Four years ago, the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement was launched in response to an all-white lineup at Book Con. However, the industry still has a long way to come before true equality is reached. Four children’s authors gathered at Book Expo America on Thursday to talk about racism, politics, and books.
Diana Lopez: “I was trying to get a brown face on my covers since the very beginning. They always have like, the back of the head … the feet. And so I’m so excited that Lucky Luna has a beautiful brown face on the cover. … It has taken a long time to actually get faces of color on the covers of books. Just having that representation means so much about being accepted.”
Daniel Jose Older: We don’t get to see ourselves in American history, barely ever. I think [Shadowshapers] will change the world because kids will begin to see themselves as actors, and begin to do something. And then like me, they will become Civil War buffs.
On Complexity in Kidlit:
Daniel Jose Older: “Kids are so smart. Editors told me oh [your book] has too much going on. Civil war, and dinosaurs. Kids can only handle so much ideas and information. And I was like, have you even seen Pokemon? It’s complicated … Kids want to be challenged.”
On Politics in Kidlit:
Diana Lopez: “I think writing is all political. Even when it’s not political, that’s political. There’s always that choice.”
Daniel Jose Older: “Kids don’t get to stop and compartmentalize being Latino and there’s your abuelo talking about butterflies and then there’s a zombie attack and then there’s racism. It all happens together at the same time. Racism doesn’t end in the zombie apocalypse. … It makes our stories richer. … We’re being honest about the world.”
On the Future of Latinx Books:
Diana Lopez: [I want to see] more people like Sarai, hopefully!
On Advice for Burgeoning Latinx Authors:
Sarai Gonzales: Write from the heart.
Diana Lopez: Stay true to the voice that you hear for your characters … When I started writing, there was a push to tell the story, the Mexican-American story … but I didn’t do that. If you’re true, then the story is going to ring true.