We Need MORE Diverse Books Because ALL of OUR Stories Matter.
I started blogging because after Norrin was diagnosed with autism, there wasn’t a book I found relatable. I was a 33 year old Latina, working full-time and about to start graduate school while trying to balance marriage, motherhood and autism. Every book I picked up had a white face on it. I read about suburban moms who quit their careers and families who downsized by moving to smaller home or another state. Neither was an option for me. I couldn’t quit my job and there was no moving out of The Bronx. So I started writing the story I wanted to read.
During my graduate school years, I heard that I would have trouble becoming published because I was Latina. On the flip side, I also heard I needed to be more Latina in my writing. It seemed to come to down this one question: Where would I fit on the shelf? All I wanted to do was write and become a published author. I wasn’t thinking about what shelf my book would be on.
When I first read about the We Need Diverse Books campaign, I knew I had to participate. It began because when the “BEA’s Bookcon recently announced an all-white-male panel of ‘luminaries of children’s literature.'” Writers on social media began protesting the lack of diversity, however Bookcon did nothing to alter the panel line up.
They decided it was time to speak up and created the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign.
A few years ago, I wrote this post in response to a New York Times about the lack of Latino authors and books for children.
My father used to work in a book factory and our home was filled with books. And yet not a single one was written by a Latino. I was a book worm and grew up on Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I discovered the world of Latino literature. Reading Esmeralda Santiago’s When I Was Puerto Rican changed the landscape of my literary life. And after reading it, I was desperate for more diverse books by Latino writers.
Contrary to what big publishers and book stores believe – Latinos do read. And we are very eager to see ourselves within the pages of a book. Our stories are just as valuable and needed as anyone else’s. Our stories often have the same themes as other books written by white authors.
When Nobel Prize winning author, Gabriel García-Márquez died last month Jonathan Kandall of the New York Times celebrated his accomplishments.
It was a glowing article and yet a subtle reminder of how Latino authors and literature are viewed. García-Márquez may rank among Dickens, Tolstoy and Hemingway, however the “but” implies that for all of his accomplishments, he is still considered an other. I don’t think the same would have been written about a white writer.
If the writing is good and the theme universal why should it matter if the writer is Colombian, American or English? All of our stories matter. We live in a diverse world. And our books should reflect the world we live in.
Over the weekend I finished reading Meg Medina’s Yaqui Delgado Wants To Kick Your Ass. It’s a YA book and the day I started it, I couldn’t put it down. Unlike any other book I ever read before and yet so familiar. And when I was done, I wished that Yaqui existed when I was a teenager. But I am grateful that young Latina girls from Queens can read it today and that Meg Medina is the Judy Blume for them.
We read to escape. To find characters to look up to and identify with. To learn and understand. To be inspired. A book is so much better when we can see ourselves within the pages. And we are so much better when we do.