Friday, August 1, 2014

Diversity Panel: Lamar Giles

Author Suzanne Morgan Williams is moderating the panel on diversity in books. Lamar Giles, author of Fake I.D., is asked what books he was reading as a kid, and for him there were rarely kid's books with African American main characters:

"Sometimes I'd hide my books from my friends because if they saw them they'd say I was acting white because the covers were showing white characters. And I know now, and they know now, that that's not what they meant, that it was more about not feeling included in the world of books."

When you have more diverse books, you make it safe for kids who aren't represented by the majority to see that they have a place in the world of literature, whether as readers or creators.

When asked if it's okay for writers to write about cultures that they are not from:
"Ask why are you doing it. It's like any other subject you don't know intimately, if it was technical writing or historical writing and you made a mistake, someone that knows the subject as an expert will call you out on it." Be open to feedback.

Dumbest stereotype: "All black guys can dance and play basketball."

What responsibilities do publishers have to balance their business needs against the needs of diverse kids?

"It shouldn't be about needing to balance, publishers should see this as a business opportunity, providing quality product to an underserved audience."

The #weneeddiversebooks social media campaign, primarily on Twitter, has exploded, and it's been an amazing opportunity to advocate for marginalized authors and children. "We talk a lot about race up here, but we also support different sexual representations, disabilities, and more."

With the explosive success of the campaign they're going to start a diversity festival, a number of other things will be happening, too. Lamar closes with, "We want to push this, we don't want this campaign to go away until the problem is solved."

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