Announcing the 2019 CBC Diversity Outstanding Achievement Award Winners

New York, NY – September 28, 2018 – The CBC Diversity Committee is proud to announce the winners of the inaugural CBC Diversity Outstanding Achievement Awards. These awards will be given annually to professionals or organizations in the children’s publishing industry who have made a significant impact on the publishing and marketing of diverse books, diversity in hiring and mentoring, and efforts that create greater awareness with the public about the importance of diverse voices.

The winners were announced at the CBC Annual Meeting in New York City on September 27, and an official ceremony and conversation with the winners will take place on October 24 at a CBC Forum event. The winners will each select an organization to receive one thousand dollars’ worth of children’s books in their name.

Shifa Kapadwala, the CBC Diversity Committee’s moderator, said: “The committee had the great joy and responsibility of reviewing nominations from across the children’s publishing community. In making their selections, the committee has summarized the accomplishments of these inspiring people and organizations.”

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Author Interview with T.R. Simon

Candlewick Press sat down with T.R. Simon to discuss her new book ‘Zora and Me: The Cursed Ground’

CP:  How do the maturing Carrie and Zora see the world differently as they approach their teens?

T.R.S:  In book two of the Zora and Me trilogy, Zora and Carrie are now twelve going on thirteen. Although they are still children, they have encountered the sorrow of death along with the pride and joy that life in Eatonville affords them. What begins to alter them now is a slowly growing awareness of the past. While Eatonville could seem idyllic, tucked away from the daily brutality of the Jim Crow South, it is not free from the shadow of American history, particularly from the history of slavery. The history of slavery is a hard thing for young people because it requires them to confront the brutality of hate and the despair of powerlessness. Zora and Carrie grapple with the conflicted feelings that learning about Eatonville’s history brings up while simultaneously realizing that life is necessarily, for good and for bad, informed by the past.

CP:  Why did you choose to tell this book with dual narratives?

T.R.S:  I struggled with how to powerfully connect the fact of Jim Crow to the institution of slavery. Ultimately, I decided that the most effective way to do that was to show them side by side. Reconstruction was the attempt of newly freed slaves to enact self-determination, and Jim Crow was a formalization of the backlash to Reconstruction. If you don’t understand how slavery operated and the ideas of race that made slavery go, you can’t understand Jim Crow as the logical social extension of that violently inhumane practice.

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Author Interview with Yuyi Morales

Dreamers is your own story of immigrating to the United States from Mexico in 1994 with your newborn son. What inspired you write Dreamers almost 24 years later?

I was working on a graphic novel when Donald Trump was elected president. My heart sunk. I could not believe that the man who had accused Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists had been elected to lead the United States. I felt unable to work, and that my stories made no sense anymore. I also felt afraid of what would come next for immigrant families like mine, like those of my friends and like those that my books had been written for and about. 

My editor, Neal Porter, saw that I was stuck and offered his support and patience. He reassured me that he was there for me until I was ready to produce a new book, he also told me that he thought the book I should be working on was my own immigrant story.

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Writing the Book I Would Have Loved as a Kid

By Mae Respicio

In middle school I was mesmerized by the world of Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield in SWEET VALLEY TWINS. I studied every cover and daydreamed about what it would be like to live as popular blonde girls with bright smiles in a suburban utopia.

Like the Wakefield twins I was a California girl, but the world created in the beloved series seemed so different from mine growing up Filipina American and straddling two cultures. The twins never had to be embarrassed about inviting their non-Filipino friends over for fear of their grandmother offering dried fish and rice as an afterschool snack.

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Whenever I fumbled through an awkward tween moment I would wish for a Sweet Valley existence. I wrote in my diary that if I only had blonde hair like Elizabeth (my favorite of the two—she wanted to be a writer after all!), my seventh grade life would be perfect.

Childhood books are transformative. They inform our identities and can end up shaping us as adults. In my twenties I started to explore the Filipino American diaspora and for the first time I realized how much I longed to read about characters like me—that if I’d had such books as a kid it would have been life-changing.

But middle grade novels with a Filipina American protagonist didn’t exist in my era as a kid-reader and even well past that. In college my favorite genre was (admittedly!) chick lit, though there were no breezy beach reads with a Filipina American protagonist. When I became a parent, I thought that maybe children’s literature had changed so I set out on a mission: to fill my shelves with books that my future readers could see themselves in. I scoured every bookstore but still… nothing.

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Anxious Voices

by Suzanne Selfors

I had the fortune and misfortune of being born into a family that overflows with mental illness.

I say fortune because my family has provided me with some of the most colorful characters I’ve ever met. They’ve raised me, shaped me, influenced and inspired me.

I say misfortune because I don’t know anyone who would choose mental illness. I don’t know anyone who would say, “Hey, I’d sure like to be depressed and anxious, throw in some paranoia and addiction, and I’m good to go.”

I was an anxious child. But I didn’t know that word. Depression and anxiety weren’t common terms in the 1960s. And they certainly weren’t words that were taught to children. Armed now with hindsight and life experience, I can see how anxiety was always there. My mom said I was “tightly wound,” and I remember that whenever I stayed up too late or did too many things, I would break down by vomiting. While I didn’t have panic attacks, there were a few episodes when everyone’s voices would suddenly speed up and the world seemed to be going too fast. My heart would race. I’d find a quiet corner and sit until it passed.

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Author Q&A with Jen Wilde

Tell us about your most recent book and how you came to write/illustrate it. 

THE BRIGHTSIDERS follows a teen drummer in a famous rock band as she deals with being labelled a tabloid train wreck, coming out as bisexual, family struggles and new feelings for her best friend and lead singer, Alfie. All my books are about fame and fandom in some way, and while my last book (QUEENS OF GEEK) focused more on the fan’s point of view, THE BRIGHTSIDERS is from the perspective of a girl being thrust into the spotlight and dealing with the fallout of that.

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Do you think of yourself as a diverse author/illustrator?

Yes, as I’m queer, nonbinary, and autistic. Those parts of my identity definitely influence the stories I write and the way I see the world in my daily life.

Who is your favorite character of all time in children’s or young adult literature?

Oh, wow. This is a tough question! I have a few, but the one that I really connected with as a teen was Adrian Mole of the Adrian Mole series, so he’ll always have a special place in my heart.

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Author Q&A with Aisha Saeed

What inspired you to write AMAL UNBOUND?

The idea for AMAL UNBOUND came to me several years ago. At the time I’d known I wanted to write about a girl like Amal who was brave and full of hope and who lived in Pakistan—an often misunderstood country— but I wasn’t sure what her specific story would be. While reading the day’s headlines one day in 2012 I came across the inspiring story of Malala. Her story stopped me in my tracks because it reminded me of the strength and resilience many young people I worked with as a teacher showed every day—their situations were of course starkly different than Malala’s but many of my students were also resilient and brave in the face of unspeakable difficulties. With this in mind, thinking about all the brave children around the world who never get a headline but who work in the way of justice nonetheless, I began writing AMAL UNBOUND. Lately, many people have told me that AMAL UNBOUND feels like a timely story. I can understand that. A story about resistance and justice against all odds and the power of each of us to affect change does seems like an incredibly timely story. Of course in 2012 when I began writing this story I could have had no idea how deeply relevant the story would have been today but it is and I’m grateful if it is giving people hope. The name Amal means hope in Arabic and it is my hope AMAL UNBOUND that not only does this book show us a glimpse into a country that is often misunderstood but that it also reminds readers of their own inner strength and the importance of working in the way of justice whether a spotlight shines on us or not.

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Full Circle

By Kathleen Burkinshaw

Every year in May, 20 Hiroshima city employees gather at the Cenotaph in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. After a moment of silence at 8:15am (time the bomb was dropped), they begin to remove the 114 leather bound volumes that now hold over 305,000 handwritten names of each person that was in Hiroshima that day and has since died (unknown victims also have a dedicated page).

I think of the compassion and reverence that these employees hold for the atomic bomb victims.  They use white gloves to carefully remove one volume at a time, place them on a white sheet, and delicately air them out page by page.  After that, they move these registers inside to be protected from the upcoming humid, rainy season.  Lastly, they add the names of Hiroshima survivors who have passed away within this last year (regardless of where they were when they died). At the August 6th memorial service, they will return these volumes to again rest under the protection of the cenotaph arch.

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I added my mother’s name to one of those leather-bound volumes in July 2015, when my husband, daughter and I visited Hiroshima six months after she passed away.  As I stood in front of the cenotaph, I believed my mom had come full circle. She returned, in a sense, to her beloved papa, her family, and her friends. And yes, I felt the pain of the horrific suffering and loss that happened on that very ground, as well as in the years that followed for the survivors whether physical, emotional, or both. But, in my heart I also felt the strength of the survivors like my mom who kept moving forward when the world they knew ceased to exist.

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Pride Month Feature: Reading & Writing Queer Novels

By Mark Oshiro

Pride season is upon us, and I have never been more proud to be a part of children’s publishing as a queer person. Whether you’re celebrating your own identity or supporting those you love, it’s important for us to reflect on why Pride is such a vital time for LGBT and Queer youth and how we can best reach LGBTQ readers.

Why Pride?

Pride celebrations around the world have evolved since Christopher Street Liberation Day, which most people in our community consider to be the “first” Pride celebration. It’s important to remember that Pride was born out of necessity; LGBTQ people have been and continue to be targeted because of who we are, both on a personal level and a systemic level. Until true equity and liberation is achieved, Pride holds a meaningful place for many people in our community! We get to be out, loud, and proud during this time of year, and that kind of affirmation often fuels us for months to come, long after the season is over.

Why LGBTQ Children’s Literature?

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Growing up, I had virtually no positive role models who were out. I still remember when Ellen came out; I felt seen and validated by Rickie Vasquez from My So-Called Life. But I didn’t have the sort of queer and LGBT-themed literature that is now available to readers today. Anything I found as a closeted teenager was usually: a) geared towards adults and pretty much inappropriate to me OR b) featured gay or queer characters who died, were villains, or only existed as a witty sidekick without their own stories. It wasn’t until I got to college that I discovered books geared at teens that contained meaningful depictions of LGBTQ characters. It made for a lonely experience in the library. I read voraciously, but I often had to force myself to identify with stories that were not my own.

We know that books have the power to change lives, and it’s important that children’s literature reflect the world around us. I think of books as exercises in empathy, as a chance to view the world through someone else’s eyes. The books that meant the most to me as a teenager weren’t just those that reflected my own experiences; they were also those that allowed me to expand my understanding of what it meant to be human.

What does LGBTQ YA look like today?

I set out to write an openly queer YA novel nearly six years ago, but at that time, I still worried about getting published. I had come to love the work of Malinda Lo, of David Levithan, of Benjamin Alire Sáenz; I had read Annie On My Mind perhaps a hundred times; the same fate awaited Ruby by Rosa Guy, which I was lucky to be handed after escaping to college after being outed. So, I knew young adult literature could have openly gay or queer characters within it. But I had also heard and seen so many horror stories. Would it be too much to write multiple queer characters in the same book?

It might seem presumptuous to say so, but there are days where I feel like we are in the midst of an LGBTQ renaissance within children’s literature. In 2018 alone, I’ve devoured so many books in which characters across the broad spectrum of our community were center stage. I started 2018 with the powerful and hopeful Let’s Talk About Love (Claire Kann), the first novel I had ever read with a main character who is biromantic asexual. I wept over Kheryn Callendar’s Hurricane Child, and I recommended They Both Die At The End (Adam Silvera) to every person who would listen to my shrieking. (Surprisingly, a large number of people.) I’ve recently finished books by Caleb Roehrig (Last Seen Leaving & White Rabbit), who writes incredibly gay murder mysteries, and Amy Spalding, whose The Summer of Jordi Perez (And The Best Burger In Los Angeles) is the exact sort of romantic book I desperately needed when I was living in Los Angeles myself.

Of course, it certainly helps that we’re living in the age where Simon vs. the Homosapiens Agenda became the cinematic sensation that was Love, Simon. And while Becky Albertalli’s moving and touching writing is part of the reason for its success, it’s also clear that readers want more stories with LGBTQ characters. There is a whole generation of kids that are learning to come out, to wrestle with their identities, to discover the right word for what they feel. We should be there for them. We should be able to provide stories that help them explore a confusing but ultimately rewarding part of their lives. This Pride month is the perfect time to reflect on this!

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Mark Oshiro is the Hugo finalist (in the Fan Writer category) creator of the online Mark Does Stuff universe (Mark Reads and Mark Watches), where he analyzes book and television series unspoiled. He was the nonfiction editor of Queers Destroy Science Fiction! and the co-editor of Speculative Fiction 2015 with Foz Meadows. He is the President of the Con or Bust Board of Directors. His first novel, Anger is a Gift, is a YA contemporary about queer friendship, love, and fighting police brutality. It will be released on 5/22/2018 with Tor Teen. When he is not writing, crying on camera about fictional characters, or ruining lives at conventions, he is busy trying to fulfill his lifelong goal: to pet every dog in the world.

Author Q&A with Elizabeth Acevedo

Tell us about your most recent book and how you came to write/illustrate it.

My debut novel, The Poet X, came out a month ago! I began writing the book when I was an 8th grade English Language Arts teacher in Prince George’s County, Maryland. The novel was a direct response to working in a school that was 77% Latinx and 20 % Black, but it seemed for that age range there were not enough texts that culturally represented my young people. I was inspired to write a coming-of-age story from a very specific lens: an Afro-Latina growing up in New York City discovering her voice through poetry.  I wanted a book about a girl learning to take up space.

Do you think of yourself as a diverse author/illustrator?

Both my parents are from the Dominican Republic and I was raised to be very proud of my cultural heritage. I cannot extricate my identity as a woman of Afro-Dominican descent from any of the work I create.

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