by established authors. The “try” titles are equally captivating, but by lesser-known authors–all of whom are diverse according to WNDB’s definition of “diversity”, available: http://weneeddiversebooks.org/mission-statement/

There are two main benefits to following and promoting the Summer Reading Series: First, it helps readers discover new works and prevents young people from running out of books during the long summer days; and second, it helps diverse, “off-the-beaten-track” books and authors get the discoverability and recognition they deserve.

“The Summer Reading Series is a group effort, and it reflects the collective knowledge of the WNDB team, as well as input from the Smithsonian BookDragon,” says Allie Jane Bruce, a WNDB Librarian. “It contains books for all ages, books in all formats, oldies-but-goodies and brand-new titles. And most importantly, it is a list that reflects the reality of our world, and contains books that allow all kids to see themselves in literature.”

The Summer Reading Series will be posted via WNDB’s website, Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

We Need Diverse Books™ and School Library Journal release Booktalking Kits

by We Need Diverse Books

New York, New York – May 28, 2015 – We Need Diverse Books (WNDB)™, School Library Journal (SLJ) and the American Booksellers Association (ABA) are partnering to produce Booktalking Kits designed to help shed light on children’s literature about diverse characters and/or written by diverse authors. The kits give teachers, librarians and booksellers the tools they need to discuss these works with their students, patrons and customers. Booktalking Kits are a starting point for discovery and will be delivered via the Spring 2015 ABA Children’s White Boxes, as well as online at diversebooks.org and www.slj.com.

“Contrary to popular belief, diversity does sell,” says Sarah Hannah Gomez, a WNDB™ Librarian. “That’s why it was so difficult to put together this list and whittle it down to only 30 titles! In the end, I think our first toolkit shines light on some amazing books and hits all sorts of identities to create a collection that is truly representative of our world. I’m so happy that these great books will have the chance to get into the hands of even more readers, and I can’t wait to get started on our next kit.”

“The WNDB Booktalking Kit represents a significant next step toward expanding awareness of diverse books,” says SLJ Executive Editor Kathy Ishizuka. “From middle grade and high school titles to picture books, WNDB has provided a rich range of selections that we hope will be shared widely, not just within the library and book community, but to schools and families as well. The shelftalkers and cards for finding comparative diverse titles are creative tools that, as the kit says, represent a ‘point of discovery’ for diverse books, and School Library Journal is proud to support this project.”

The WNDB Booktalking Kits are inspired by the “Cheat Sheet for Selling Diversity” presented by Newbery Honor-winning author Grace Lin during the We Need Diverse Books™ panel at BookCon 2014. In her tenure as a bookseller, Grace saw firsthand how easy it was for people to pigeonhole diverse books into a “special interest” box. She found that pitching books using their universal hooks is the most effective way to sell them to readers.

For the Booktalking Kits, WNDB also sought to provide additional concrete tools for booksellers, librarians and teachers to “hand sell” these books. As such, the kits provide comparative titles, suggestions for target audiences and shelftalkers for the titles chosen by WNDB librarians.

The Booktalking Kits include:

1) A introduction and WNDB campaign 1-sheet
2) Three lists of 10 WNDB™ picks (YA, MG and PB) with
a) a basic 50-75 word description that emphasizes their universal appeal
b) suggestions for comparative titles
c) “Perfect for….” recommendations
3) Shelftalkers (those 3×5 cards bookstores have on their shelves calling out recommendations) for each WNDB™ pick
4) Shelftalkers for comparative titles to direct them to the WNDB™ pick
5) A WNDB™ sign so teachers, librarians and booksellers can easily create WNDB™ displays

WNDB™ and School Library Journal plan to produce Booktalking Kits twice a year.

Beginning June 1, 2015, WNDB™ will also be launching a follow-up to last year’s very popular Summer Reading Series, where they compare well-known recent titles to similar diversified reads. “The Summer Reading Series is a group effort, and it reflects the collective knowledge of the WNDB™ team,” says Allie Jane Bruce, a WNDB™ Librarian. “It contains books for all ages, books in all formats, oldies-but-goodies, and brand new titles. And most importantly, it is a list that reflects the reality of our world and contains books that allow all kids to see themselves in literature.”

The Summer Reading Series will be posted via WNDB’s website, Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

WNDB PARTNERS WITH YA RUNS A 5K FUNDRAISER

by We Need Diverse Books

WNDB PARTNERS WITH YA RUNS A 5K FUNDRAISER

Cherry Hill, NJ – May 24, 2015 – YA Runs A 5K, a campaign that promotes diverse reading and healthy
living, is proud to announce a partnership with We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) to create the BJ Joseph
Grant for WNDB. The $3,000.00 grant will assist WNDB in their mission to address the lack of diverse,
non-majority narratives children’s literature, and is currently fundraising on GoFundMe.
(http://www.gofundme.com/yarunsa5k)
YA Runs A 5K co-creator, Melody Simpson, says of the partnership, “I am honored to have the
opportunity to create a grant for WNDB and to do so in my late grandmother’s name, as she was a
writer and greatly influenced my love for reading and the arts. It is my hope that her name can be a part
of a campaign that continues to do that and impact young readers like me all over the nation.”
Simpson said she will also be giving away the majority of the ARCs she receives at Book Expo America
2015 to those who donate to the cause. Writing critiques from literary agents, authors, and TV writers,
(signed) books, and other thank you gifts are being offered to those who donate $30 or more. Anyone
who donates $1-$29 will be entered into a raffle in which one person will receive a gift that includes an
Epic Reads book bundle.
YA Runs A 5K will also run and walk The Super Run, a superhero themed 5k, which will take place in
Philadelphia, PA on June, 6, 2015. The 5k is family and cosplay friendly. In addition, a virtual 5K is being
held for those who cannot attend the 5k in Philadelphia, PA. Anyone who donates at least $15 and
pledges to run or walk their own 5K will receive YA Runs A 5K bookmarks.

Gaithersburg Book Festival to Put Spotlight on the Lack of Diversity in Literature

by We Need Diverse Books

Panel Discussion Features Top Children’s and Young Adult Authors at the Forefront of the “We Need Diverse Books” Movement

 

Gaithersburg, Md. – April 28, 2015 – While 37 percent of the U.S. population is comprised of people of color, this diversity is not reflected in the books our children are reading. Only 10 percent of children’s books contained multicultural content, according to publisher Lee and Low Books. At the sixth annual Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 16, top authors including WNDB team members at the forefront of the We Need Diverse Books movement will lead a panel discussion that explores why there has been such a lack of diversity in publishing, and what can be done to ensure that this trend does not continue. The festival also will promote greater diversity with the debut of a Multilingual Story Time tent, featuring stories in various languages throughout the day.

 

“This is a discussion that needs to be happening at book festivals, schools, libraries and homes everywhere,” said Ellen Oh, founder and president of We Need Diverse Books and author of the young adult fantasy trilogy, The Prophecy Series. “This is how we can change the way people read. This is how we help raise a new generation of empathetic citizens. And we are grateful to the Gaithersburg Book Festival for helping us keep the conversation going.”

 

At the Festival, Oh will moderate a panel of authors that include Aisha Saeed, Tracey Baptiste and Gene Luen Yang.

 

We Need Diverse Books is a grassroots organization created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature. The organization is committed to the ideal that embracing diversity will lead to acceptance, empathy and, ultimately, equality. The movement got its informal start last year as a Twitter exchange between Oh and Malinda Lo, in which they lamented about the lack of diversity in children’s literature. When Oh discussed taking action, numerous authors, bloggers and others in the industry offered to join in. Their efforts quickly grew into a global movement that demanded the attention of the publishing industry, the media and readers everywhere. The collective group planned a three-day event last May to raise awareness, brainstorm solutions and take action (Diversify Your Shelves), with Saeed priming the pump with the first tweet including the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag.

 

The organization’s current activities include the establishment of The Walter Dean Myers Award and Grants, which will honor diverse books each year; the development of an internship program to help diversify publishing from the inside out, and compiling resources for teachers and librarians. In 2016, the organization will host the first Children’s Literature Diversity Festival in Washington, D.C.

 

The We Need Diverse Books panel is scheduled for Saturday, May 16, at 11:15 a.m. in the Ogden Nash Pavilion. The Festival, which is free to attend, takes place on the grounds of Gaithersburg City Hall (31 S. Summit Ave., Gaithersburg, MD 20877).

 

Multilingual Story Time New at the Book Festival

In addition to the panel, the Gaithersburg Book Festival is expanding its own diversity activities by adding a second Story Time tent exclusively focused on stories in multiple languages. Sponsored by The Universities at Shady Grove (USG), the Multilingual Story Time Tent will feature stories written in Spanish, French, Farsi, Hindi, Korean and Vietnamese, read by students and educators from USG. The readings will last 20 minutes, and are scheduled every half hour beginning at 10 a.m.

 

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About We Need Diverse Books

We Need Diverse Books™ is a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people. How we define diversity: 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. For more information, visit http://weneeddiversebooks.org/

About the Gaithersburg Book Festival

The Gaithersburg Book Festival is an annual all-day celebration of books, writers and literary excellence. Now in its sixth year, the Festival has become one of the premier literary events in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. The 2015 Festival will be on Saturday, May 16, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the grounds of Gaithersburg City Hall, in Olde Towne Gaithersburg, Md. Other activities include author appearances, discussions and book signings; writing workshops; a Children’s Village; onsite sales of new and used books; literary exhibitors and food, drink, ice cream and more. Admission and shuttle service from Shady Grove Metro and Lakeforest Mall are FREE. For more information please visit www.gaithersburgbookfestival.org.

 

The CBC and We Need Diverse Books™ to Partner on Resources and Programming for Publishing Internship Program

by We Need Diverse Books

The Children’s Book Council (CBC), the non-profit trade association for children’s book publishers in North America, and grassroots nonprofit We Need Diverse Books™ (WNDB) today announced their partnership on educational programming and resources for interns selected for the WNDB Internship Program, launching this summer.

The program is designed to open up the children’s book publishing industry to talented job-seekers from diverse backgrounds, providing them with an invaluable opportunity to learn about the industry through professional guidance and hands-on experience.

As part of this effort towards creating a more diverse children’s book publishing industry, the CBC will offer WNDB Publishing Interns:

  • Exclusive educational opportunities, including a luncheon with the CBC Diversity Committee, comprised of children’s book editors and publicists at top publishing houses
  • Inclusion in the CBC Early Career Committee’s summer event, connecting the interns with publishing staffers in their first 5 years in the industry
  • Invitation to a CBC Forum, a CBC-member event which provides information and discussion on current publishing trends and issues
  • Invitation to a CBC Diversity Panel, a CBC-member opportunity which brings together voices within and outside of children’s publishing to communicate the challenges they face in selling and promoting diverse books, and to work together to develop solutions.
  • Tip sheets for getting jobs in the publishing industry and making the most of their internships
  • CBC-member exclusive multimedia content, including videos and recordings of educational programming
  • Access to the CBC Early Career Committee’s ECC Newsletter, featuring interviews with mid-level publishing staffers, industry job moves, & member-exclusive news, opportunities, and invitations
  • Access to Diversity in the News, the CBC’s monthly newsletter rounding-up relevant news in children’s books and diversity

“The Children’s Book Council has been a dedicated champion of diverse books and voices since the launch of the CBC Diversity Initiative in 2012” said CBC Executive Director Jon Colman. “We are excited to team up with WNDB to further the work of creating an inclusive and representative children’s book publishing industry.”

WNDB President Ellen Oh says of the collaboration: “We are thrilled to be partnering with the CBC on our pilot internship program. Not only do we need diverse books, but a diverse and dedicated workforce.”

Read the full announcement here.

We Need Diverse Books™ announces 501(c)(3) status

by We Need Diverse Books

We Need Diverse Books™ announces 501(c)(3) status

We Need Diverse Books™ (WNDB) is proud to announce that it is now officially recognized as a public charity with tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the United States Internal Revenue Code.

“We are thrilled to be awarded 501(c)(3) status,” says Marieke Nijkamp, WNDB VP of Finance. “WNDB is committed to the ideal that embracing diversity will lead to acceptance, empathy, and ultimately equality. Being recognized as a public charity will strengthen us in our mission to make the literary landscape more inclusive.”

As a public charity, contributions to WNDB are tax-deductible retroactive to the founding of the organization on July 14, 2014.WNDB is also eligible now to apply for government and foundation grants. Broader access to resources will further support the organization’s programs—the Walter Award and Grants program, the Publishing Internship Program, and WNDB in the Classroom, to name a few—and its ability to advocate essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.

 

#WNDBchat with Grace Lin, Duncan Tonatiuh & Matt Tavares!

by We Need Diverse Books

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#WNDBchat is today!

Please join Grace Lin, Duncan Tonatiuh & Matt Tavares tonight at 9pm ET/6pmPT as they talk about diversity in picture books.

 

Thank you to everyone who participated in last month’s AMAZING chat with Jason Reynolds, G. Neri, Renee Watson and Brandy Colbert. If you didn’t get a chance to join in live, you can still read the Storify version of the chat.

 

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Upcoming WNDB events…


We’d love it if you’d consider joining us at some of our upcoming panels and events, including AWP (Minneapolis), BEA/BookCon (NYC), RT Convention (Dallas), and ALA annual (San Francisco). Details on our website here


Did you know WNDB had a YouTube Channel?


It’s a great way to revisit our old campaign videos, as well as a video + transcript of the PopTop WNDB panel at ALA Midwinter!

Copyright © 2015 #WeNeedDiverseBooks, All rights reserved.
You’ve received this message because you’re interested in further news from the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, including future initiatives, giveaways and events. We promise not to Spam you, and thank you for your interest in diversifying our shelves!

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#WeNeedDiverseBooks

732 Eden Way North

#127, Suite E

Chesapeake, VA 23320


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#WNDBchat THURSDAY NIGHT

by We Need Diverse Books

#WNDBchat on Thursday Feb. 26 

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Twitter chat on Thursday, February 26

Please join us as we kick off the first WNDB Twitter chat of 2015 with authors Brandy ColbertG. NeriRenee Watson & Jason Reynolds at 9pm EST/ 6pm PST! Make sure to use the hashtag #WNDBchat!

 

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CCBC’s Diversity Figures

The Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (directed by KT Horning, a WNDB team member) has been tracking diversity in books since 1985, and numbers for 2014 have sparked some hope. Click here to read more about what type of representation has increased… and what has remained stagnant. 


ALA Midwinter Recap

This year’s American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting in Chicago truly embraced and supported diversity. Congratulations to all the ALA award winners! You can read recaps of the ALSC/CBC Day of Diversity by Sarah Park Dahlen, Edi CampbellDebbie Reese, and Jason Low. Also check out the video below to watch the Diverse Debuts PopTop panel. 

 

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Diverse Debuts at ALA Midwinter Chicago 2015

 

Winter Institute Follow-Up 

Booksellers and authors gathered at the diversity panel at this year’s American Bookseller Association Winter Institute, and discussed what diversity really means, and how to sell diverse stories. Read some wrap-ups here and here, and make sure to check out Elizabeth Bluemle’s post on things that you can do to support diverse books.

WNDB Initiative Updates & Panel Info 

  • Mark your calendars! The Diversity Festival will take place Sunday, July 24, 2016 in Silver Spring, Maryland!
  • The Walter awards announced their first ever call for submissions. Submissions are welcome for diverse authors with diverse a diverse YA novel. Guidelines are here. (deadline: November 1st, 2015)
  • WNDB is also accepting submissions for our short story contest until May 8, 2015. 
  • The WNDB Booktalking Kit is in progress in conjunction with SLJ, with a planned release in May
  • Come see us! WNDB will have a presence at panels for ABC Children’s Institute, RT Booklover’s Convention, Teen Author Carnival, BEA, and BookCon. For more information, click here.
  • WNDB in the Classroom efforts are underway! Check out some pictures Lamar Giles’s recent event at Kelly Miller Middle School in Washington, DC: 

 

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Copyright © 2015 #WeNeedDiverseBooks, All rights reserved.
You’ve received this message because you’re interested in further news from the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, including future initiatives, giveaways and events. We promise not to Spam you, and thank you for your interest in diversifying our shelves!

Our mailing address is:

#WeNeedDiverseBooks

732 Eden Way North

#127, Suite E

Chesapeake, VA 23320


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WNDB-SCBWI Diversity Forum Boards Go Live Today!

by We Need Diverse Books

Volunteers needed for new online discussion boards!

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Volunteer Update

Dear Select Volunteers,
We Need Your Help!

After months of preparation, today is the launch day for our online diversity forums in partnership with the Society for Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. Yay!

The press release doesn’t come out until 10 AM PST, but the boards are live and we’re giving you sneak peek access. Please read the press release at the end of this email for full details!

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We are asking you, our signed-up volunteers, to log in at the boards and be a part of the discussion. You do not have to be an SCBWI member to post, but you will need to create a free login and password at scbwi.org/boards.

Please remember a couple of things when posting to the boards. First, when we post, we are posting our own opinions, not as an official voice for the WNDB organization. Please make that clear if you mention your involvement with WNDB.

Secondly, If you see misinformation about WNDB or our programs, please respond to a user with correct information that leads them to our official site or alert one of the Discussion Leaders (listed below in the press release). We’ve become so popular that we’ve attracted ‘imposters’ and/or our name is being used without notification or consent. While imitation is flattery, some unaffiliated people are using WNDB materials for self-promotional purposes or causing confusion as they pretend to be ‘us’ (or suggesting they’re endorsed by us).  If you see a link or site that is using our trademarked logo to promote something that is not an official WNDB initiative, let brand manager Karen Sandler know about it (karen@diversebooks.org).

Finally, if you are contacted by a member of the press/media, and are asked to speak about WNDB, please loop me in and I will forward the info to our press and communications team who will help.

Thank you for your help in jumping in with the discussion, and sharing and promoting the boards on social media. Here’s the direct link to the Diversity in Children’s Book boards.

Let the discussion continue,
Miranda Paul
VP of Outreach, We Need Diverse Books
miranda@diversebooks.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 3, 2015

SCBWI WELCOMES
WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS DISCUSSION BOARD


The SCBWI, in conjunction with We Need Diverse Books, is excited to announce the creation of a new section of our discussion boards which will be dedicated to discussing diversity in children’s literature. These boards will be led by a team from We Need Diverse Books to ensure an in-depth and professional conversation about writing and illustrating for diverse audiences. Discussion leaders will include: Steven dos Santos, Sara Polsky, Lyn Miller-Lachmann, Don Tate, Jerry Craft, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Jennifer Baker, Cindy Rodriguez and We Need Diverse Books president, Ellen Oh.

The boards will be separated into sections representing different topics and issues.  The basic headings will be (1) ethnic and cultural minorities, (2) LGBTQIA+ (3) disabilities, and (4) illustrating diversity.

YA author Steven dos Santos, a discussion leader for the LGBTQIA+ threads, looks forward to the forums as a place for “fostering a dialogue of representation and acceptance in diverse children’s literature.” We Need Diverse Books views this initiative as a form of outreach, a key strategy of accomplishing its mission of addressing the lack of diverse narratives in children’s literature.

With over 20,000 daily page views, the SCBWI Blueboards are currently the preeminent site for children’s book authors and illustrators to share and discuss the business, culture and concerns of the children’s publishing industry. Expanding the discussion boards to highlight the complex issues of diversity will help participants engage in the conversation about inclusion. “We feel privileged to work with We Need Diverse Books,” commented Lin Oliver, SCBWI Executive Director.  “SCBWI members play a crucial role in influencing the hearts and minds of the next generation, and the more we can share ideas and open up lines of communication, the more we can collectively deepen our commitment to increasing diversity in our field.”

About WNDB
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. Current initiatives include the Walter Dean Myers Award and Grant program, a publishing internship program, WNDB in the Classroom, a We Need Diverse Booktalking Kit, and a planned 2016 Diversity Festival. For more on our programs, please visit our official website www.diversebooks.org. 

Twitter: @diversebooks
Tumblr: weneeddiversebooks.tumblr.com
Facebook: /diversebooks
Pinterest: /diversebooks

About SCBWI
Founded in 1971, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is one of the largest existing writers’ and illustrators’ organizations, with over 22,000 members worldwide. It is the only organization specifically for those working in the fields of children’s literature, magazines, film, television, and multimedia. The organization was founded by Stephen Mooser (President) and Lin Oliver (Executive Director), both of whom are well-published children’s book authors and leaders in the world of children’s literature.  For more information about the On-The-Verge Diverse Voices Award, please visit www.scbwi.org, and click “Awards & Grants.”

 

Copyright © 2015 We Need Diverse Books, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you opted in by filling out a WNDB volunteer sign-up form. Thanks for your continued support!

Our mailing address is:

We Need Diverse Books

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#127 Suite E

Chesapeake, VA 23320


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We Need Diverse Books and School Libary Journal Announce Collaboration

by We Need Diverse Books

We Need Diverse Books and School Libary Journal Announce Collaboration

We Need Diverse Books™(WNDB) is proud to announce its collaboration with School Library Journal (SLJ) on a variety of initiatives concerning diversity in children’s literature. “SLJ has a long and storied history of supporting diverse books, including its May 2014 issue entirely devoted to the subject,” said WNDB VP of Development I.W. Gregorio. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to partner with such a critical voice in the children’s literature world and look forward to creating content that will help teachers, librarians and booksellers alike diversify their shelves.”

The WNDB partnership with SLJ will include:

  1. Sponsorship and collaborative programming of a diversity-focused event to be held in association with the 2016 American Library Association Midwinter Meeting in Boston
  2. Content sharing and support for the We Need Diverse Books Diversity Festival to be held in Summer 2016 in the Washington, DC, area
  3. Joint development of an Education Kit to introduce teachers, librarians and booksellers to select diverse books and provide them with tools to present these titles to their patrons and students.

SLJ is honored to partner with ‘We Need Diverse Books,’” says SLJ executive editor Kathy Ishizuka. “The spirit and objectives of WNDB dovetail with our own belief in the power of books and a commitment to helping transform the publishing landscape to best serve our kids and the greater community.”

ABOUT WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS

More than just a hashtag, We Need Diverse Books™ (WNDB) is a grassroots nonprofit organization created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature. WNDB is committed to the ideal that embracing diversity will lead to acceptance, empathy, and ultimately equality. On October 24th, the group will be launching its inaugural Indiegogo campaign (http://igg.me/at/diversebooks) to support its future initiatives, including a Diversity in the Classroom program, the Walter Dean Myers Award and Grant program, a diverse books Education Kit, and its inaugural Diversity Festival in 2016. Volunteer & sign up for its mailing list at diversebooks.org, or follow WNDB on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and Instagram.

ABOUT SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL

School Library Journal is the most influential publication serving libraries—the largest market for new children’s and young adult books—and is the only full-service publication serving the youth and school library market. It reaches over 35,000 elementary, middle/junior, and senior high school librarians and youth service librarians in public libraries. SLJ educates its readers to become leaders in technology, reading, and information literacy.www.schoollibraryjournal.com. School Library Journal is a publication of Media Source Inc., which also owns Library Journal, The Horn Book publications, and Junior Library Guild.

WNDB Walter Dean Myers Award For YA 2015

by We Need Diverse Books

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS: NOVEMBER 1, 2015

About the Walter Dean Myers Award

The Walter Dean Myers Award, also known as “The Walter,” is named for celebrated children’s book author Walter Dean Myers (1937-2014), who was widely known for his prolific body of work for children and teens. Walter Dean Myers was a lifelong advocate for diversity in books for young readers, and a National Book Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. His legacy can still be seen in the thousands of lives he touched, including those of readers and authors alike. WNDB seeks to honor his memory by establishing this award in his name.

There will be one winner of the Walter Award for YA. There will be 1-3 honors awarded. The Walter Award winner will be announced in February 2016.

Eligibility

  • Submissions must be written by a diverse author and the submission must be a diverse work.
  • A diverse work constitutes: a YA work written by a diverse author featuring a diverse main character. In stories in which there is no main character, the work must address diversity in a substantial capacity.
  • Work must be an original work published in the United States for the first time in 2015.
  • Work may have been originally in another language and translated, but the first English publication date in the United States must be 2015.
  • Work must be determined to be in the young adult genre for an audience of ages 13-18.

What is meant by diverse?

Authors must identify as one or more of the following. The main character of the story must also identify as one or more of the following:

  •       Person of color
  •       Native American
  •       LGBTQIA
  •       Person with a disability
  •       Marginalized religious or cultural minority in the United States.

Please note:

  • If the work is such that there is no main character, the subject matter must pertain substantially to diverse experiences and content.
  • Socio-economic status and class do not qualify as diverse for the purposes of this award.
  • Any submission received that does not meet these requirements will not be read.

Submission Guidelines

Publishers are invited to submit eligible titles for consideration to the Walter Award judging committee. One physical book must be provided to each of the thirteen members of the judging committee. Please contact WalterAward@diversebooks.org to receive the addresses. One additional copy must be provided for the administrator of the Walter for our alternate judge for a total of fourteen [14] books. When publishers submit works, they must supply information regarding which book[s] they are sending. Such information includes: (1) a tally of the books included in the shipment along with the publication dates for each book; (2) the diversity of the main character or the overall diversity of the work, and (3) the diversity with which the author identifies. Publishers must submit physical copies. Physical copies may be a finished book or an ARC.

Self-published authors are invited to email (1) an e-reader-compatible electronic submission, (2) the diversity they identify with, (3) the diversity of the main character of the book or the overall diverse subject matter of the work, and (4) a brief summary of their work to WalterAward@diversebooks.org

To maintain a professional boundary between judges and authors, no author, their family member, or their business partner may directly send any materials to a judge. If the structure of your publishing house requires the author, their family member, or their business partner to send the work to judges directly, please follow the guidelines for self-published authors.  If any author, their family member, or their business partner sends a work to a judge directly, that work will be disqualified.

Please note: The last date to mail eligible titles is November 1, 2015. Entries must be postmarked by this date to be eligible for consideration.

We look forward to your submissions! For additional information, please check our website as we will be putting up a FAQ section and the Walter Award manual soon. In the meantime you may direct any questions you have to WalterAward@diversebooks.org

Updates & Big Announcements

by We Need Diverse Books

Contest, Perks, Panel & P4A 

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Anthology & Short Story Contest
WNDB is proud to announce that Phoebe Yeh, VP/Publisher of Crown Books for Young Readers/Random House, has acquired publication rights to the middle grade WNDB anthology, working title Stories for All of Us.  Ellen Oh, President of WNDB, will edit the anthology, which will have a January 2017 release date. Contributing authors include: Kwame Alexander, Sherman Alexie, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Peña, Tim Federle, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Walter Dean Myers, Rachel Renee Russell, and Jacqueline Woodson.

The anthology will be in memory of Walter Dean Myers and will be inspired by his quote:
  “Once I began to read, I began to exist.” 

Every new story contribution to this anthology will be by a diverse author.

In addition, we’re excited to announce that the anthology will include one story by a previously unpublished diverse author. To fill that slot, we will be hosting a short story contest. The winner’s story will be a part of the anthology and receive a $1,000 prize. For rules and eligibility requirements, please click here

All proceeds from sales of the anthology will go directly to the WNDB in the Classroom program, which will provide diverse author visits to Title 1 schools and free books for each student in the classroom, as well as the distribution of copies to Title 1 schools and libraries across the country.

 

Diversity Panel at ALA Midwinter 
Members of the Diversity League and We Need Diverse Books will host a panel discussion of 2015 debut authors committed to diversifying library shelves, one book at a time. The panel will be moderated by Danielle Paige, NYT-bestselling author of Dorothy Must Die, and will introduce librarians to a group of diverse debut authors. After the discussion on how our books add to the diversity of YA literature, we will host a “meet and greet”. Librarians are encouraged to make personal connections with the authors to learn more details about the panelists’ books, and how best to introduce these titles to library patrons.

Panelists include: Sabaa Tahir, Nicola Yoon, Francesca Zappia, Miranda Paul, Adam Silvera, Fonda Lee, Sona Charaipotra, I.W. Gregorio, and Danielle Paige. 

When: Saturday, Janurary 21 10:00 a.m. – PopTop Stage – Hyatt McCormick Place, Chicago, IL
(part of ALA Midwinter

 

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Project for Awesome
Because of your support and votes, WNDB will receive a $10,000 grant from the Project for Awesome. Thank you for helping us continue creating initiatives and opportunities to address the lack of diversity in children’s literature. 

Education Kit Renamed the “We Need Diverse Booktalking Kit” 
The newly christened We Need Diverse Booktalking Kit, developed in conjunction with the School Library Journal, is well on its way to a target delivery date of May 2015. Early mockups of the kit will be available for review by booksellers at the WNDB consultation station at the ABA Winter Institute in Asheville, North Carolina on February 10-11.

Indiegogo Perks
If you’re still waiting on your Indiegogo perks, all tote bags, tee shirts, and signed copies of Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming should be delivered by the end of February–thank you for your patience!

 

The WNDB team 

 

 

 

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The We Need Diverse Books Short Story Contest

by We Need Diverse Books

The We Need Diverse Books Short Story Contest

We Need Diverse Books (“WNDB”) is a grassroots organization created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature. WNDB 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.

WNDB is proud to announce that Phoebe Yeh, VP/Publisher of Crown Books for Young Readers/Random House, has acquired publication rights to the Middle Grade WNDB Anthology, working title “Stories For All Of Us.” Ellen Oh, President of WNDB, will edit the anthology, which will have a January 2017 release date. Contributing authors include: Kwame Alexander, Sherman Alexie, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Pena, Tim Federle, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Walter Dean Myers, Rachel Renee Russell, and Jacqueline Woodson.

The anthology will be in memory of Walter Dean Myers and it will be inspired by his quote: “Once I began to read, I began to exist.” Every new story contribution to this anthology will be by a diverse author.

WNDB is proud to announce that the anthology will have one story reserved for a previously unpublished diverse author. WNDB will fill that slot via a short story contest. The winner will be included in the anthology and will receive a payment of $1000 US.

General Rules

  • Entries will be accepted after 9:00AM EST on April 27th until 5:00PM EST on May 8th, 2015. Any submission made prior to or after the entry period will not be considered.
  • Entry is free.
  • Submissions will not be returned.
  • All applicants must include a 75 word bio and headshot.
  • Winner will be announced on June 15, 2015.

Short Story Rules

  • All submissions (short story or illustrated story) must be in English and never before published in any medium, print or digital.
  • Submissions must be no longer than 5000 words.
  • All submissions must be electronic and sent to the following email address: contest@diversebooks.org
  • All submissions must also be appropriate for a middle grade audience, ages 8 to 12.
  • If your submission is illustrated, it must be in a graphic novel format, but no longer than 10 pages.
  • Illustrations must be submitted electronically. Do NOT mail hard copy submissions to WNDB. They will not be reviewed, nor will they be returned.

Eligibility

  • Open to diverse writers from all diverse backgrounds (as defined above). Applicants must include this information in their bio.
  • Open to diverse writers who have not been published in a traditional print fiction book format, including self-pubbed, independents, small and medium publishing houses, in all genres whether for the children’s or adult market.
  • EXCEPTION – Short story publication credit in a magazine, literary journal, or periodical will not disqualify the applicant.

Prizes

  • First prize winner will receive an award of $1000 plus their entry will be published as part of the WNDB Anthology to be released by Crown Books for Young Readers/Random House Children’s Books in January 2017.
  • Two runner-up winners will receive honorable mentions and awards of $250 each.

PLEASE NOTE:

Any submissions sent in before the entry period will be deleted, the email address flagged, and the author automatically disqualified.

FAQs

Who can apply?

We recognize anyone from a diverse background, including but not limited to, LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities currently marginalized in North America.

What should the story be about?

It can be about anything as long as it relates to the prompt “Once I began to read, I began to exist” and a diverse experience. The story must also be appropriate for a middle grade audience, ages 8 to 12.

What about a submission in verse?

We accept submissions in free verse only.

What about entries that are a combo of both text and graphics? For example, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid format? Are they acceptable?

Absolutely!

Do the winners get free copies of the book? How many?

The winner will receive 1 copy of the Anthology when it is published.

Are joint authors for a project okay?

As long as both authors are diverse as defined above. Joint authors will share any prizes given by WNDB.

Is non-fiction acceptable?

No.

Does having a mental illness qualify as having a diverse background?

WNDB recognizes mental illness as a disability and therefore part of our definition of diversity.

What genres are eligible? Fantasy, historical, contemporary, etc?

Submission can be of any genre as long as it is MG (middle-grade).

My self-published book is no longer in print/on the market. Does this disqualify me as an author?

If we can search your name and find a published book online anywhere, you will be disqualified.

Does the exception for a short story publication credit extend to a credit in an anthology series?

The exception only applies to short story credit in a magazine, literary journal, or periodical.

If I’m white am I disqualified?

If you self-identify as a diverse person from one of the definitions stated above, you are still eligible.

If I’m disqualified for this anthology, will I remain eligible for for future opportunities?

We cannot say at this time.

Do authors have to be over 18?

Parental consent will be required upon signing of contract if the winning author is under the age of 18.

What if I’m already published in a language other than English?

Previously published authors in any language are not eligible. The only exception is if the published work is a short story credit in a magazine, literary journal, or periodical.

Can international authors apply?

As long as your submitted work is in English and you are not a previously published author.

What if I have a question not covered in this FAQ?

You can email questions to contest@diversebooks.org. While we can’t answer every email personally, we will post any new and relevant questions directly to this FAQ.

The WeNeedDiverseBooks Team

by We Need Diverse Books

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Hello, 2015! 

Happy New Year, everyone! We’ve got lots of exciting updates to share with you this month. But first…

Thank you for all of your support in 2014! From the We Need Diverse Books hashtag going viral on twitter, to our Indiegogo campaign, we couldn’t have done it without you!

January Updates: 

New advisory board members: We’re lucky to have an ever-expanding team, and would like to introduce our newest advisory board members, authors Linda Sue Park and Christopher Myers. We also welcome Meg Medina as the newest member of our executive team!

Panels & Conferences: WNDB will be represented at several conferences and panels in 2015. In the next six months, you can find us at:

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Diversity Festival Committees:
This year, we will also be setting up our diversity festival committees. If you or anyone you know has experience in event programming or fundraising, and would like to help out, we would love for you to volunteer to be on this committee! We invite you to fill out the volunteer form on our website, and send an e-mail expressing your interest to festival@diversebooks.org.

Internship Program:
Our internships program, which will provide opportunities to those from diverse backgrounds with career goals in the publishing industry, will be headed by Linda Sue Park!

 

Thank you for all your support in 2014–and we hope that 2015 will be just as amazing!

The WNDB Team

Copyright © 2015 #WeNeedDiverseBooks, All rights reserved.
You’ve received this message because you’re interested in further news from the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, including future initiatives, giveaways and events. We promise not to Spam you, and thank you for your interest in diversifying our shelves!

Our mailing address is:

#WeNeedDiverseBooks

732 Eden Way North

#127, Suite E

Chesapeake, VA 23320


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New Year, New Resolution: Are You Up For the Challenge?

by We Need Diverse Books

New Year’s Resolutions are tough. Believe us, we know.

IG-100-pledgeWell, this year’s going to be different.

Why?

Because this year, we’re going to do something different. This year, we’re going change the world.

How?

By pledging to read, 5, 10, 15, 25, or even 100 DIVERSE books.

Books where people of color can be first-page HEROES rather than second-class citizens. Books in which LGBTQIA characters can represent social CHANGE rather than social problems. And books where people with disabilities can be just…people.

By reading these stories, we can promote compassion and understanding, instead of prejudice.

Let’s change the hearts and minds of our generation by promoting diversity in our libraries, classrooms, and bookstores. And as a result, let’s change the world we live in.

Now, THAT’S a resolution everyone can get behind.

Are you up for the challenge? Download your badges here:

For Your Twitter:

I pledge to read: 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 50, 100 diverse books

For Your Tumblr:

I pledge to read: 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 50, 100 diverse books

For Your Instagram:

I pledge to read: 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 50, 100 diverse books

Tweet us at @diversebooks with the hashtag #WNDBResolution to show off your badges. Happy reading!

Project For Awesome: Our amazing We Need Diverse Books supporters

by We Need Diverse Books

Please vote for the awesome videos made by our supporters on Project for Awesome (P4A),  a community-driven charitable movement created by Hank and John Green to encourage YouTubers to promote their favorite charity!

Warning: may cause feelings of generosity, giving, and EXTREME caring. You have been warned.

Click here to see all videos and vote!

An Open Book Foundation

by We Need Diverse Books

WNDB is proud to partner with An Open Book Foundation for our WNDB in the Classroom initiative. So we thought it would be a perfect time to highlight this extraordinary company.

1. What is An Open Book Foundation and how does it help to promote literacy?

An Open Book Foundation connects books, children, and authors sparking children’s desire to read.

There is no way to measure what it means to have a famous author talk to you, look you in the eye, greet you, sign your name in a brand new book and place it in your hand.

An Open Book Foundation, founded by Dara La Porte and Heidi Powell takes children’s and teens’ authors and illustrators to disadvantaged schools in the DC metro area.  After an interactive presentation, AOB gives each child a copy of the author’s book to take home, which the author signs and personalizes.  This book is often first the child has ever owned. AOB also gives a copy of the author’s book to the classroom and all of the author’s books to the school library.

Children are always excited to receive their new books. We’ve seen kids kiss their books upon receipt, and start reading their new books in the signing line. On occasion, students grab their book back from the author, barely allowing it out of their hands long enough to get it signed!

About 25% of all AOB events feature a diverse book or author.

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2. How did An Open Book get its start?

When Heidi and I were working together at Politics and Prose, we spent years talking about addressing three related issues:

– Only a privileged few of children in DC had access to the fabulous children’s authors and illustrator’s talks given at the store during the school day.

– Author like Linda Sue Park told us they sometimes had the opportunity to speak at disadvantaged schools, but were frustrated that they got the children all excited about reading her book, but did not have books to give them.  Did we know of anyone who would subsidize books for these students?

– Teachers were asking our advice about what books to buy, then spending their own money on books for their classrooms.

In the fall of 2010, a potential board member and friend gave us a small start-up grant and an introduction to a lawyer who helped us incorporate pro-bono.  Dara took classes at the Foundation Center on how to start and run a nonprofit. In May 2011, David Weisner launched An Open Book’s first event.

 

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(Dara La Porte with student.)

3. What was the most challenging part of getting AOB off the ground?

Fundraising has required the greatest learning curve.  Heidi and I have been in the children’s and teens’ book business for a long time and I am a former teacher so An Open Book is a logical extension for us in those areas.  But, I think most nonprofit founders would give the same answer!

4. What has been the most fulfilling part of working for AOB?

The authors and illustrators!  Heidi and I knew that the children’s and teens’ authors and illustrators we met are talented, interesting people. We are continually blown away by the depth of the generosity of the men and women who come with us to the schools.

The look on the children’s faces and their cheers when we tell them that they are getting a new book to take home.  The great questions that they ask.  Their sheer joy and curiosity.  Their hugs!

The appreciation of the teachers, librarians, principals and staff in the schools that we serve.   They want the children to get the most out of the experience and their books as much as (even more if that’s possible!) than we do.

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(Meg Medina and student)

5. Do you see the AOB formula working in other cities?

It would be wonderful if children in other cities had access to author events and books.

6. What was the most unusual author event you ever hosted?

That’s a tough one.  Eloise Greenfield rapping at age 85 comes to mind.  But then, without rapping, she held her 3rd grade audience rapt for 45 minutes, and that is pretty amazing for a poet at any age!

Then there’s the time we were folk dancing at a Washington School For Girls with Siena Siegel, Mark’s wife, when they came to present To Dance.

7. What was the most memorable author event you ever hosted?

There have been 200 of them!  Each is unique and memorable.

8. How many author events do you do in a year?

Last year, which was our third, we hosted 92 events.

9. What is the key to having these events run smoothly?

Functional AV equipment!  It’s every presenter’s biggest worry.  We always bring our own as a backup.

Seriously though, An Open Book matches authors with the interests and curriculum of the school. That’s where our knowledge of schools and books becomes vital. For example, we took Padma Venkatraman , who was talking about her new book A Time to Dance, to a performing arts charter school.  On the other hand, we took Bob Shea to a Headstart program that we knew would be open to unrolling a huge length of paper across many tables and letting all of the children go for it with crayons with Bob.

Of course, we also have protocols to assure that everything is organized and set up in the proper order. By the day before the event, everyone involved has an email telling him or her exactly what to expect.

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(Chris Myers with students.)

10. Why do you think We Need Diverse Books?

An Open Book Foundation was founded because we want to promote and improve literacy among the disadvantaged children we serve, 99% of whom are minorities.  When young children see themselves in an author or illustrator or in the pages of a book, you can feel them engage and see them sit a little taller.  I first saw this at an event with Monica Brown and 150 children of over 70 nationalities. How proud they were to hear her talk about the immigrant experience and see themselves and their families reflected in her stories.

Teenagers drop their guard when an author, a character, or a book cover resembles them.  You see students change: some begin to sit up, others lean forward, many look at the author; you can see can feel the disinterest dissolve and their minds and hearts opening to what is being said.

Mentoring is a huge part of An Open Book’s Diversity in the Classroom program   Not only has it never occurred to many of our students that a person wrote the book or drew the pictures, that the person looks like him or her is eye-opening. It is fabulous to watch a 4th grader realize that he or she has options in life, and being a writer or illustrator is one of them!

Diversity Campaign Reaches Matching Goal with $30,000 Pledge from Rachel Renee Russell

by We Need Diverse Books

Diversity Campaign Reaches Matching Goal with $30,000 Pledge from Rachel Renee Russell

November 24, 2014

We Need Diverse Books Indiegogo Campaign Reaches Matching Goal with $30,000 Pledge from Rachel Renee Russell

We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) is proud to announce that thanks to all the generous donations from all over the world, WNDB raised $70,000 towards Daniel Handler’s matching pledge. Rachel Renee Russell, acclaimed author of the Dork Diaries series and member of the WNDB Walter Dean Myers Award Committee, donated the remaining amount of $30,000 necessary to fulfill the entire $100,000 pledge made by author Daniel Handler on November 21, 2014. This brings the total raised as of today to $321,901.

“When I heard that Daniel Handler was matching donations for 24 hours to celebrate Jacqueline Woodson’s National Book Award win, I wanted to help him donate the maximum amount of funds to We Need Diverse Books, which is a very worthy cause,” Russell said.

“By matching Mr. Handler’s pledge, Ms. Russell has assured that funding for the Walter Grants and Awards and our WNDB internship program will have long term sustainability,” Lamar Giles, WNDB VP of Communications said. “With Mr. Handler’s generous donation, WNDB has raised over $300,000. Because we are a 100% volunteer run organization, with no plans to have salaried team members through 2015, these funds will have direct impact on all of our programming.”

WNDB programming includes the WNDB in the Classroom project which is scheduled to begin in January 2015 in partnership with An Open Book Foundation, The Walter Dean Myers Grants and Awards, WNDB Internship Program (helmed by Honorary Chair Linda Sue Park working with Anne Ursu), WNDB educational kits in partnership with the School Library Journal, and many more programs. For more information, visit diversebooks.org.

Contact: Stephanie Sinkhorn

press@216.172.169.150

 

 

#GivingTuesday & Updates!

by We Need Diverse Books

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There’s a little over a week left of our campaign, and we couldn’t be more grateful for everyone’s generosity and support. But before the campaign comes to an end, there’s a lot of news to share:

The campaign continues! Indiegogo has invited us to extend our campaign and participate in #GivingTuesday, a day for giving back. We are delighted at this opportunity, and hope that you’ll consider donating to our campaign or one of the many other amazing campaigns that are participating this year.


We would like to give a shout out and special thanks to Rachel Renée Russell, author of the bestselling Dork Diaries series for her generous donation of $30k to the WNDB campaign. Her contribution helped us fulfill the $100k matching pledge made by author Daniel Handler, and brought our total amount raised to over $300k! These extra funds will have a direct impact on all of our programming in the future.

 

Our author video is new and improved and now includes adorable baby photos of our authors! Click on the pics below to see the video.
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  Lamar Giles, Cindy Pon, and Matt de la Peña

 

If you’re looking for a new picture book, be sure to check out our Picture Book Flowchart! There is something for everyone, and if you’re celebrating a holiday this season, it’s a great way to pick out gifts, too! YA and Middle Grade Flowcharts can also be found on our website.

  

Jacqueline Woodson, National Book Award winner and WNDB advisory board member wrote an eloquent, moving op-ed piece that was featured in last week’s New York Times and that we would love to share with all of you.

 

Thank you again for your continued support and generosity, and we hope to see you this #GivingTuesday!


The WNDB team

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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WNDB Amazing News

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WNDB at NCTE, stretch goals & #NBAward for Jacqueline Woodson!

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As you may have noticed, our Indiegogo campaign is 100% funded, or actually, 108%! This blows our minds! We are overjoyed, humbled, and so grateful to all of you. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for your AMAZING support!

We’ve got lots of great news for you in this update, so we’ll hope you’ll take a bit of time to read the contents of this issue, which include:

WNDB reaches $100K goal

Stretch goals announced to bring diversity to the heart of publishing

Congrats to WNDB Advisory Board member, Jacqueline Woodson on National Book Award win

Details of the WNDB presence at this weekend’s NCTE 2014 convention

All-call for MD/DC area volunteers

WNDB reaches $100K goal

With your current support, we’ll now be able to:
* bring thousands of diverse books into the classrooms that need them most;
* award our inaugural Walter next year, to recognize excellence in diverse YA;
* support aspiring authors in their quest to create more diverse children’s literature and young adult literature;
* reach out to libraries, bookstores, educators, and everyone who plays such a vital role in getting books into the hands of readers.

Stretch goals announced to bring diversity to the heart of publishing

We’re very grateful for the outpouring of support and donations. But, WNDB wouldn’t be WNDB if we didn’t want to do *more*. That’s why we’re excited to announce our stretch goals, which will help us continue to change the landscape of children’s literature. The more funds we raise, the more schools and kids we service and the more diverse authors we can support.

 

Stretch goal #1: WNDB – The Publishing Edition

Once we reach $125,000, we can focus on bringing WNDB to the heart of publishing. Right now, publishing is still a very homogeneous industry, while internships–which are critical to developing a career in the publishing world–are not financially accessible to most. This contributes to a lack of diversity within the industry. 

 

Once we’ve reached our first stretch goal, WNDB will be able to create a paid internship program to help interns from diverse backgrounds (as noted in our mission statement) who demonstrate financial need. We hope our grants will allow people who might not otherwise be able to achieve their dream of a career in publishing. We will also be able to fund a year-long mentorship program for multiple writers. 

Stretch goal #2: WNDB – In Your Backyard

Once we reach $150,000, we will further expand our WNDB in the classroom program, servicing more schools and spreading our reach across the country. We will expand our outreach and create more educational kits and educational materials to be used to discuss diversity in all its ways and forms. And we’ll offer travel grants, to help currently-published authors attend conferences and events that would otherwise not be accessible to them.

Finally, we plan develop a WNDB app. This app goes beyond recommendations and looks for new interactive ways to support diverse authors and books. With it, WNDB is excited to create a new high-tech way to bring diverse books to YOU, the reader.

Remember, these programs can’t happen without additional support. Thank you for sharing the link to our campaign with your family, friends, and contacts!

Congrats to WNDB Advisory Board member, Jacqueline Woodson on National Book Award win

https://gallery.mailchimp.com/be761490cb624ab602f2a5487/images/46dd28ae-0dcf-47c8-8222-2efd3e928991.jpgIn case you hadn’t yet heard, last night Jacqueline Woodson received the 2014 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature for poetic memoir Brown Girl Dreaming. In addition to being a We Need Diverse Books Advisory Board member, Woodson is the winner of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults, the recipient of three Newbery Honors for After Tupac & D Foster, Feathers, and Show Way, and a two-time Finalist for the National Book Award for Locomotion and Hush.

We are so proud of Jacqueline, and hope you will share in the joy using hashtag #CelebrateJackie on Twitter!


All-call for MD/DC area volunteers

As you may know, the We Need Diverse Books campaign will be hosting the it’s first national diversity festival in the DC area in summer 2016. We are looking for MD-DC-VA area supporters who want to volunteer and be on the planning committee. This is a great opportunity to network with well-known authors and illustrators as well as other industry names. It will also be a fantastic way to connect with teachers, librarians and kids. We know it will take a pretty significant crew to plan and run the event, so if you’re interested in being on the WNDB planning committee, email info@diversebooks.org and we will get your note forwarded to the right people. Thanks!


WNDB at #NCTE14

  • Friday, 11/21 at 8am (Potomac A/B): Advisory Board member Matt de la Peña will be speaking on an extraordinary panel of luminaries including Rudine Sims Bishop for a general session on Reshaping the Landscape of Story: Creating Space for Missing and Marginalized Voices. Matt will also be a guest at the lunchtime Conference on English Education, and will be signing The Last Stop at Market Street at the Penguin Booth (#612-616) at 4pm on Friday among many signings (please check the program for details!)
  • Saturday, 11/22 at 9:30am (Potomac B): Ellen Oh and Advisory Board members Matt de la Peña and Jacqueline Woodson will participate in the Eight Great Multicultural American Texts roundtable. Jacqueline will also be guest of honor at the Books for Children Luncheon and will be signing Each Kindness and Brown Girl Dreaming Saturday at 3pm at the Penguin Booth (#612-616)
  • Saturday 11/22 at 2:45pm (National Harbor 2): NCTE was nice enough to invite WNDB to deliver an official We Need Diverse Books session. If you can’t make it, you can still download our handouts and read our panel description here. WNDB president Ellen Oh, VP of Development I.W. Gregorio, and Pura Belpré winning-team member Meg Medina will be on hand to discuss our initiatives.
  • Don’t miss signings on Saturday by I.W. Gregorio (None of the Above, 1pm-1:30pm) and Ellen Oh (Prophecy, Warrior) at the HarperCollins Booth (#424-428), and Meg Medina (Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass) at 4:15pm at the Candelwick booth (#319-321) 
  • Saturday, 11/22 at 4:15pm (Chesapeake D/E): Advisory Board member Tim Federle will be on a panel discussing homophobia, details here

Thank you again for everything you do for diverse books – onward and upward to our stretch goals!

The WNDB team

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You’ve received this message because you’re interested in further news from the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, including future initiatives, giveaways and events. We promise not to Spam you, and thank you for your interest in diversifying our shelves!

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The Home Stretch

by We Need Diverse Books

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It’s week three of our campaign…and we’re so close to meeting our goal!

  • We’ve raised 90% of our 100K target
  • More than 1,040 funders have contributed
  • All of The Walter 2015 grants now have co-sponsors
  • Another #SupportWNDB Twitter chat is scheduled for TODAY, Tuesday 11/11 at 1 PM EST with special guests Malinda Lo, Alex London, Emily Danforth, and Rafe Posey

Today we’re proud to unveil our extended author video, with additional clips from Kristin Cashore, Sharon Flake, I.W. Gregorio, Ellen Hopkins, Stacey Lee, E.B. Lewis, Meg Medina, Linda Sue Park, Meg Rosoff, Mildred Pitts Walter, Gene Luen Yang, & Ellen Oh herself! 

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The buzz and excitement surrounding our campaign has prompted some amazing new opportunities for us. First, Indiegogo has invited us to participate in #GivingTuesday, a movement to create a global day of giving. On December 2, 2014, people everywhere are joining forces on Indiegogo to fuel change and fund what matters to them. Diversity in children’s literature definitely matters!

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In order to participate, Indiegogo has also extended our fundraising campaign through December 10. This means we’ll be able to reach more people and spread our message further. Which comes with its own great news:

Our extended campaign should allow us to effect even more change within the industry. With additional funds, we plan to implement stretch goals, and we’ll reveal those to you as soon as our campaign surpasses the 100% funded mark.

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Already we’ve seen an outpouring of support, and YOU are the reason for it. Indiegogo lets us track where donors are coming from, and so many of you are leading people to our cause through Twitter, Facebook, email, and your own personal blogs. Please keep sharing those cue cards and hitting ‘Refresh’ on the Indiegogo page, because we’ve got new perks going up daily, including:

  • Limited edition (only FIVE available) chapbooks <![if !vml]>https://gallery.mailchimp.com/be761490cb624ab602f2a5487/images/40e9c882-03c1-4abf-a836-00a4c6e0650e.jpg<![endif]>of poetry by NYT-bestselling Newbery Medal Winner Linda Sue Park (right)
  • A full manuscript critique of a YA contemporary book, offered by the Patricia Riley, Managing Director of Spencer Hill Contemporary
  • One more “free pass” to the Chronicle Books editorial meeting for the first 3 chapters of you MG/YA book 
  • Lunch OR critique+phone call with Joe Monti, Executive Editor of Saga Press/Simon & Schuster. Joe’s authors have won the Hugo, the Nebula, and the Printz Award, among others.

FINALLY… we’ve got a fun surprise in store once we hit $100,000. Stay tuned!

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Regards,
The WNDB Executive Committee

P.S. Aren’t the Girl Scouts of Troop 60261 rockin’ those mustaches?

 

 

 

 

 

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#WeNeedDiverseBooks · 732 Eden Way North · #127, Suite E · Chesapeake, VA 23320 · USA

WNDB Indiegogo Update

by We Need Diverse Books

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We are now officially into week two of our campaign and it’s been a busy, exciting time over here at WNDB. In less than one week we crossed through the halfway mark for our fundraising goal, and the team couldn’t be more humbled by everyone’s support!

We wanted to personally thank each and every one of you for your donations. Your generosity has helped us to break 68K as of this update and we are so thankful to you for supporting WNDB and taking us that much closer to our goal.

We’re also thrilled to share some new and exciting perks, including:

<![if !supportLists]>·         <![endif]>A gorgeous & colorful Jarrett Krosoczka original (right), in <![if !vml]>https://gallery.mailchimp.com/be761490cb624ab602f2a5487/images/adcbc21a-9457-4a79-a994-b97abe61d304.jpg<![endif]>acrylic, watercolor and graphite. Jarrett is the author and illustrator of multiple books, including the popular Lunch Lady graphic novels.

<![if !supportLists]>·         <![endif]>A private dinner with acclaimed author Tim Federle (Better Nate than Ever), including signed copies of his cocktail books!

  • <![if !vml]>https://gallery.mailchimp.com/be761490cb624ab602f2a5487/images/672b15b3-e129-49c7-9c94-6794dda6af71.jpg<![endif]>

TONS of amazing agent/editor perks like query critiques, lunch with an editor, and much more (just in time for NaNoWriMo and #PitchWars).

  • Original brushwork art by author & artist Cindy Pon (left), plus a SWAG pack – all ready to ship for the holidays!

<![if !supportLists]>·         <![endif]>One super-special perk going up tomorrow that we’re announcing to you first: the chance to have your picture book (or the first three chapters of your YA/MG manuscript) read by the entire editorial board at Chronicle Books for possible acquisition.

As a special sign of appreciation for being on our mailing list, we wanted to share with you a first look at the newest video we are revealing tomorrow. Warning: your heart might melt.


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Thank you again to all of you— we have come so far, but the campaign is NOT over yet. We have a long way to go, and we are now at the critical stage where we need the word spread far and wide—so please do share our fundraiser with your friends and family. Together we can make it happen, and we can reach our goal to have a more inclusive, representative and diverse world in literature.

p.s. If you are a member of Pi Beta Phi, please e-mail us at info@diversebooks.org – you might just be able to help us reach our goal even sooner!

 

 

 

 

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#WeNeedDiverseBooks · 732 Eden Way North · #127, Suite E · Chesapeake, VA 23320 · USA

Artist Spotlight – Vanessa Brantley Newton

by We Need Diverse Books

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The lovely Vanessa Brantley Newton is a self-taught illustrator, doll maker, and crafter. Her passion for children’s books began when she came across Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats as a child in the 1960s. Snowy Day marked one of the first representations of black children in picture books, and seeing a character that looked like her and lived in a neighborhood like her own was a turning point in Vanessa’s life. Vanessa celebrates self-love and acceptance of all cultures through her work, and hopes to inspire young readers as Keats did for her and a generation of children. Growing up in a musical family who loved to sing, Vanessa’s illustrations are as fun and whimsical as a beautiful melody. Her style is influenced by retro art and fashion from the 50s and 60s. She is the author and illustrator of Let Freedom Sing and Don’t Let Auntie Mabel Bless the Table, and has illustrated numerous children’s books including One Love & Every Little Thing, words by Bob & Cedella Marley, and Presenting Tallulah written by Tori Spelling. Vanessa currently makes her nest in Charlotte, NC with her husband of 20 years, their daughter, and a very rambunctious cat named Stripes.image

Vanessa is absolutely fabulous and wonderful and created this beautiful artwork for WNDB which you can receive as part of the WNDB Art Poster if you donate to our Indiegogo Campaign.

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We are so lucky to have had Vanessa be a part of our WNDB Art Project. For more information on Vanessa and her amazing art, please look her up on her website oohlaladesignstudio.blogspot.com

Bestselling authors speak out for We Need Diverse Books™

by We Need Diverse Books

Bestselling authors speak out for We Need Diverse Books

Bethesda, MD (October 27, 2014) – This Friday, October 24th, We Need Diverse Books™ launched its inaugural Indiegogo campaign, and in less than three days has raised over one-third of its goal with the help of a broad range of individuals spanning the publishing world, including authors, literary agents, editors and publishers.

Thus far, NYT-bestselling and award-winning authors Rick Riordan, Malinda Lo, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Ally Condie, Kathryn Erskine and Lisa McMann have contributed to We Need Diverse Books, responding to a campaign video in which bestselling and award-winning authors Jacqueline Woodson, Matt de la Peña, John Green, Grace Lin, Tim Federle and Cindy Pon discussed the importance of diverse books.

Importantly, agents, editors and publishers have also showed their support. Arthur A. Levine, (Publisher of Arthur A. Levine Books / Scholastic, Inc.) was featured in the campaign video, and editors including Alvina Ling (Executive Editorial Director, Little, Brown, Books for Young Readers), Alessandra Balzer (VP and Co-Publisher of Balzer+Bray / HarperCollins), Jill Santopolo (Executive Editor, Philomel / Penguin Random House), and Sharyn November (Senior Editor / Editorial Director, Penguin Random House) have contributed to the campaign. Prominent agents Erin Murphy (Erin Murphy Literary Agency), Barry Goldblatt (Barry Goldblatt Literary), Marietta Zacker (Nancy Gallt Literary Agency), and Jennifer Laughran (Andrea Brown Literary Agency) have helped sponsor Walter Dean Myers Grants, with the latter offering a matching donation that generated over $2000 in donations in an hour. A full list of donors will be posted on a Wall of Thanks at diversebooks.org.

Tomorrow at 10am EST, the We Need Diverse Books™ team will release a full-length video in which NYT-bestselling author John Green (The Fault in Our Stars, Looking for Alaska) discusses why diverse books are necessary. The We Need Diverse Books team will be discussing the video in a Twitter chat on Tuesday, October 28th at 1pm EST, using the hashtag #SupportWNDB.

In his three-minute video, Green talks about why kids need diverse books and his first impressions of the campaign. He also addresses the pressing need to get diverse books in the hands of the young readers who will benefit from them the most, and discusses the non-majority narratives that impacted him as a youth. The video will be available for viewing on the We Need Diverse Books Indiegogo campaign site (http://igg.me/at/diversebooks) and will be promoted across all its social media platforms.

ABOUT WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS

More than just a hashtag, We Need Diverse Books™ (WNDB) is a grassroots nonprofit organization created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature. WNDB is committed to the ideal that embracing diversity will lead to acceptance, empathy, and ultimately equality. On October 24th, the group launched its inaugural Indiegogo campaign (http://igg.me/at/diversebooks) to support its future initiatives, including a Diversity in the Classroom program, the Walter Dean Myers Award and Grant program, a diverse books Education Kit, and its inaugural Diversity Festival in 2016. Volunteer & sign up for their mailing list at diversebooks.org, or follow WNDB on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and Instagram.

PR Contact: S. E. Sinkhorn: sesinkhorn@gmail.com

Artist Spotlight – Duncan Tonatiuh

by We Need Diverse Books

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Duncan Tonatiuh (toh-nah-tyou) is the author and illustrator of four picture books: Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin, Diego Rivera: His World and Ours, Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale and Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegragation.

His books have received multiple awards and honorable mentions, among them the Pura Belpré Award in 2012, the Tomás Rivera Mexican-American Children’s Book Award in 2012 and 2014, Pura Belpré Honors in 2011 and 2014 and an Américas Award Honor in 2014.

Duncan was born in Mexico City and grew up in San Miguel de Allende. He graduated from Parsons The New School for Design and from Eugene Lang College in New York City in 2008. His work is inspired by Ancient Mexican art, particularly that of the Mixtec codex. His aim is to create images that honor the past, but that address contemporary issues that affect people of Mexican origin on both sides of the border.

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Duncan is another one of our wonderful and generous artists who took time out of his incredibly busy schedule to create beautiful art for WNDB’s Indiegogo Campaign. You can get his art in our beautiful notecards or our Holiday art poster if you donate to our campaign. Just see how gorgeous it is!

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For more information about Duncan, and to see his beautiful work, please go to his website at duncantonatiuh.com

Sneak peak at John Green’s We Need Diverse Books video!

by We Need Diverse Books

John Green speaks out for We Need Diverse Books. Great new perks, and more!

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Thank you all!

Our campaign has exceeded our wildest expectations, and we owe it all to you. We couldn’t possibly express too much appreciation. 

What’s so exciting to us is the broad range of donors to our campaign: They span the whole publishing world and include readers, authors, literary agents, editors, publishers, booksellers, librarians and of course, readers.

Tomorrow at 10am EST, WNDB will formally release a full-length video in which NYT-bestselling author John Green (The Fault in Our Stars, Looking for Alaska) discusses why diverse books are necessary. But we’d like to offer you a sneak peak of John’s video as a thank you for being on our mailing list: Click HERE to view.

The WNDB team will be discussing the video in a Twitter chat on Tuesday, October 28th at 1pm EST, using the hashtag #SupportWNDB. Please join us!


Finally, we have some great new perks!

  • A private dinner with Jacqueline Woodson and Matt de la Peña
  • Phone calls with agents Marietta Zacker and Joanna Volpe!
  • Gorgeous artwork by NYT-bestselling Newbery Honor Winner Grace Lin

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Thanks again for everything. Every RT, mention, reblog or share has been crucial as we hurtle toward our campaign goal! Keep spreading the word!

With affection,

The WNDB Team

Copyright © 2015 #WeNeedDiverseBooks, All rights reserved.
You’ve received this message because you’re interested in further news from the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, including future initiatives, giveaways and events. We promise not to Spam you, and thank you for your interest in diversifying our shelves!

Our mailing address is:

#WeNeedDiverseBooks

732 Eden Way North

#127, Suite E

Chesapeake, VA 23320


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Artist Spotlight – LeUyen Pham

by We Need Diverse Books

This is LeUyen (Pronounced Le Win) Pham:

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Even though she is stunningly beautiful, she prefers this picture of herself instead:

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LeUyen is not only lovely and incredibly talented, she’s also a wonderful person who is dedicated to diversity and WNDB’s mission. She’s created this beautiful piece which is featured on our wonderful WNDB Art Poster (you can get with a donation to our Indiegogo campaign), as well as on our new WNDB bookmarks, which you can also get if you donate to our campaign.

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Isn’t it beautiful? LeUyen’s biography should read as follows: LeUyen Pham is the illustrator of over fifty children’s books, with titles including the best-selling “Freckleface Strawberry” series with Julianne Moore, God’s Dream by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, as well as her own self-authored Big Sister, Little Sister. Etc, etc. But LeUyen would rather share with you this bio instead:

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Isn’t she awesome? For more information, please check out her beautiful art at Leuyenpham.com. And stay tuned for more Artist Spotlights!

 

We Need Diverse Books Needs You!

by We Need Diverse Books

 

WNDB announces the Walter Dean Myers Award and Grant program, launches inaugural Indiegogo campaign.
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Last week, WNDB was proud beyond words to announce the Walter Dean Myers Award and Grant program, named after the beloved award-winning author. This week, we’re launching our inaugural Indiegogo campaign (note that the site will go live at 10/23 at 9pm EST at http://igg.me/at/diversebooks) to help fund “The Walter” and our other exciting initiatives, including our Diversity in the Classroom program, our Educational Kits for teachers, librarians and booksellers, and our 2016 Diversity Festival.And this is where we need your help to spread the word. Thus far, our all-volunteer team has done amazing things on moxie and individual donations alone, but we cannot reach the next level by ourselves. We would appreciate anything you could do to signal boost and bring awareness to the campaign.

How can you help? We know that not everyone has the resources to donate, so we’ve tried to make it easy for anyone to participate:

  1. Feel free to share this e-mail with your family and friends, including a personal message describing why the campaign is important to you!
  2. Use Twibbon to add some WNDB flair to your avatar (http://twibbon.com/Support/we-need-diverse-books)
  3. Participate in our cue card contest to emphasize why you #SupportWNDB, whether it’s for yourself, because of a family member, or because of a diverse book that changed your life. Create your own sign or use the templates we’ve created (http://weneeddiversebooks.org/cue-cards/) and submit pictures to our Tumblr. The photos with the most reblogs will win a WNDB prize pack.
  4. Join us on Twitter for #k8chat on Thursday, October 23rd at 9pm EST. At the same time, we’ll send out an e-mail update announcing the “soft-launch” of our Indiegogo campaign so members of our mailing list will be able to get first crack at some of our incredible perks, including:
    • journals signed by our advisory board
    • critiques from top agents
    • 5 prints signed by Dav Pilkney (of Captain Underpants fame) and
    • limited edition WNDB holiday cards which will include artwork by six diverse  artists, including team member Don Tate (right). So we can get the cards to you by December, we’ll have a small print run of 500 sets that will be available for the first two weeks of the campaign ONLY.
  5. Use the #SupportWNDB hashtag in a Twitter hashtag party this Friday, October 24th at 1pm EST, and please RT to your heart’s delight!

Truly, anything you can do to spread the word will help. We so appreciate your support – we’ve said it before but we’ll say it again: We’re a grassroots organization, so by definition, we owe our success to you.

Thank you,

The We Need Diverse Books Team

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The WNDB Indiegogo Campaign is LIVE!

by We Need Diverse Books

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Our Indiegogo Campaign is LIVE! 

Click here to #SupportWNDB, and watch our campaign video featuring Matt de la Pena, Jacqueline Woodson, Grace Lin, Cindy Pon, Marie Lu, Arthur Levine and John Green.

Check out the pics below for the gorgeous artwork by diverse illustrators that will grace our posters and notecards!

And remember – WNDB will be monitoring our Tumblr feed and the #SupportWNDB hashtag every day, handing out prizes to the people with the most RTs and reblogs. 

We’re also holding a #SupportWNDB Librarian Cue Card Challenge – the librarian who has the most patrons participate in our cue card campaign will win a WNDB prize pack including books and SWAG. 

For cue card templates and info on entering, see our website! 

Thank you again for all of our support – and stay tuned for updates on new perks that become available, as well as bonus videos from authors including Sharon Flake, Gene Luen Yang, Ellen Hopkins, Linda Sue Park, and Meg Medina!

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Art by Vanessa Brantly, Aree Chung, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Yuyi Morales, LeUyen Pham, Dav Pilkey, Divya Srinivasan, Don Tate, & Hyewon Yum!

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Art by LeUyen Pham

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Art by: Floyd Cooper, David Diaz, AG Ford, Grace Lin, Ken Min, and Duncan Tonatiuh. 

ALL HOLIDAY PERKS ARE AVAILABLE FOR TWO WEEKS ONLY so we can get them shipped in time for said holidays!

Copyright © 2015 #WeNeedDiverseBooks, All rights reserved.
You’ve received this message because you’re interested in further news from the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, including future initiatives, giveaways and events. We promise not to Spam you, and thank you for your interest in diversifying our shelves!

Our mailing address is:

#WeNeedDiverseBooks

732 Eden Way North

#127, Suite E

Chesapeake, VA 23320


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WNDB Partners With An Open Book and Launches 30-Day Fundraiser

by We Need Diverse Books

We Need Diverse Books (WNDB), a grassroots organization created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives children’s literature, is proud to announce their partnership with An Open Book Children’s Literacy Foundation (AOB) to kick off the WNDB Diversity in the Classroom program. An Open Book is a Washington, DC non-profit created to promote literacy among disadvantaged children and teens in the greater Washington, DC area. AOB takes authors and illustrators of children’s and teens’ books to disadvantaged schools and gives each child a copy of the author’s book to take home. It is often the first book the child has ever owned.

Dara La Porte, Founding Director of An Open Book, said, “We are thrilled about this partnership! Not only will more children have access to books about children who resemble them, but together we will be able to bring into classrooms more authors and illustrators to serve as mentors to the children who previously never conceived of writing or illustrating as professions open to them. ” WNDB President, Ellen Oh, agreed, stating, “Our two organizations couldn’t be more complimentary in our missions. An Open Book is already in the schools doing great work. Together we can make a huge difference.”

An Open Book founders Dara La Porte, Heidi Powell, and Education Director Janet Zwick will help WNDB launch the Diversity in the Classroom program in January 2015, along with First Book and the National Education Association. Diversity in the Classroom will feature authors such as Don Tate, Kelly Starling-Lyons, Susan Kuklin, Renee Watson, Cece Bell.

WNDB will be launching their #SupportWNDB IndieGoGo campaign this Friday, October 24. Since its inception earlier this year, WNDB has gone from a social media hashtag campaign to globally-recognized movement and incorporated non-profit. This 30-day fundraiser will serve to make numerous initiatives a reality, including Diversity in the Classroom, the 2016 Diversity Festival, the Walter Dean Myers Award and Grant, and more.

The group will open with a soft launch on Twitter, joining author assistant Kate Tilton (@k8tilton) for a Twitter chat at 9PM (EST) on Thursday, October 23. Using the hashtag #k8chat, the group will discuss the organization and its goals. After the official launch of the IndieGoGo campaign on Friday, there will be a series of events mirroring WNDB’s inaugural campaign, including online chats, and requests for user participation.

On Friday, October 24 at 1PM (EST), users can join WNDB on Twitter with the hashtag #SupportWNDB to share their reasons for supporting the initiatives. A series of templates for use in photos will be available, and supporters are invited to snap a picture and once again submit to the We Need Diverse Books official Tumblr. Prizes and perks will be offered both through official social media channels and through the IndieGoGo page, including signed artwork, literary agent critiques, books, WBDB swag, and more. IndieGoGo campaign donations will be tax deductible outside the value of perks received.

For additional information and updates about WNDB, supporters are encouraged to sign up for their newsletter.

We Need Diverse Books Needs YOU!

by We Need Diverse Books

WNDB announces the Walter Dean Myers Award and Grant program, launches inaugural Indiegogo campaign. 

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Last week, WNDB was proud beyond words to announce the Walter Dean Myers Award and Grant program, named after the beloved award-winning author.

This week, we’re launching our inaugural Indiegogo campaign to help fund "The Walter" and our other exciting initiatives, including our Diversity in the Classroom program, our Educational Kits for teachers, librarians and booksellers, and our 2016 Diversity Festival. 

And this is where we need your help to spread the word. Thus far, our all-volunteer team has done amazing things on moxie and individual donations alone, but we cannot reach the next level by ourselves. We would appreciate anything you could do to signal boost and bring awareness to the campaign.

How can you help? We know that not everyone has the resources to donate, so we’ve tried to make it easy for anyone to participate:

  1. Feel free to share this e-mail with your family and friends, including a personal message describing why the campaign is important to you!
  2. Use Twibbon to add some WNDB flair to your avatar (http://twibbon.com/Support/we-need-diverse-books)
  3. Participate in our cue card contest to emphasize why you #SupportWNDB, whether it’s for yourself, because of a family member, or because of a diverse book that changed your life. Create your own sign or use the templates we’ve created (http://weneeddiversebooks.org/cue-cards/) and submit pictures to our Tumblr. The photos with the most reblogs will win a WNDB prize pack.
  4. Join us on Twitter for #k8chat on Thursday, October 23rd at 9pm EST. At the same time, we’ll send out an e-mail update announcing the "soft-launch" of our Indiegogo campaign so members of our mailing list will be able to get first crack at some of our incredible perks, including:
    • journals signed by our advisory board
    • critiques from top agents
    • 5 prints signed by Dav Pilkney (of Captain Underpants fame) and
    • https://gallery.mailchimp.com/be761490cb624ab602f2a5487/images/af15389f-dd91-4340-8be0-1d9ce66cbfd6.jpglimited edition WNDB holiday cards which will include artwork by six diverse artists, including team member Don Tate (right). So we can get the cards to you by December, we’ll have a small print run of 500 sets that will be available for the first two weeks of the campaign ONLY.
  5. Use the #SupportWNDB hashtag in a Twitter hashtag party this Friday, October 24th at 1pm EST, and please RT to your heart’s delight!

Truly, anything you can do to spread the word will help. We so appreciate your support – we’ve said it before but we’ll say it again: We’re a grassroots organization, so by definition, we owe our success to you. 

Thank you,

The We Need Diverse Books Team

 

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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!

Cover Reveal: ENDANGERED

by We Need Diverse Books

newbird

We Need Diverse Books Cover Reveal

Endangered – Releasing April 21, 2015

The WNDB team is proud to host the cover reveal of Endangered from HarperCollins Children’s Books, by our very own Lamar Giles!

Her name is Lauren, but everyone calls her Panda.

What they don’t know is that behind their backs, she also goes by Gray. As in Gray Scales, the photo blog that her classmates are addicted to because of the secrets Gray exposes: a jock buying drugs, a teacher in a compromising position, the richest girl in school shoplifting. But no one knows Panda’s the vigilante photographer behind it all. At least, she thinks no one knows—until she gets a note from the Admirer, who’s not only caught her red-handed acting as Gray, but also threatens to reveal everything unless Panda joins her Admirer in a little game of Dare or . . . Dare.

Panda plays along. Anything to keep the secrets she’s protected for years.

But when the game turns deadly, Panda doesn’t know what to do. And she might need to step out of the shadows to save herself . . . and everyone else on the Admirer’s hit list, including some of the classmates she’s loathed and exposed for years.

Lamar_L_R_Giles

Lamar “L. R.” Giles writes stories for teens and adults. He’s never met a genre he didn’t like, having penned science fiction, fantasy, horror, and noir thrillers, among others. He is a Virginia native, a Hopewell High Blue Devil, and an Old Dominion University Monarch. He resides in Chesapeake, Virginia, with his wife. Go follow him on Twitter: @LRGiles

Congrats Lamar! We can’t wait to read it!

Reading Rainbow, NAIBA and more upcoming events

by We Need Diverse Books

More We Need Diverse Books events coming up!

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WNDB + #Indies = <3

The first ever We Need Diverse Books author reception at NAIBA was a remarkable success! Thanks, independent booksellers, for all you do to increase diversity in literature!

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Next up: the Baltimore Book Festival.https://gallery.mailchimp.com/be761490cb624ab602f2a5487/images/dcb8273f-caf7-46d4-a059-531149ec6d10.jpg


Baltimore Inner Harbor
September 26th, 2014

1pm-2pm: A We Need Diverse Books panel featuring Justina Ireland (PROMISE OF SHADOWS) and WNDB team members:

  • Ellen Oh (PROPHECY)
  • Karen Sandler (TANKBORN Trilogy)
  • Caroline Richmond (THE ONLY THING TO FEAR)


ICYMI: highlights from this week’s social media

Future events:

KidLitCon
Sacramento CA

October 11th

1:30pm-3pm – We Need Diverse Books Presents: Book Bloggers and Diversity, an Unbeatable Combination

  • Mike Jung (GEEKS, GIRLS, & SECRET IDENTITIES)
  • Karen Sandler (TANKBORN Trilogy)
  • S.E. Sinkhorn
  • Martha White

BinderCon
New York, NY

October 12th

TBA – How to increase diversity in writing and representation in literature

  • Stacy Whitman (Tu Books)
  • Dhonielle Clayton (TINY PRETTY THINGS)
  • Marietta Zacker (agent, Nancy Gallt)

James River Writers Conference
Richmond, VA

October 19th

1pm – "Windows and Mirrors": Diversity in Literature

  • Lamar Giles (FAKE ID)
  • Meg Medina (YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS)
  • Stacy Whitman (Tu books)

Copyright © 2015 #WeNeedDiverseBooks, All rights reserved.
You’ve received this message because you’re interested in further news from the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, including future initiatives, giveaways and events. We promise not to Spam you, and thank you for your interest in diversifying our shelves!

Our mailing address is:

#WeNeedDiverseBooks

732 Eden Way North

#127, Suite E

Chesapeake, VA 23320


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Upcoming WNDB panels and initiatives

by We Need Diverse Books

We Need Diverse Books™ announces upcoming panels and initiatives!

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More than just a hashtag…  


Since our last e-mail blast, We Need Diverse Books
 has incorporated, launched a new website (diversebooks.org) and continues to have media mentions in national outlets like NPR, SLJ, PW and even Teen Vogue and EW.

And we haven’t even gotten started.
 

This fall, WNDB will have a presence at venues from New York Comic Con, the New Atlantic Independent Bookseller’s Association (NAIBA), the Baltimore Book Festival, KidLitCon, and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) annual convention. Next year, even more awesomeness is in store, with panels already confirmed at the RT booklovers convention, ALA annual and AWP

More important even than panels, though, are our initiatives to support diverse authors and books. To this end, next month WNDB will launch its inaugural Indiegogo campaign to support our large-scale efforts to move the needle when it comes to diversity:

  • Diversity in the Classroom (to be launched this January with our partners Open Book, First Book and the National Education Association) 
  • We Need Diverse Books grant and award programs
  • Mentorship program for diverse authors
  • 2016 Diversity Festival
  • An official We Need Diverse Books handselling kit for librarians and booksellers

Thank you all for your support – and stay tuned for more exciting news to come, including details on our Indiegogo campaign!  

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NAIBA fall conference
Arlington, VA

September 20, 2014

7-8pm – We Need Diverse Books author reception featuring WNDB team members

and several other diverse authors!

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New York Comic Con
New York, NY

October 9, 2014

I.W. Gregorio will be representing WNDB on two panels at NYCC:

1) 5:15pm-6pm: #WeNeedDiverse (Comic) Books – Diversity in Comics (Location: 1A01)
  
2) 8pm-8:45pm: Geeks of Color Go Pro – Working in the Industry (Location: 1A18)
 

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NCTE annual convention
Washington, DC

November 22, 2014

9:45am: See Ellen Oh & WNDB advisory board members Matt de la Pena and Jacqueline Woodson during the "Eight Great Multicultural American Texts" roundtable.

11am: I.W. Gregorio will be on a Stories for All panel with First Book

2:45pm: We Need Diverse Books panel with Ellen Oh, Meg Medina, I.W. Gregorio and representatives from the NEA, First Book and NCTE.

Copyright © 2015 #WeNeedDiverseBooks, All rights reserved.
You’ve received this message because you’re interested in further news from the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, including future initiatives, giveaways and events. We promise not to Spam you, and thank you for your interest in diversifying our shelves!

Our mailing address is:

#WeNeedDiverseBooks

732 Eden Way North

#127, Suite E

Chesapeake, VA 23320


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We Need Diverse Books Exclusive Cover Reveal: X, A Novel – Releasing January 6th, 2015

by We Need Diverse Books

X_Online
Kekla_Magoon Ilyasah Shabazz
We Need Diverse Books Exclusive Cover Reveal:

X, A Novel – Releasing January 6th, 2015

The WNDB team is proud to host the exclusive cover reveal of X, A Novel, by Candlewick Press, a book we are so excited about!

Candlewick Press announces the publication of the FIRST young adult novel based on the coming of age of a boy named Malcolm Little.

Co-written by Malcolm X’s daughter, Ilyasah Shabazz, and award winning young adult author Kekla Magoon, this riveting and revealing novel follows the formative years of the man whose words and actions shook the world.

Timed with the 50th anniversary of his death, X follows Malcolm from his childhood to his imprisonment for theft at age twenty, when he found the faith that would lead him to forge a new path and command a voice that still resonates today.

“Malcolm inspired me with his eloquence, his wisdom, and his thirst for truth and righteousness. This powerful, page-turning story tells us how he discovered these qualities within himself.” – Muhammad Ali

“Powerful and charming—makes you see things in a whole new way. One of the best books I’ve read in quite some time.” – Chris Rock