Last week I took the train up to New York City for my annual trip to Book Expo America. Most of my time is spent in meetings and scour for hot titles for From Left to Write, my virtual book club. I did make the time to attend the #WeNeedDiverseBooks session, or “The World Agrees: #WeNeedDiverseBooks” as it was officially started.
The #WeNeedDiverseBooks grassroots campaign began early May, just in time for APA Heritage Month. Twitter and other social media exploded with the hashtag and people sharing why they need diverse books. Ellen Oh was frustrated by the lack of diversity among the panelists in BookCon’s line-up and created the movement to call attention to the lack of diversity among children’s literature. While it’s not a new problem, I’m glad that the mainstream media is finally paying attention. Thanks to the grass campaign, this session was added to the BookCon lineup.
The session was standing room only and many people were turned away. I could feel the room buzzing as I squeezed into the middle seat in a row close to the front. As soon as Ellen Oh took the stand, the crowd erupted in cheers.
“Diversity is not a hot trend. It’s our lives!” -Ellen Oh
It was an all star panel of authors, many whose books I have yet to read. One of my favorite children’s book authors Grace Lin was a panelist. I’m such a huge fan of her books and she’s so cute in person! She also created a printable Cheat Sheet for Selling Diversity which lists diverse books and how “sell” them to readers. Instead of pushing the diversity or race issues of the book, sell the story. After all, what’s the point of a diverse book if the story isn’t good?
— WeNeedDiverseBooks (@diversebooks) June 2, 2014
Ellen Oh encouraged the crowd (us) to continue our to push publishers and authors for diverse books for not just our multicultural families, but for everyone. That’s a sentiment I’ve echoed again and again here. As someone on the panel put it, “White kids need diverse books too.”
If you weren’t able to make it to the session, you can listen to the audio (widget above). Warning, there’s lots of cheering. But in a good way. The #WeNeedDiverseBooks team also announced they are planning a Multicultural Literary Festival in Washington, DC for 2016. You bet I’ll be there!
If you’re looking for diverse picture and elementary books for your kids, please check my multicultural books archives! I’ll continue to share my lists and I hope you continue to share your discoveries too!
Want more Book Expo America 2014 news? Check out how I met Neil Patrick Harris (and enter the giveaway) and some book club authors we’ve read in From Left to Write.