Last month I wrote an article for this site, discussing my
experience photographing children with special needs and my upcoming trip to
photograph children in Tanzania. International
travel, two words that appear exciting, exotic, and luxurious, are in
reality about spending hours wedged between strangers. It is neither exciting,
exotic, nor even the slightest bit luxurious. After landing in a different
hemisphere, the excitement starts to build again. I’m not sure what I expected
to see in Tanzania, but I was surprised to see fields of corn. As a
Midwesterner, I’m well versed in fields of corn and found it very welcoming.
What made it exotic was seeing palm trees growing next to the corn. Fields, mountains,
plains, rainforests, and beaches met to make picture perfect views.
The We Need Diverse Books movement took off shortly after Hoodoo, my middle grade debut, sold to
Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. I think this is an
exciting time to be writing children’s literature, especially if you are
writing about characters that fall outside the mainstream. I think publishers
want these books, and are eager to find those that tell a great story.
I recently attended the American Library Association’s
annual convention in Orlando. I was there to receive the Coretta Scott King
John Steptoe Award for New Talent. It was an amazing experience and one that I
am humbled and energized by. To be surrounded by so many people who love books
was mind-blowing. Plus, I met Kwame Alexander. So that happened.
When I gave my speech—complete with sweaty palms and nervous
energy—I talked about how, shortly after Hoodoo
came out, I did several interviews. One of these interviewers asked, “Here you
are, a black writer, writing fantasy books for kids. Some would say, shouldn’t
you be writing stories that uplift the race?”
“At its core, a public Library is one of the few places on earth with no sides. Everyone is welcome no matter what race, creed, religion, skin color, sexual orientation, gender identity, political view, or any of the other ways we divide and categorize each other.” via Medium