Monday, March 9, 2015

The One Where I Need Diverse Books #sol15

Every Tuesday, I participate in the Slice of Life challenge at Two Writing Teachers. Every March, the Slice of Life Challenge is a month-long experience where Slicers post every single day for the entire month. I'm joining in on the monthly challenge this year! For more information on what a Slice of Life post is about, you can go here.

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In April of 2014, after a discussion between Ellen Oh and Malinda Lo on Twitter, people started to take action and the call for #weneeddiversebooks started. To learn more about their mission and the We Need Diverse Books campaign, you can visit the official website. Of course, I completely, 100%, wholeheartedly, hands-down agree with and support this campaign. But I didn't realize how much I needed it for myself until I was at Nerdcamp last July. 

If you aren't familiar with Nerdcamp or Edcamp, they're educational UNconferences. What that means is, unlike typical conferences, they are free and presenters are not chosen ahead of time. Instead, that day, participants show up and are invited to propose topics they want to talk about and then choose where they want to spend their time learning and sharing. 

Cindy Minnich and Sarah Anderson offered to host a session on "Finding Diverse Lit for Diverse YA Readers" in support of the We Need Diverse Books campaign. Having seen the hashtag, when this topic came up, I had to attend. 

But why I had to attend might surprise you.

It definitely surprised me.

I felt an overwhelmingly strong, physical reaction thinking about what books they might talk about. I was sick-to-my-stomach scared that they might only share books with black or Hispanic characters. I knew I had to be there to add my voice to the discussion to make sure someone like me was represented - someone whose background is white and Hispanic. (You've met my parents, right?) And, having worked with students who are deaf and hard of hearing, I was curious what other types of diverse books would come up, too.

So, I went. 

I shouldn't have been surprised. 

My amazing Nerdy friends had books upon books to share.

You can find all the lists they generated here.

LGBTQ
Biracial
Religions
Family Structure

Disability (physical, mental, etc.)

Beyond Sports

Race (But Not Race)
Social Issues

It makes me cry remembering how overwhelming proud I felt to be in a room with dedicated educators who totally, completely get it. They understand diversity and how important it is to share books that might speak to a reader or expand a reader's perspective of the world.

I marched into the room on a mission to stand up for readers like me who aren't all white but aren't all Hispanic but I'm not sure I even said anything once the conversation started. I sat there speechless and soaked it all in. Part of me was dealing with the surge of emotions that overcame me when I thought I would need to defend and expand how we define diverse books but another part of me was awash in utter awe of my friends.

The one really huge ginormous thing I learned that day:

I need diverse books.

I'm white.

Most of me relates to being white. I fit easily into American culture, I speak English without an accent, my maiden name was Jones and my married name is Vincent, I went to school with mostly white people.

And

I'm Hispanic. 

A big part of my family is from Guatemala, I speak Spanish, I have one kiddo who looks Hispanic (and one who doesn't...), many students and staff in my school district are Hispanic and I find myself advocating for them - a lot.

I need diverse books.

The We Need Diverse campaign helped me realize I have a story of diversity to tell. I've never thought of my story as significant but my reaction at Nerdcamp helped me see it is. Being part white and part Hispanic impacts me. I'll share more of my story as the month continues but for now, this is why 

I support We Need Diverse Books.

To read my previous Slice of Life posts, click on any link below:

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