We Need Diverse Books is an organization that campaigns for the production of children’s literature that is more inclusive and embracing of diverse, non-majority characters.
WNDB is a non-profit grassroots group that describes themselves as being “committed to the ideal that embracing diversity will lead to acceptance, empathy, and ultimately equality.” WNDB advocates for “all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities.” WNDB’s mission is to give children the opportunity to see themselves in more books so that they may identify with characters, feel empowered and visible, and be more interested in reading.
Volunteering, donating, or attending any of the the WNDB programs helps to spread their vision. With it being Banned Books Week, and more than half the books highlighted on the banned book’s list being “by authors of color, or contain[ing] events and issues concerning diverse communities,” it’s a good time to help a cause that combats this and brings awareness to something that encourages making different voices more accessible to readers.
Sunday, September 25, at 10:00 am – 12:00 pm (doors open at 10:15am)
53rd Street Library
Join the New York Public Library in partnership with Sesame Workshop (the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street!) as we welcome the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Gene Luen Yang, joined by his furry friend, Sesame Street’s Walkaround Grover, to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Sesame Street classic storybook,The Monster at the End of this Book. Yang will read aloud this time-honored tale (first published in 1971 by Little Golden Books) and will discuss his ‘Reading Without Walls‘ initiative, which encourages readers to explore books of diverse voices, genres, and formats.
Sesame Street’s Walkaround Grover will greet attendees, followed by Yang’s read-aloud of The Monster at the End of this Book. Yang will then participate in a short Q&A and discussion about his ‘Reading Without Walls’ initiative. This event will conclude with a book signing by Yang and a photo opportunity with Walkaround Grover.
In the spirit of celebration, each attendee will receive their very own copy of The Monster at the End of this Book, courtesy of Random House Children’s Books.
Housing Works 126 Crosby Street New York, NY 10012
A reading and open mic celebrating inclusivity in literature, with banned, challenged, and disenfranchised voices. Join the sponsors of Banned Books Week for an inspring evening of readings celebrating the work of diverse writers and authors. Scheduled readers so far include Daniel José Older, Ibi Zoboi, Taran Matharu, Tiffany D. Jackson, and Mariela Regalado.
This year’s Banned Books Week – the annual celebration of the freedom to read – is focusing on diversity and will celebrate literature written by diverse writers, especially those that have been banned or challenged. It is estimated that over half of all banned books are by authors of color, or contain events and issues concerning diverse communities, according to ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.
What’s it like to be an author of a banned or challenged book? How do they respond and how can librarians support the freedom to read? In honor of Banned Books Week, three authors will address these questions and more during a free webinar. Moderated by Vicky Baker, Deputy Editor of Index on Censorship magazine, the webinar will include perspectives from:
-Jessica Herthel, a graduate of Harvard Law School and a co-author of I Am Jazz, a children’s picture book about a transgender girl.
-Christine Baldacchino, a former early childhood educator, and the author of the widely-acclaimed book Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress.
-Wendy Doniger, Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago, and author of The Hindus: An Alternative History; and On Hinduism, which portrays the history of Hinduism outside of mainstream perspectives.
Following the three presentations, there will be some time for Q&A. Register to attend the live webinar session.
Talented playwright Jarrett Dapier has offered his complete stage adaption of Chris Crutcher’s YA novel,The Sledding Hill to the Office for Intellectual Freedom in support of Banned Books Week. There are no limitations to reading, sharing, or printing Dapier’s play.
June 8 – Franklin Park Reading Series: Summer kickoff
FRANKLIN PARK BAR AND BEER GARDEN 618 St. Johns Place (between Franklin and Classon Avenues) Crown Heights, Brooklyn, NY 11238
We’re kicking off our summer season with a blockbuster reading featuring novelists Marlon James (A Brief History of Seven Killings), Shya Scanlon (The Guild of Saint Cooper), and Mary-Beth Hughes (The Loved Ones), short fiction writer Jai Chakrabarti (Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Coffin Factory), and poets Adam Fitzgerald (The Late Parade) and Angel Nafis (BlackGirl Mansion).
The event features three contributors from the acclaimed Brooklyn-based magazine A Public Space — Mary-Beth Hughes, Adam Fitzgerald, and Jai Chakrabarti. Visit apublicspace.org for outstanding fiction, poetry, essays, and art.
Admission is FREE, beers $4, and we’ll have an awesome raffle for our authors’ books and A Public Space subscriptions and magazines.
Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater 425 Lafayette St New York, NY 10003
Marieke Hardy and Michaela McGuire bring their bestselling Australian literary salon, Women of Letters to New York as a monthly event and celebration of a diverse range of strong female talent. New York’s best and brightest writers, entertainers and artists perform a reading of a letter they’ve written to the theme of the evening. Past guests included: MOLLY RINGWALD, EDIE FALCO, MARTHA WAINWRIGHT, JD SAMPSON, KRISTIN HERSH, SARA BENINCASA and MORE.
Jacqueline Woodsen has written a number of books that address sensitive themes, such as race, gender, sexual identity, and societal history. She recently received the 2014 National Book Award in the “Young People’s Literature” category for her memoir “Brown Girl Dreaming.” Below is an article she wrote for the New York Times Opinion Pages, in which she addresses the racially-charged correlation between African Americans and watermelons, and exposes the false assumption that racial divide is a thing of the past. Woodsen speaks out at a time where change is happening, but is not fully realized. Click for original posting
As a child in South Carolina, I spent summers like so many children — sitting on my grandparents’ back porch with my siblings, spitting watermelon seeds into the garden or, even worse, swallowing them and trembling as my older brother and sister spoke of the vine that was probably already growing in my belly.
It was the late ’60s and early ’70s, and even though Jim Crow was supposed to be far behind us, we spent our days in the all-black community called Nicholtown in a still segregated South.
One year, we bought a watermelon off the back of a man’s pickup truck and placed it in our garden. As my grandfather snapped pictures from his box camera, we laughed about how we’d fool my mother, who was in New York, by telling her we’d grown it ourselves. I still have the photo of me in a pale pink dress, beribboned and smiling, sitting on that melon.
But by the time I was 11 years old, even the smell of watermelon was enough to send me running to the bathroom with my most recent meal returning to my throat. It seemed I had grown violently allergic to the fruit.
I was a brown girl growing up in the United States. By that point in my life, I had seen the racist representations associated with African-Americans and watermelons, heard the terrifying stories of black men being lynched with watermelons hanging around them, watched black migrants from the South try to eke out a living in the big city by driving through neighborhoods like my own — Bushwick, in Brooklyn — with trucks loaded down with the fruit.
In a book I found at the library, a camp song about a watermelon vine was illustrated with caricatures of sleepy-looking black people sitting by trees, grinning and eating watermelon. Slowly, the hideousness of the stereotype began to sink in. In the eyes of those who told and repeated the jokes, we were shuffling, googly-eyed and lesser than.
Perhaps my allergy was actually a deep physical revulsion that came from the psychological impression and weight of the association. Whatever it was, I could no longer eat watermelon.
In the midst of observing the world and coming to consciousness, I was becoming a writer, and what I wanted to put on the page were the stories of people who looked like me. I was a child on a mission — to change the face of literature and erase stereotypes. Forever. By the time I was in fifth grade, I was dreaming of the Pulitzer Prize. By the time I was 45, I had won just about every award one could win for young people’s literature. Just this month, I received the National Book Award in the young-adult category for my memoir, “Brown Girl Dreaming.”
As I walked away from the stage to a standing ovation after my acceptance speech, it was the last place in the world I thought I’d hear the watermelon joke — directed by the M.C., Daniel Handler, at me. “Jackie’s allergic to watermelon,” he said. “Just let that sink in your mind.” Daniel and I have been friends for years. Last summer, at his home on Cape Cod, he served watermelon soup and I let him know I was allergic to the fruit. I was astonished when he brought this up before the National Book Award audience — in the form of a wink-nudge joke about being black.
In a few short words, the audience and I were asked to take a step back from everything I’ve ever written, a step back from the power and meaning of the National Book Award, lest we forget, lest I forget, where I came from. By making light of that deep and troubled history, he showed that he believed we were at a point where we could laugh about it all. His historical context, unlike my own, came from a place of ignorance.
“Brown Girl Dreaming” is the story of my family, moving from slavery through Reconstruction, Jim Crow and the civil rights movement, and ends with me as a child of the ’70s. It is steeped in the history of not only my family but of America. As African-Americans, we were given this history daily as weapons against our stories’ being erased in the world or, even worse, delivered to us offhandedly in the form of humor.
As I interviewed relatives in both Ohio and Greenville, S.C., I began to piece together the story of my mother’s life, my grandparents’ lives and the lives of cousins, aunts and uncles. These stories, and the stories I had heard throughout my childhood, were told with the hope that I would carry on this family history and American history, so that those coming after me could walk through the world as armed as I am.
Mr. Handler’s watermelon comment was made at a time of change. We Need Diverse Books, a grass-roots organization committed to diversifying all children’s literature, had only months before stormed the BookCon conference because of its all-white panels. The world of publishing has been getting shaken like a pecan tree and called to the floor because of its lack of diversity in the workplace. At this year’s National Book Awards, many of the books featured nonwhite protagonists, and three of the 20 finalists were people of color. One of those brown finalists (me!), in the very first category, Young People’s Literature, had just won.
Just let that sink in your mind.
I would have written “Brown Girl Dreaming” if no one had ever wanted to buy it, if it went nowhere but inside a desk drawer that my own children pulled out one day to find a tool for survival, a symbol of how strong we are and how much we’ve come through. Their great-great-great-grandfather fought in the Civil War. Their great-grandfather, Hope, and great-grandmother, Grace, raised one of the few black families in Nelsonville, Ohio, and saw five children through college. Their grandmother’s school in Greenville, Sterling High, was set on fire and burned to the ground.
To know that we African-Americans came here enslaved to work until we died but didn’t die, and instead grew up to become doctors and teachers, architects and presidents — how can these children not carry this history with them for those many moments when someone will attempt to make light of it, or want them to forget the depth and amazingness of their journey?
How could I come from such a past and not know that I am on a mission, too?
This mission is what’s been passed down to me — to write stories that have been historically absent in this country’s body of literature, to create mirrors for the people who so rarely see themselves inside contemporary fiction, and windows for those who think we are no more than the stereotypes they’re so afraid of. To give young people — and all people — a sense of this country’s brilliant and brutal history, so that no one ever thinks they can walk onto a stage one evening and laugh at another’s too often painful past.