BookExpo America (BEA) is considered to be “the #1 book and author event” within the publishing industry. While its sister event BookCon is more geared toward consumers, BEA provides a more business-like environment for publishing professionals. BEA is a place “to discover emerging authors and the next blockbuster titles, engage with the world’s most influential publishers, and learn from industry leaders and peers.” It’s one of the few moments when publishing professionals, authors, and readers can come together to discuss the future of the book industry.
“BookExpo provides a wonderful opportunity not only to see what is being published first-hand, but also to meet and share ideas with authors and colleagues.” – Jeanne Robertson, BookOps
One reoccurring theme at BEA was the importance of diversity growing in the book industry. Panels such as Why Diversity is Financially Critical for the Book Industry, Young Adult Editors’ Buzz, Young Adult Buzz Authors, and Life Cycle of a Diverse Book discussed why diversity is important for both readers and publishing professionals.
A big contributor to the discussion of diversity at BEA was We Need Diverse Books (WNDB), a non-profit organization of children’s book enthusiasts that supports essential changes in the publishing industry. Its “aim is to help produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people” and to put more books with diverse characters into the hands of all kids.
On May 31, WNDB hosted Life Cycle of a Diverse Book with the following panelists: literary agent Marietta B. Zacker (moderator), author Renée Watson, literary agent Beth Phelan, editor Alvina Ling, and bookstore owner Sara Hines. During the panel, each panelist talked about how they are deepening the conversation and taking action to diversify their own work. Watson, in particular, had some wise words to share with the audience:
“[I'm] always thinking about the intersection of race, gender, and class. I don’t want young people to think like me. I want them to think.” – Renée Watson, Author and Member of We Need Diverse Books
Renée Watson is an educator, an activist, and a New York Times Bestselling author of children’s and young adult books, as well as a team member of WNDB. Her latest YA novel, Piecing Me Together, received a Coretta Scott King Award and a Newbery Honor.
When Watson isn’t writing, she is teaching and advocating for social justice. One of her passions is “using the arts to help youth cope with trauma and discuss social issues.” This is evident in her book, A Place Where Hurricanes Happen, a children’s picture book inspired by her poetry workshops with children in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
To spread more diversity throughout the reading community, WNDB created OurStory in 2017. OurStory is an app for kids, parents, educators, and librarians to discover diverse books. To find more diverse books for your bookshelf, check out OurStory’s website and take a sneak peek at the video below.