Sunday, July 6, 2014

Why I Need Diverse Books: A #WeNeedDiverseBooks Discussion

As of late, it has come to light how important it is that there be a diverse selection of books on store shelves and while I knew intellectually that it was important I never felt it in my heart. I recently wrote a review of Sarah Ockler’s book The Book of Broken Hearts where I mentioned how much it impacted me that the main character, Jude, and I shared a common cultural heritage. While I was reading this book, it hit me how much it meant to me that I could relate to Jude and her family on such a fundamental level in a way that I don’t think I have ever been able to with any other character.

As a Latina women, I don’t come across similar characters very often in the books I read (YA fiction) and I had become too comfortable with this fact. I was so used to seeing the same kinds of characters presented to me that I didn’t know it could be different. Basically, I didn’t know what I was missing. I think this is the root of the problem that the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign is trying to get at. We as readers are too comfortable with the status quo and that needs to change. I want others to be able to find that connection with different characters, whether it be through race, culture, gender, or a myriad of other points of connection. I want others to feel that fundamental connection that I felt with Jude and her family because I could relate to our shared culture. That will never happen if we don’t diversify our bookshelves.

This is my call to action – not just my call out to you, but too myself as well. I don’t want to be comfortable with what is out there because I know that we can do better. If you find a book out there that portrays the kind of diversity you want to see, tell people about it. Tell your friends, reach out to people on the internet, and just get them talking. The only way we are going to see the change is if we go out there and make it happen.

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