Take Four! A New, Two-part “It’s Complicated” Conversation

As part of CBC Diversity’s ongoing effort, we’re pleased to present the fourth dialogue in the “It’s Complicated!” blog series starting next week, and for the first time, it will run over two consecutive weeks, starting on Monday. This time we’ve invited five authors to share their thoughts about writing inside their cultural perspective, and five authors to discuss writing outside their cultural perspective.
I think most would agree that in an ideal world, the diversity depicted in books and of their creators would match the diversity of our world. But I know some might disagree on the best way to get there–what if that’s not immediately possible? Is it better to have white/straight/able-bodied, etc. authors write books about non-white/LGBT/disabled, etc. characters? Can those characters truly be authentic? What if the only way authors of color can achieve commercial success is by writing books with non-diverse characters? And can those books be authentic, too? Are there any topics that should be “off-limits” to outsider writers? Do you trust an author you perceive to be an insider more than you would an outsider?

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Finding Diversity and My Voice with a Flashlight and a Pen

Guest post by author Angela Cervantes
I am an original flashlight girl. You know the type. Hours after parents called for bedtime; I was still up under my bedcovers with a flashlight reading a favorite book. Many times, those books under the covers with me were the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby books. The fact that the heroines of these books were white and I was Mexican American didn’t stop me from enjoying these books and rereading them several times. However, the more I fell in love with reading the more I questioned why there weren’t books like these with Latino characters. At the time, I remember thinking of all the girls in my neighborhood who were just as funny, spunky and adventurous as Ramona, Lucy and Laura. Surely there were books about them out there, right?
Not so much.

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Book Spotlight: Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel


Happiness, anger, love, jealousy, peace, and worry. Everyone has experienced these feelings, especially as a thirteen-year-old, and these are all the emotions Erica “Chia” Montenegro is feeling the summer before eighth grade.

In Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel (coming out this June) Diana Lopez, author of Confetti Girl and Choke, introduces us to Chia, whose life is turned upside down when she learns her mother has been diagnosed with breast cancer and must undergo a mastectomy and radiation treatments. She finds herself juggling the responsibilities of family, school, and friendship, all while keeping up the façade that she can handle it all without help. This story captivated me in its honesty, heart, and humor; the protagonist is funny without forcing it, and the emotions, which as indicated by the title, swing from excitement and anticipation to dread and sadness, are authentic. Chia is a character any reader can connect with. And it doesn’t matter that she also happens to be Latina. 

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Feeding the Demand for More Diverse Books

An “It’s Complicated!” post by literary agent Stefanie Sanchez Von Borstel

While on faculty at the National Latino Writers Conference last Thursday, a timely


headline read:

For the first time in US history, more than half of all newborn babies born last year are minorities. The entire US population is 36% minority, and this milestone shows how swiftly our nation’s youth is diversifying. 

Yet a recent study by the SCBWI found that in 2010 more than 90 percent of children’s/young adult books published in the US featured white protagonists. As a literary agent, I’ve found it’s important to show publishers there is a demand, and in turn help them feel confident to publish even more diverse voices. As an author advocate, I believe it’s critical for writers of color to see their fellow writers succeed. As a mother, I know it’s urgent that we make sure young readers see themselves in the books they read.

The debut middle-grade novel by Diana Lopez, Confetti Girl (Little, Brown), is an example of a book filled with diversity that doesn’t focus on diversity but instead wraps diversity around a wonderful story. Apolina “Lina” Flores is a sock enthusiast, volleyball player and science lover looking for answers about her life. Filled with colorful Mexican-American cultural details such as dichos, confetti-filled cascarones and cumbia dances, the story struck a chord with middle-schoolers nationwide. 

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