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Monday, February 2, 2015

Post ALAMW 2015: We Need Diverse Books Panel Part 1



Rather then try and be eloquent I'm going to go ahead and paste their Mission Statement from their website:
We Need Diverse Books is a grassroots organization created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature. We Need Diverse Books is committed to the ideal that embracing diversity will lead to acceptance, empathy, and ultimately equality.

We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities*, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities. Our mission is to promote or amplify diversification efforts and increase visibility for diverse books and authors, with a goal of empowering a wide range of readers in the process.

In order to accomplish our mission, we reach out to individuals and groups involved in many levels of children’s publishing—including (but not limited to) agents, publishers, authors, distributors, booksellers, librarians, educators, parents, and students.

(*)We subscribe to a broad definition of disability, which includes but is not limited to physical, sensory, cognitive, intellectual, or developmental disabilities, chronic conditions, and mental illnesses (this may also include addiction). Furthermore, we subscribe to a social model of disability, which presents disability as created by barriers in the social environment, due to lack of equal access, stereotyping, and other forms of marginalization. 
So basically they support children's literature being more.

Hi we're here to be awesome
At ALA Midwinter 2015, held in Chicago IL, the We Need Diverse Books movement took to the stage as the inaugural panel for the "Pop Top Stage" (a stage set up specifically for authors and industry members to have an open forum of discussion).  The Panel included 8 authors of diverse debuts as well as moderator Danielle Paige (author of the Dorothy Must Die series).

I'll have a separate post about their respective books later, but here's our panel:
The panel itself centered around 5(ish) questions from Danielle to each panelist, a few questions from the audience and then of course the signing to end all signings.  This post will cover the first two questions (as they were the most detailed) in what will likely be a 3 part series.

I have to the best of my ability kept the gist of what each panelist said, or directly quoted where I could.  I couldn't write as fast as they talked and there was a lot of overlapping responses at times.  If you attended the panel please feel free to point out the misquotes/representations and I'll make corrections.  Any books mentioned in this article can be found on my We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) shelf on Goodreads for further information.

Question 1: What book was your mirror book? (Mirror book as being defined as the book by which the panelist first could see themselves, their culture, their heritage or their identity)
Danielle Paige: There wasn't a lot of options growing up, but she then found Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

Sona Charaipotra: At 19, Sona attended Ameena Meer's signing for Bombay Talkie at Rutgers.

I.W. Gregorio: In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord.  She was flabbergasted by a character having her last name.

Fonda Lee: She read a lot of dwarves and wizards, books by Asimov, books not condusive to diversity really.  Katherine Paterson's Sign of the Chrysanthemum was her first.  However Alison Goodman's Eon and Eona kicked off her love of YA again

Miranda Paul: In college she read Pay It Forward (which features an interracial couple) and remembers being shocked that in the Hollywood adaptation they completely white-washed the cast for no discernible reason.

Adam Silvera: Hadn't read a solid LGBT book until Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, though David Levithan's Two Boys Kissing gave him a better understanding of the history he had been missing out on (he swears he didn't say it just because David Levithan was in the audience...)

Sabaa Tahir: Seven Daughters, Seven Sons in fourth grade. She must have read it 20 times in about ten years.

Nicole Yoon: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, she found it beautiful and she could see herself on the page.

Francesca Zappia: Her library wasn't very big, but at the same time as a white middle class girl finding a "mirror" book would have been easy.

Question 2: What was your first window book? (Window book being defined as the book which the panelist first had their view opened about a culture, heritage, or identity not necessarily their own)
Danielle Paige: Stole the book Like Water for Chocolate from her mom's nightstand as a young teen.  Everyone emphasized that is not a teen book, but she was a precocious reader.

I.W. Gregorio: In her school, her town, being "gay" was considered uncool, it was used by everyone derogatorily, however after reading Magic's Pawn by Mercedes Lackey
Fonda Lee: Alison Goodman's Eon and Eona kicked off her love of YA again
Miranda Paul: The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, and she hopes it never goes out of print or popularity.

Adam Silvera: Stellaluna taught him about empathy.

Sabaa Tahir: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry gave her sense of what was happening in the larger world and that she wasn't alone.

Nicole Yoon: God of Small Things, though the movie Harold and Kumar was her entire college experience and The Little Prince is her absolute favorite (its important to Everything,Everything too).

Francesca Zappia: House of the Scorpion, it wasn't about them being in Mexico.  The culture was just part of the story.  It was an adventure story first and foremost. 
I.W. Gregorio also brought up the fact that there is diversity within diversity, its not the same case to case.  For instance while In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson's main character had her last name the book did not reflect Gregorio's experiences. 

As for myself, my "mirror" book as a child was Girl With the Silver Eyes - it was the first book to show me that being weird and bookish didn't mean I wouldn't find others who understood (I still think Katie would have made my best friend ever).  And as an adult, Darker Still was a mirror book because the main character also suffered from selective mutism--something I struggled with a lot as a child and continue to struggle with today.

My "window" book was Searching for Shona when I was about 8, about two girls who trade places on the eve of the British evacuation of their children during World War II.  Had no idea that sort of thing happened and it fascinated me.

Do you have a window and/or mirror book? Tell us in the comments! Then come back tomorrow as I'll have the next part of the panel up discussing where the future is going and if the authors encountered any obstacles during their publication routes!