The initiative, weneeddiversebooks, has exploded across social media. And that’s a very good thing.
If you haven’t seen (on Facebook or Twitter) the authors holding the handwritten signs that read “We need diverse books…” with their varied and provocative reasons why, check out this website where book recommendations are posted as well as more reasons for why we need diverse books.
Coincidentally, I picked up Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. I was at the house-with-no-internet-or-TV and saw this book on a table. I knew it was an older novel, one of those books I’d never quite got around to reading. I didn’t know it was a story of Japanese internment or the hostility between the Chinese and the Japanese or the trials of the Asian population living in wartime Seattle. The novel is written in two time periods: when the main character is just a 12 year old kid and 40 years later, after the loss of his wife. It’s considered an adult novel but I know that it would be an excellent read for teens, and maybe even older middle grade. It’s steeped in diversity, with gripping universal themes of love, sacrifice, loss. Still, it’s not contemporary. Would today’s typical young reader be interested in this story from the past?
Maybe. But still, it’s not rocket science here, people. We need diverse books because every kid wants to see himself (and herself) in stories. As Jamie Ford tweeted, “We need diverse books because no kid ever said ‘I want a box of 64 white crayons!'”
(I’m participating in Paula Yoo’s National Picture Book Writing Week and her theme this year is diversity in children’s books. You don’t have to be writing picture books–and honestly, I am a draft or two behind–to appreciate her posts relating to multiculturalism. And if you know of any picture books, middle grade or YA novels that celebrate diversity, please share in the comments. I’m almost finished Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet!)