Thursday, June 4, 2020

We Need Diverse Books!

I have often been at a loss of words over the past few weeks. What happened to George Floyd was devastating and so needless. Even before this event, I had been thinking a lot about inequality with regard to the pandemic. The pandemic is affecting various groups of people differently with regard to things like who is affected by COVID-19, who has health insurance, and who holds which jobs. When the world began to think about reopening, many of the jobs that were or are in the first phase of reopening fall to many occupation holders with few safety nets (grocery store, public transportation workers, etc.). These first phase workers are somewhat canaries in the coal mine, who knows what could happen with COVID-19. So you have all of this going on and then you have the tragedy that happened in Minneapolis and it is no wonder that everything boiled over.

I'm angry. I'm angry (but not surprised) about George Floyd. I'm angry that we as a society constantly seem to be prioritizing things over people. I'm angry that things are so disparate for different people. I'm angry about the crackdowns on free speech that we've seen over and over again the past few days. I don't have all the answers (in fact, I doubt that I have any of the answers) but I know that things need to change.

If you found this blog, you probably already know that I make sense of my world through books.  And that's what I have been desperately trying to do to make sense of all of this: I'm trying to read books that shake me awake, shake my beliefs, shake my assumptions, shake my prejudices. I want to learn. I want to be a better person and a better ally to those suffering. I see you. I stand with you. I am here for you.

I want to fix this so badly. I want my generation to be the generation that finally stands up and says enough, let's make things right. I don't have all the answers (I'm really not sure I have any of the answers) but in the words of one of my favorite bands, "to change the world, it starts with one step, however small." My small step may not change the world but it is something. We need diverse books. Books allow us to see ourselves, and perhaps more importantly, others in a new light. Books help us understand familiar and unfamiliar situations better. They help us to take a walk in someone else's shoes. It is so powerful and empowering to be able to see yourself in the pages of a book. Reading a book is a low-risk way to allow you to get to know people both familiar and unfamiliar to you. Books make you more empathetic. They have the power to thrust you in the middle of someone else's struggle and see things in a new light.

Particularly with my Around the World Reading Challenge, I have become even more painfully aware of how far we have left to go to literature reflecting the world around us, particularly in the realm of adult literature. This is why things like the Walter Grant make me so excited. The Walter Grant is a grant for writers and illustrators who fit in one of these categories:
    • Person of color
    • Native American
    • LGBTQIA+
    • Person with a disability
    • Marginalized religious or cultural minority
  • The Walter Grant is a small way to move towards more diverse books. What does having more diverse books do for us? It makes it so anyone can pick up a book and see themselves in it. It makes it easier for someone to take that proverbial mile in someone else's shoes. It ensures that more voices are heard. It ensures that more people are able to tell their own stories in their own voices. Representation is super powerful. More diverse books certainly does not fix everything but perhaps it is a start.


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