I was all set to post about the renaming of Denali (formerly Mount McKinley) today. But I just read SC Author’s post on his blog about the #BigFiveSign movement, and changed my mind. The mountain will still be there next week. Today, I am writing in support of diversity.
In case you don’t know about #BigFiveSignOn, I’ll back up for a moment and give you a quick primer: You may have heard of #WNDB, We Need Diverse Books, which was started last year, partly in response to an author panel at BookCon that was all male and Caucasian. The group wants to encourage the publishing industry to take on more books by diverse authors &/or featuring diverse characters. There’s a lot out there about this; you can check out the official site at http://weneeddiversebooks.tumblr.com.
Others are promoting diversity, too. SC Author and others are supporting Lee and Low Books through #BigFiveSignOn. They have asked the Big 5 publishers to take Lee and Low’s poll by September 15. That will give us a baseline to see how diverse the publishing industry is. Why is that important? Because there is a serious call for diverse books, and it follows that we will reach that goal more easily if we encourage the publishing industry to be diverse as well. For more on #BigFiveSign, see SC’s post at http://scwrite.blogspot.com/2015/08/why-im-asking-that-bigfivesignon.html.
As part of the post mentioned above, SC Author is asking us to create a #BigFiveSign Twitter Storm between now and September 15, and write blogs about diversity this week. For sample tweets, see SC’s post above. Authors and bloggers, you can write your own post and use SC’s post as a blog hop link—click there for more details. Let’s make a big wave with this! Ok, on to my blog post.
Ethnically, I am Anglo-American. Most of my ancestors came to America from Great Britain. A large percentage of my family is from Virginia. Not a very diverse background, I know. But I was blessed with the opportunity to grow up on U. S. Army posts. That’s how I learned about diversity, and it enriched my life.
When I was a child, many of my friends were people of color. Some of their mothers spoke English as a second language. Some displayed art from their families’ ancestral countries, or ate food from her heritages. I tasted Japanese rice crackers with one friend, and ate soul food at another’s house. These differences between our households were cool things to enjoy, not bad things to avoid. I was also lucky enough to learn about our Alaska Native cultures in school and get to know Native individuals. And with the food and art and other traditions, I got to know parts of their cultures and see new ways of thinking and doing. I learned early on that people were people, where it really mattered, and differences were something to embrace.
As I grew older, I noticed there were divisions between groups, but I still went to multicultural schools and had opportunities to mix with lots of people. The first boy I ever kissed was black. My best friend in high school was a gay Cuban-American, and a close relative was lesbian, although I didn’t know that until later—it was hard to come out in the 1970s. Later, I worked with people from many backgrounds and genders. If I had not had these opportunities, my life would have been boring, one-dimensional, and I would have missed so much if I hadn’t had these people in my life.
Diversity matters. It enriches us. So why not have diversity in our books, too? Meeting diverse authors and characters will enhance readers’ lives. Reading diverse books helps all of us see outside our own experiences and broaden our horizons. We need diverse books.