#We Need Diverse Books

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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!)

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12 thoughts on “#We Need Diverse Books

  1. I agree with the quote from Jamie Ford. Kids want to recognize themselves in books.

    Times sure have changed, though. Crayons only came in eight colors when I was in grade school. 😉

    Still, it’s a good quote!

    • Hahahaha! Donna, my mom was not having any of that 64 crayon foolishness. I got in SUCH big nun trouble once, trying to borrow someone’s silver crayon! 🙂

      And when we were kids, there was no such thing as multiculturalism. So at least we’ve made progress (even if I still don’t have a silver crayon!)

  2. The first I saw of this was your post on Facebook. Of all the firestorms that take over FB and other social media, this has to be one of the best and most relevant. Thanks for promoting it.

  3. The Starplace by Vicki Grove is a good one. It’s for middle-schoolers.

    That is for sure–we need more diversity in the books we read. However, I will say that we’ve come a long way since the days of Dick and Jane and Puff and Sally.

  4. I’ve been following a little on twitter regarding this matter. My daughter likes Linda Sue Park’s books. That’s neat you came across this older novel deep in diversity!

    • Oh, yes! Linda Sue Park! She’s very good, Tina. Your daughters might like Lisa Yee, too. (She sparked a great discussion about diversity on Facebook, if you follow her.)

  5. What an awesome post. I work in a school with a population that’s 40% East & South Asian, and I have a hard time finding representation for these students in novels! A good friend of mine, Rajni Gupta, is a quarterfinalist in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel contest right now. In her novel, Girl in God’s City, her protagonist is a 16-year-old Indian girl, and the themes and issues her novel explores are universal. I really, really hope she advances to the semifinals. I’d love to see a multicultural novel get some recognition.

    Great post on the Muffin this morning! Just what I needed, as I’ve had a case of the blahs lately. Giving myself a few days off. 🙂

    • GOOD luck to your friend, Gwen! And thanks so much for the kind words–for both posts! 🙂

      Also, I expect to hear about a writing project by next week, right? 😉

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