“I didn’t know women—black women—could write books, and I didn’t know why I didn’t know this,” says Jacqueline Woodson, the Coretta Scott King Award-winning author of Miracle Boys, in the official Indiegogo campaign video for We Need Diverse Books (WNDB). Her statement, reflective of a childhood spent with books written by (and starring) white males, is echoed by many authors who found their path to literature challenged by a lack of representation—and by readers who face those same issues today.
This past April, when readers’ convention BookCon announced its 2014 lineup—and every one of the 30 children’s writers on the list was a white man—young adult authors Ellen Oh and Malinda Lo engaged in a Twitter dialogue that got people talking. What started as a hashtag (#WeNeedDiverseBooks) became a full-fledged movement, with readers and authors coming together to make sure publishing companies recognized the importance of supporting diversity, both among their books and the authors who write them.
Simply generating awareness was only the first step, though. Last month, WNDB launched its Indiegogo campaign, dedicated to making sure people of color, LBGTQIA people, ethnic/cultural/religious minorities, and people with disabilities are represented in children’s publishing. More than half of American schoolchildren fall into one or more of those categories, and seeing similar characters committed to print can do more than spur on a lifelong relationship with literature—it can also engender a greater connection to society at large.
The campaign proposes a multi-pronged solution to the problem of homogeneous children’s literature, with plans including donating diverse books to disadvantaged schools, hosting a Kidlit Diversity Festival in Washington, D.C., and establishing an authors’ grant in the name of the late Walter Dean Myers. So far, the message has really resonated with people—in less than two weeks, the campaign has already generated more than 80 percent of its $100,000 goal at the time of publication.
With a host of perks donated by writers, artists, editors, and agents, WNDB’s campaign is likely to meet its goal and potentially change the face of children’s publishing. For more information, and to donate, visit We Need Diverse Books’ Indiegogo page and watch the video below.