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 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.
From the outside, it probably seems
a self-evident choice when an author from a marginalized group chooses to write
a protagonist that shares their lived experience. If “write what you know” is
sound advice, then choosing to speak from a personal and underrepresented point
of view would seem obvious. But for me and many other “own voices” writers, the
decision was not obvious at all.
When I was a teenager, just
discovering my love of writing, there was no such thing as It Gets Better, and no
gay characters in fiction for young adults; if a gay person appeared on a
television show, it was advertised as a stunt, aired at a special time, and came
with a content warning; and if gay characters appeared in the movies, they were
cruelly drawn caricatures, tragic victims or offensive comic relief. Back then,
it never even occurred to me that a gay person could anchor a piece of
mainstream art or entertainment.
My very first attempt at a
full-length manuscript was a YA horror novel about a teenage girl and her
smart-mouthed pals. One of her friends was implicitly gay (not out, not on the page, but the subtext was there,)
which was about as close as I dared come to representing myself in my own work.
My second manuscript featured a straight male protagonist who, in a running
gag, was frequently assumed to be gay by others—resulting in funny protests of
the “not that there’s anything wrong with that” variety. My third attempt:
straight girl MC with a gay friend. My fourth: straight girl MC with a gay