Austin, Texas chapter of SCBWI held a panel discussion on Representing Diversity in Children's Books. Influencial figures in children's publishing, such as authors Lila Guzmán and Varian Johnson and illustrator Don Tate, were on hand to open up about this important topic. Regional Advisor Deborah Gonzales kindly pointed us in an all-too-convenient direction to find out more about the discussion.
Awesome YA author, poet, and SCBWI member E. Kristin Anderson blogs at The Hate Mongering Tart. She not only attended the event in Austin, she put together such an amazing blog post that we are simply
stealing linking to it this week. So what are you waiting for? Go check it out here. And for the record, Emily willingly shared her fantastic post.
Sneak preview of some of the highlights:
"Jeanette Larson put it so eloquently when she said, 'When we think about people, we think about people who look like us.' Don followed up with 'The one thing we all have in common is emotions…we love and we hate.'"
"And on gender? I’ve heard things buzzing around about women not being able to write male protags? Here’s what Varian had to say about that: 'There’s no way I could have written [TYRELL by Coe Booth], which is about an African-American male…but Coe did it justice.' Me? I think it’s all about knowing your character, and trying to understand where that character comes from. If you can get to the heart of what that character wants, and needs, you can tell his or her story."
Regional Adviser Deborah Gonzales shared a quote from Austin author Jo Whittemore, who was visibly moved during and after the event:
"Being of bi-racial descent (Caucasian father, Korean mother), I've always ALWAYS struggled with issues of identity and finding where I belong. Diversity and how limited it is in children's literature has been the elephant in the room for years. We're assured that there are PLENTY of ethnic titles, but how many of them or their authors get recognized? I can count on my hands the number of popular books I know featuring Asian American main characters, even less so the number of titles with Native American main characters. And usually it's put upon the people of those ethnicities to write books for "their people". THANK YOU, Austin SCBWI for bringing this subject to the table and thank you panelists for pointing out that where you're from shouldn't dictate what you write."
In closing, author Chris Barton's statement was fitting: "Let the conversation continue." Here's hoping the writing community continues to talk.