The Children’s Book Academy is proud to offer merit scholarships for writers and illustrators of color and non-dominant sexual orientation (i.e. LGBQT) currently underrepresented in the children’s publishing industry.
I’m excited to announce that a book I worked on earlier this year has just come out!
Camp Secret, by Kathryn Dennis and Melissa Mahle (who, by the way, no big deal, is a former CIA intelligence agent), is a middle grade novel that follows four kids as they discover that their summer camp is really a training ground for junior spies. It’s a really fun read, and you can read the first chapter here, or learn more about the book and the authors at their website.
Please forgive my chattiness today. I promise I’ll go back to just posting illustrations soon.
I usually don’t say much on this tumblr, but I’ve been thinking about diversity in children’s books lately, on the heels of the statistics that have been circulating about the lack of people of color in children’s books.
What has popped into my mind are two things. Firstly, I once heard a comment from a fellow children’s book writer who felt that those illustrations that showed kids of all different ethnicities together in one image were unrealistic. She said that’s just not how kids are, all the Asian kids hang out together, all the African American kids hang out together, etc. But when I think back to looking around the lunch table in high school, there were, amongst our white friends, a Vietnamese boy, an African American girl, a half Indian/half Irish girl, and a half Bolivian/half Jewish girl, plus me, of course (Asian/white). I went to a primarily white school. We were the minorities, the nerds, and the misfits, and we all flocked together. This is not unrealistic. This is the reality, and will increasingly be so as the population of the US shifts towards a non-white population. Yet there still is a pervasive attitude that white culture is the norm and that people of color are small populations that exist outside of mainstream culture, that do not mix with mainstream culture and therefore do not need to be included and reflected in mainstream culture. In addition, people of color can relate to and picture themselves in the place of a white protagonist, and therefore we don’t need to have books with specifically non-white protagonists.
Which brings me to my second thought - regarding non-white protagonists. Not every book needs to be about me. I can enjoy Harry Potter without feeling like I am Harry Potter. I like to read about people who are different from me, who have different experiences and upbringings and who look different from me. However, I do want to feel like these experiences are a possibility for someone like me. Yes, I recognize that the possibility of finding out that I’m a wizard or discovering a portal to another world is pretty slim. But even for the mundane world, I want to be included. For example, I was reading a Young Adult romance, one in which the cute guy locks eyes with the cute girl and thinks she’s the hottest girl in town. And I immediately thought, “Well, this could never have happened to me.” Why? Because I am hideously ugly and inherently unlovable? No (at least I hope not), but because I could immediately picture this girl: the tall, thin, white girl, probably blonde or with light brown hair. Now, to be clear, I’m not blaming the book. It’s a perfectly nice book. I understand it’s not a problem with children’s books alone; it’s a problem with our whole culture. But it just made me really sad that this was one of the first thoughts that popped into my mind.
I guess what I’m trying to say is we do need more people of color in our children’s books, because this is who we are. We are a diverse society, and our books should reflect this. I don’t want the next generation of kids to grow up thinking of themselves as outsiders.
Let’s create diverse books, buy diverse books, demand diverse books.