Over the month of February, the CCBC Listserv has had a very involved conversation around diverse children’s and young adult literature and, among other things, how to support what’s out there, how to understand the nuances involved in artistic creation, and how to encourage more authors and illustrators to create/publishers to produce.
The lovely Sarah Hamburg—we don’t know her personally but can only assume the loveliness because of her thoughtful and truly lovely suggestion—put to the group to think about ways in which we can not only continue to keep this conversation going, but moving forward through action and activism. She asked the listserv contributors to put on their thinking caps and come up with ways in which to 1) put their words into actionable goals as well as to 2) think of other organizations and people involved with increasing the representation in kid lit that are already moving the needle with their presence and behavior. Well, that’s at least what the responses were about to her question:
What does/would activism on these issues look like to you?
Below is the living/breathing document that Sarah put together on the CCBC Listserv for all to comment on and add their thoughts to. It has truly already started much conversation as this document lives on many blogs with thoughts being contributed across the web. Below are just a sampling of the ones we’ve seen so far:
Elizabeth Bluemle’s PW Shelftalker Column—"Money, Meet Mouth"
Edi Campbell’s Sunday Morning Reads Post
Uma Krishnaswami’s Blog Post—"From a Joint Discussion, Belonging to Everyone: Diversity in Children’s and YA Literature"
Lyn Miller-Lachmann’s Blog Post—"It’s All Good! How You Can Create Diversity in Publishing"
Be sure to check out the comments under each listing and feel free to place comments here as well as we all work towards a more inclusive children’s book industry.
Interview contributed by Lyn Miller-Lachmann
Maria E. Andreu’s debut novel, The Secret Side of Empty (Running Press Kids, March 2014), offers an honest, authentic portrait of an undocumented high school senior who carefully hides her circumstances even from her closest friends, and cannot apply for college despite her near-perfect grades. Even before publication, the novel received glowing reviews and accolades, including a spot on the Junior Library Guild’s spring 2014 list. In this interview for CBC Diversity, Andreu talks about her own life as an undocumented immigrant and how things have or haven’t changed for these bright, promising young people who live in the shadows.
You have stated publicly that much of M.T.’s story is based on your own experience as an undocumented immigrant from Spain in the 1970s and 1980s. What are some of the specific parallels between your own story and that of your protagonist?
I like to say that the facts are all different but the feelings are the same. I felt the same isolation and hopelessness that M.T. feels. I didn’t know how I would go to college. I felt the economic disadvantage. But I was a teenager during the 1980s so of course I didn’t connect with my high school boyfriend on Facebook and didn’t have a cell phone. I felt it was important to make M.T. a modern teen so that readers today wouldn’t get bogged down in the 80s references. But the experience is genuine, if fictional. And, fun side note, the post-it scene and the “slow speed chase” both really did happen.
Interview conducted by Wendy Lamb
Can you please tell me something of your background, and your work in children’s books?
After graduating from high school in my hometown of Macon, Georgia, I attended the University of Florida where I earned both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in elementary education. One of my professors at the University of Florida, Dr. Linda Leonard Lamme, really turned me on to children’s books. She introduced me to authors and illustrators like James E. Ransome, Eloise Greenfield, and Floyd Cooper. I remember her sharing books such as Uncle Jed’s Barbershop by Margaree King Mitchell with our class.
After graduation, I kept in touch with Dr. Lamme while I was teaching elementary school in Macon and she encouraged me to pursue a doctoral degree in children’s literature at The Ohio State University. She knew about its exceptional program in children’s literature. After five years of teaching students in kindergarten, first, and second grade, I resigned from my position and moved to Columbus, Ohio to attend graduate school. It was there that I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, a leading scholar of African American children’s books. These two women have had a profound impact on my career and life.
Currently I am an associate professor of Literacy Education at Clemson University in South Carolina and I teach reading methods and children’s literature courses for early childhood, elementary, and special education majors. I mainly teach undergraduates but I occasionally teach graduate students working on their master’s and doctoral degrees in literacy education.
“Is there one right way to write? Definitely not. My own process has evolved over time and depending on the demands of each manuscript. But writing defensively tends to be self-defeating. We can’t anticipate every reader’s politics or pet peeves, and even if we could, trying to placate them all would result in bland, banal mush.”
We had such a great response to our post, “15 Authors Who Promote Diversity in Author Visits” that we felt it was time to add more names to the list. For teachers and librarians who are looking for diverse authors for school and library events, here are 15 more authors to consider.
Grades 7 – 12 / Middle School & High School
Coe Booth (New York, NY)
Coe Booth is a graduate of The New School’s Writing for Children MFA program, and a winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Fiction. She is the author of several books including Tyrell (Push/Scholastic) and will make her middle-grade debut this fall with Kinda Like Brothers (Scholastic Press). A life-long resident of the Bronx, Coe often presents to small student groups and teacher conferences.
Christina Díaz Gonzalez (Miami, FL)
Christina Díaz Gonzalez is the author of The Red Umbrella (Yearling/Random House) and A Thunderous Whisper (Knopf Books for Young Readers). Her novels have received numerous honors including the ALA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults and the IRA Teacher’s Choice Award. Available for in-person as well as virtual visits, her presentations focus on the road to becoming an author and what happens afterward.
Sharon G. Flake (Pittsburg, PA)
Sharon G. Flake is the Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award author of The Skin I’m In (Jump at the Sun/Hyperion). Her most recent novel, Pinned (Scholastic Press), received starred reviews and is included on various state reading lists. During her presentations she discusses her journey to overcome low self-esteem and encourages students to consider writing and publishing as a career.
Eric Gansworth (Niagara Falls, NY)
Eric Gansworth is a Professor of English and Lowery Writer-in-Residence at Canisius College. An enrolled member of the Onondaga Nation, he was born and raised at the Tuscarora Reservation. His young adult debut novel, If I Ever Get Out of Here (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic), was selected for ALA’s 2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults and was named an American Indian Youth Literature Award Young Adult Honor Book.
Sherri Smith (Los Angeles, CA)
Her novel Flygirl (Putnam Juvenile/Penguin) was selected as one of the ALA’s 2010 Best Books for Young Adults. Born in Chicago, she spent most of her childhood in Staten Island NY, Washington DC, and Upstate New York. Today she travels all over the west coast visiting schools and libraries.
Tim Tingle (Canyon Lake, TX & Oklahoma City, OK)
Tim Tingle is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and a frequent speaker at tribal events. The author of six books, including How I Became A Ghost (The RoadRunner Press) and House of Purple Cedar (Cinco Puntos Press), Tingle was a featured speaker at the Native American wing of the Smithsonian Institute in 2006 and 2007.