— Nicola Yoon (@NicolaYoon) May 1, 2014
For those of you who missed it, May 1st marked the kick off to the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, voicing a demand that stories by and about people of colour, varying abilities and genders, and the LGBTQ community become more readily available to readers, particularly in children’s books and YA fiction.
Twitter and Tumblr users alike shared their reasons and support for diversity in literature, and the feeds are well worth checking out. They’ve also made an impact: The Book Con has finally added people of colour to their guest list. Better very, very late than never, I suppose.
So, what’s next?
What do we need to do now with all this feedback, not just at Sumbola as a start up publishing company, but as readers and writers? After all, if feedback isn’t put to good use, well… it just isn’t useful.
For us, it comes down to empathy. We’re not here to lecture or patronize any reader, writer, or publisher, but what we want to advocate for is active consideration of others, particularly those of whom have experiences and perspectives that differ from our own.
We believe that it is vital that every story teller and story lover place themselves in the shoes of the writers, and even the characters, with perspectives other than their own. Secondly, we need to fully appreciate how important and wonderful it is to find ourselves and our loved ones in fiction, and everyone deserves this opportunity.
A little bit of empathy goes a long way; it leads to voting with our voices, voting with our dollars, doing the extra bit of research, and not accepting played-out ethnic or gender-based character tropes. It leads to a deeper understanding of literature (from comics to classics), and a better understanding of ourselves and the human condition.
That’s it. No six step guide, no infographic, no cartoons to help illustrate how to build a diverse bookshelf. We’re just saying this: practice empathy, and keep on encouraging others to do the same. Diverse and awesome stories will be the result.
There is a fitting quote from Audre Lorde that encapsulates the importance and the blessing that diversity is:
“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”
This is why we need empathy. This is why we need diverse books.
If you’re still looking for another reason, here are just a few of our favourites:
#WeNeedDiverseBooks because I still feel left out, even as an adult.
— Anika Fajardo (@anikawriter) May 1, 2014
— Mike Jung (@Mike_Jung) May 1, 2014
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#WeNeedDiverseBooks because it shouldn’t be easier to identify with a talking animal than with a human being who isn’t straight and white.
— Steve Foxe (@steve_foxe) May 1, 2014
— Kaye M. (@gildedspine) May 1, 2014
Because, despite myths to the contrary, there’s a market for them. We’ve been selling them for 20 years. #WeNeedDiverseBooks
— Lee & Low Books (@LEEandLOW) April 29, 2014
So simple. So successful.