According to Dr. Laura Jiménez, lecturer of Literacy at the School of Education, children’s and young adult (YA) literature can be considered a microcosm of the larger publishing industry in its tendency to favor particular prototypes of both characters and authors.
“Today’s children’s and YA literature is an extremely White, college-educated, straight, cis-gender, ablest, sexist world,” Dr. Jiménez said. “It shows in the characters, the plots, and in the visuals.”
At this weekend’s 2017 BookExpo conference in New York City, Dr. Jiménez will moderate a panel discussion that will explore ways in which to counteract these tendencies.
“This panel is about how we, as a book community, can work together to create better literature that shows a broader range of experiences,” Dr. Jiménez said.
The panel is titled We Need Diverse Books, Following Up After Fouling Up: Real Talk about Real Apologies, and features authors Daniel José Oder, Alex Gino, and Ibi Zoboi, as well as reviews director of Library Journal and School Library Journal Kiera Parrott.
“We are wading into unchartered territories, where people of all different backgrounds and identities are meeting and talking together for the first time,” Dr. Jiménez said. “People are going to misunderstand, misrepresent, and generally mess up. What is important is not to strive for perfection that does not exist. Rather, we need to strive to hear and be heard in different ways than has occurred before.”
Session takeaways, according to the BookExpo website, include an understanding of “why publishing more diverse books will mean more errors, why it’s important to acknowledge that, and why it’s important to persevere instead of ignoring the need for young people’s literature that reflects our world.”
“We Need Diverse Books is one voice in an ongoing conversation on how to change the overrepresentation on a singular identity,” Dr. Jiménez said.
Editor’s note: To watch a video of the panel discussion, click here.