I knew I wanted to end my November thankfulness series by spotlighting diverse authors. I didn’t realize how appropriate that would be.
Last week Jacqueline Woodson won the National Book Award for Brown Girl Dreaming. When I finished Brown Girl Dreaming in October, I knew it was one of the best books I’ve read in years. Jackie’s skilled telling of her childhood combined with the racial tension and events occurring in the 1960s and 70s brought an even clearer picture of the struggle she and many others have faced.
Immediately after accepting her award, the emcee of the event, a fellow children’s author, made an inappropriate, racist remark thinly veiled as an attempt at humor. It sadly revealed that the very things Jackie wrote about in Brown Girl Dreaming are alive in America today.
A heartfelt, public apology was made and backed up by raising over $100,000 for the #weneeddiversebooks campaign. Although that’s a wonderful outcome, it doesn’t erase the initial remark or the hurt and humiliation it must have caused.
Last night a grand jury in Ferguson failed to indict a police officer for killing an unarmed black teenager. I’m not making a legal judgment on a case where I don’t have all the facts (does anyone?), but I am shocked by the lack of empathy I’ve seen and heard today as I interact on social media, read opinions and talk with others.
My mind goes back to Jackie’s book, to her struggles as a child, and the realization that the struggles continue for so many in our country while others remain blind to what’s happening. This is exactly why we need books like Brown Girl Dreaming.
So today, with a heavy heart for those who are facing situations like we’ve seen in Ferguson, for those living in a world where hardships and challenges are more common than privileges, a world where we must have a #weneeddiversebooks campaign to increase the diversity of our writing, I’m thankful for writers like Jacqueline Woodson, An Na, Sherman Alexie, Pam Muñoz Ryan, Julia Alvarez, Tina McElroy Ansa, Sandra Cisneros, Marjane Satrapi and so many more – writers who are writing about their diversity, their experiences, their stories for the next generation.
Your stories matter. Your words matter. Your lives matter.
And we need them.