Mar 1, 2016
Diverse books for a diverse reading population. We recommend What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell, and Evicted by Matthew Desmond.
I recently discovered The Setup Wizard, a Tumblr-based fan fiction about a Muggle who is the first ever IT person at Hogwarts. It's hilarious, and you should definitely read it from the very beginning! And, coming on July 30, you'll be able to read, in book form, the forthcoming play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
After the lack of diversity in this past weekend's Academy Awards, this seemed like a good time to examine publishing's similar problem. In 2014, author Ellen Oh and 21 other children's book authors and industry professionals began using the hashtag #weneeddiversebooks in response to an all-white, all-male panel of children’s book authors at a major book convention. The social media campaign has gone worldwide and has grown into the We Need Diverse Books movement that's bringing this issue to the attention of publishers and readers.
Lee & Low Books, the largest multicultural children's book publisher in the United States, recently released the results of a survey they conducted, which shows that the lack of diversity in books and authors published might be exacerbated by the lack of diversity among publishing employees and book reviewers.
Thankfully, the discussion of these issues is leading to some small changes, such as more diverse participants on author panels, and even the creation of Salaam Reads, a new Simon & Schuster imprint that will publish children's books featuring Muslim characters and stories.
Ann mentioned an article about the difficulty of getting an agent in Hollywood if you're a person of color, and wondered if that's an issue with literary agents as well.
Then, there's the story of Marley Dias, an 11-year-old girl from New Jersey who was sick of reading books about "white boys and dogs." Where were the books starring black girls like her? She set out to collect 1,000 books with black girls as the main characters. She quickly blew past that goal, thanks to the help of Twitter, and others. Her quest is serving to educate people, including teachers and librarians. Way to go Marley!
Ann recommends What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell, which is getting much critical praise lately. The unnamed main character, an American teacher, meets Mitko in a Bulgarain public bathroom and pays him for sex. He returns to Mitko again and again in this gorgeous, uncomfortable novel that Ann said felt like a literary masterpiece from the first page.
In the vein of Just Mercy, Ghettoside, and Between the World and Me, I recommend Evicted by Matthew Desmond. A difficult, but vital look at the eviction process and how, once caught in it, it can be so hard to escape. This is one the most important books you'll read this year.