07-21-18 Patricia Sargeant

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Making Diversity Inclusive

Hi everyone!
I am YA author B. A. Binns dealing with yet another snowstorm after Mother Nature teased us. I spent the last month watching the academy awards and participating in an interesting discussion that I would like to share with you.  

Early in February I joined a group discussion at CCBC-Net, a listserv discussion group on issues related to literature for children and young adults. We were discussing the issue of diversity in fiction for children and young adults. The group included Authors, Bloggers, Booksellers, Editors, Educators, Librarians, Parents, Publishers, and other concerned parties.  One of the more telling points for me was the participation of publishers including Lee & Low who shared their Infographic on the lack of diversity in Hollywood Entitled - Where’s the Diversity, Hollywood? The discussion centered on ways to make Diversity an inclusive idea, not limited to one group or set of groups.

BTW, although the topic was scheduled for February, it bled over into March, long enough for the 86th Academy awards. That event included the moving speech by Lupita Nyong'o, the black actress who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. In addition, Alfonso CuarĂ³n became the first Latino director to win an Oscar,  12 Years A Slave became the first Best PictureOscar winner directed by a black filmmaker, Steve McQueen, and Robert Lopez become the first Filipino-American ever to win an Oscar for his song “Let It Go” from the movie “Frozen.” All this was noted in the followup blog at Lee & Low: The 86th Annual Academy Awards Wins For Diversity.

The best thing about this discussion was that we came away with a set of practical, low or no-cost action items, a list of things that everyone, readers, librarians, booksellers, authors and parents, can begin doing immediately. Those action items are detailed by Debbie Reese on her blog American Indians in Children's Literature (AICL). I hope you will take a minute to look over her post on the month's activities and the action items and see if you might be able to participate in one or two. Many of the ideas focused on personal activism:
  • actively buying books representing a diverse range of voices; 
  • recommending and promoting diverse books to others; 
  • asking for them at bookstores, schools and libraries; 
  • using social media in those efforts and to draw attention to issues of representation; 
  • writing reviews on Amazon, B&N and Goodreads; 
  • stepping out of our personal comfort zones to make connections and advocate on these issues and books. 
Participants also suggested personal activism for writers and illustrators:
  • stepping out of artistic comfort zones;  
  • soliciting and listening to feedback from members of the communities one is writing about when going outside one’s own culture; 
  • considering questions of cultural bias and representation while conducting research and evaluating sources. 
The same considerations hold true for those publishing, buying and using books with children, promoting books to parents and teachers, creating library and bookstore displays… etc. including whether those books receive the same quality and quantity of promotion, and whether they are somehow held apart from other books. I intend to spend 2014 living out some of those action items, beginning tomorrow (Thursday).  I am giving a workshop at the Illinois Reading Council in Springfield, Illinois to discuss book issues, including ways that more diversity in fiction can help bring more young people back to books. Minority of One, places a black gay teen in the midst of conflict that while he learns that he is not "the only one of his kind" and is so much more than the mere sum of his parts.

I have two additional workshop scheduled for this year, at library associations in Connecticut and Ohio, where I will speak about the need for more diversity in children's fiction. My own newest novel,

I ask you to check out the diversity resource page maintained by Edith (Crazy Quilt Edi) Campbell.  And to look at the smaller presses, including Cinco Puntos PressRoadRunner Press, and Lee & Low Books. People also mentioned the importance of writers’ events and conferences, such as the Native American Literature Symposium, VONA Voices, the Lambda Literary Foundation, the Muslim Voices Conference, the Comadres and Compadres Writers’ Conference, and the Carl Brandon Society.

Along with such conferences, people talked about the possibility for individual outreach to writers/ artists.  People have also started an amazing array of blogs, websites and tumblrs that focus on aspects of diversity in children’s books. These include
This list in is not all inclusive, but it’s a start. It does not include the multitude of authors of color who blog or those who don’t devote their entire blog to diversity, but are there for the cause.

1 comment:

Judith Ashley said...

Once again your passion for young people having books to read about their lives, their reality shines through in this post, BA.

And your call to action is doable!