The CBC Diversity initiative was founded in 2012, as part of the Children’s Book Council’s commitment to promoting diverse voices in literature for young people. We believe that all children deserve to see their world reflected in the books they read. We recognize that diversity takes on many forms, including differences in race, religion, gender, geography, sexual orientation, class, and ability.
In addition to championing diverse authors and illustrators, CBC Diversity strives to open up the publishing industry to a wider range of employees. We’ve taken an active role in recruiting diverse candidates, participating in school career fairs and partnering with We Need Diverse Books on its summer internship program.
I have a
friend who is a children’s book author and illustrator, and several years ago
she decided to quit her job as a tenured professor in order to pursue a more
creative life. She started teaching classes about writing and illustrating
children’s books, and she encouraged (well, pressured, really) me to sign up. I
said I would – I have a hard time saying “no” – and then thought “oh wow, what
did I just get myself into?” But it turned out to be one of the best things I
ever did. I also had no idea how hard it is to write a high-quality story for
children! It’s much harder than it looks. Taking that class showed me how to be
creative in an entirely new way, and writing for children fuels me in ways that
I can’t really put into words.
another reason why I do this, though. Not long after I took that class, I
started playing with the idea of writing a story about an LGBTQ+ Pride
celebration. When I was researching comps, I was stunned to find that not only
were there very few picture books featuring LGBTQ+ themes, but only one had
ever been written about a Pride parade (and it was published almost thirty
years ago). That was so disturbing to me – that LGBTQ+ people were virtually
invisible in children’s books. And I see on a daily basis what that
invisibility does to a community. Most of my college students (including those
who are LGBTQ+ identified) have never heard of the Pink Scare, or the Stonewall
Riots, or the AIDS crisis, for that matter. They know about HIV, but they don’t
know how the gay community was decimated by it. That lack of knowledge is
terrifying to me, and I want children AND adults to know about our history, our
culture, and how we got here. That’s why I wrote books like This Day in June, When You Look Out the Window (a book about Phyllis Lyon and Del
Martin), and Sewing the Rainbow (my
latest book about Gilbert Baker and the creation of the rainbow flag).
JaNay Brown-Wood, author of Grandma’s Tiny House: A Counting Story, shares her book list “Family and Food: A Multicultural list for Preschool through 3rd Grade” Check out the preview below and the full list & 3 book giveaway on the Multicultural Children’s Book Day website.
1. Grandma’s Tiny House: A Counting Storyby JaNay Brown-Wood
This is a cozy counting picture book about the relatives visiting Grandma and eating until they are all stuffed. It’s a sweet, rhyming counting book introduces young readers to numbers one through ﬁfteen. [picture book, for ages 2 and up]
2. Bee-Bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park
This story is written in rhyme, showing the preparation of a popular Korean dish and the excitement of a hungry, young child. All the family members come together at the end to eat. The lines are rhythmic and the illustrations are fun. [picture book, ages 2 and up]
3. Feast for 10 by Cathryn Falwell
This book is an oldie but goodie. It follows an African American family as they get ready for a dinner with loved ones. It actually counts to ten twice, and is also written in rhyme. [picture book, ages 2 and up]
Duncan Tonatiuh, author of Danza!: Amalia Hernandez and Mexico’s Folkloric Ballet, shares his picture book list of “Bold, Creative Girls and Women.” Check out the preview below and the full list on the Multicultural Children’s Book Day website.
1. Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael López
This book is based on the story of Millo Castro, a young girl who pursued her dream of playing the drums at a time when girls in Cuba where not supposed to. Engles verses and López’s illustrations add magic to this inspirational story. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
2. Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts
This fun book in rhymes is about a young girl who gets into a bit of trouble investigating the cause of a mysterious pungent smell. Ada does not give up on her inquiry though because she has the mind and determination of a scientist. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
3. Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same by Grace Lin
This fun book about two Chinese-American twin sisters is broken up into six short stories that connect at the end. It is a great read for beginning readers. [easy reader, ages 5 and up]
you only write stories from your own cultural background?
For a long time before I was published, I
wrote only western stories – stories set in western families about children
with western names and their rituals of growing up. This is because subconsciously
I was writing what I was reading. As a child and as an adult, I read mostly
western narratives and that seeped into my writing. But my heart wasn’t in
those stories. It wasn’t my truth. And when I did write stories from India,
either set there or about India and Indian characters, I started getting lesser
rejections (or at least more personalised ones) because my stories now had the
secret ingredient that makes magic – authenticity. For me more than setting the
stories in India or in its culture, it is about personal connection. Why do I
want to tell this story? Why me? Am I the right person to tell this story? If
so, then I would attempt to bring it to life.
Conversely, do you feel restricted in the subjects and settings you can choose?
I’m a nomad. Although I was brought up in
India, I have lived in Singapore and now in the UK. I travel a lot and I gather
stories where I go. But I always remember that all the stories filter through
my own experiences – of what I know and what I don’t. I have fallen in love
with folktales from Antwerp and Prague but I worry about retelling them because
I’m not sure I would have the depth of the cultural context. Even to retell a
small story, I would need tremendous amount of research and understanding. So I
pick and choose projects I can actually invest time and energy into. On a side
note, India is a big country with language, ethnic and other diversities and I
research a lot even to tell Indian stories.