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The Hashtag that can Change the (Literary) World

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October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Amy Yoelin from Colorado.

Earlier this year, during the time that BookCon was being held, I was scrolling through my Twitter feed, and noticed a similar hashtag among the authors, publishers, and booksellers I follow: #WeNeedDiverseBooks. These four words capture what has been absent from current and previously published novels of all genres, but especially those pertaining to young adult and children’s fiction.

So why discuss the topic now? For BookCon, they hold the prized panel of “Blockbuster Reads,” which includes the promotion of many buzzed about authors. For example, 2014’s “Blockbuster Reads” panel featured Rick Riordan, James Patterson, Lemony Snicket, and Jeff Kinney. What do these four authors have in common? Besides being male, they are all Caucasian.

Angered by this line-up, lead curator of #WeNeedDiverseBooks Ellen Oh joined forces with twenty-two members of the publishing industry, both official and nonofficial, to do something about this. Hence, the movement #WeNeedDiverseBooks was born and bred.

What exactly does #WeNeedDiverseBooks stand for? The overall message is that diversity of all forms (LQBTQ, race, disabilities, culture, religious) should be represented in novels, especially those for the children and teen audience. Why target this age group, and not adults, per se? Books can have more of an influence on children and teens, helping them develop a more open mind about people from all walks of life. In addition, children and teens can have the opportunity to form (hopefully abundant) connections with protagonists in novels, as opposed to simply relating to various protagonists.

https://twitter.com/gayleforman/status/461528978717564929

Prestigious authors (especially those who write young adult and children’s fiction) have pledged their full support to this movement. For example, Gayle Forman—author of the popular novels If I Stay, Where She Went and many more—posted a picture of her with her two daughters, expressing the need for novels to highlight diversity. In addition, readers of all backgrounds and ages took a stand in the fight for #WeNeedDiverseBooks. Pictures range from children holding up signs, to teens voicing their opinions. Social media was widely used to promote #WeNeedDiverseBooks, in which various authors, publishers, booksellers, bloggers and readers tweeted why they needed diverse books in under 140 characters.

 

tumblr.com / Via weneeddiversebooks.tumblr.com
tumblr.com / Via weneeddiversebooks.tumblr.com

Maybe you are thinking to yourself, “I want to contribute to this movement, but I’m not an author.” So? You are a reader. You have a voice (unless you have strep throat). Demand a change within the literary realm. Pass along books that underline diversity to friends and family. If you know children or teens, encourage them to read books of diverse backgrounds. If you know a teacher, stress the importance of educating students with diverse texts.

All in all, the best advocacy is to directly publicize the message being presented. By spreading the word of literature that includes diversity, #WeNeedDiverseBooks can become employed by publishers, students, teachers, and readers alike.

 

Hello! My name is Amy Yoelin, and I’m an eighteen-year-old student at the University of Northern Colorado. Yes, my major is English. Yes, I want to work with young adult and children’s literature after I graduate from college. Yes, I like to read and write. Yes, I’ll stop assuming you’re asking these questions.

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