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.
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
How does it feel to know
Little Man, Little Man is being brought to a new audience of
It’s a wonderful
feeling. A feeling of great accomplishment. It took over a decade to bring it
about. Both my brother Tejan (“TJ” whom the book was written for) and I are
truly delighted to see this rare gem of a book be republished after almost four
decades. Thanks to the perseverance, commitment and dedication of Professor
The book vividly
describes the life of an urban child and the people in his neighborhood. Does
this mesh with your memories of growing up in Manhattan’s Upper West
Absolutely! The Upper
West Side of the 70’s was very different than what it has morphed into today.
It was a neighborhood with a myriad of intersections in terms of race, culture
and socio-economic backgrounds. So although it was just 6 blocks North of Lincoln
Center and 2 blocks away from the famed Dakota Building and ABC Studios; you
could experience a plethora of images. A person picking someone’s pocket, a
drug sale or an incident involving the police. This to me—is typical of many
New York City neighborhoods.
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.