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.
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
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.
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.”
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
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tell us about your most recent
book and how you came to write/illustrate it.
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.
Do you think of yourself as a
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
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.