At our monthly SCBWI meeting, Cynthia Leitich Smith brought to our awareness the need for diversity in children's books. She encouraged us to be part of the solution by writing and illustrating diverse characters, as well as reading books that feature diverse characters.
Here are a few suggestions from Cynthia on handling diverse characters in our own work.
Be respectful of the character's diversity, whether that be race, religion, physical ability, sexual orientation, etc. Don't write a diverse character in order to teach about diversity. Do not make them a stereotype, make them real people. Write and illustrate diverse characters from the heart. Look at the full cast in your work, is there diversity there? Realize that by writing diverse characters you will hear criticism on how and why you're writing them, but don't let that stop you.
Cynthia also encouraged us to create a vision for our writing in regards to diversity. She posed these two questions.
1. What is your big picture mission or vision?
2. What is your personal mission or vision?
At the end of the meeting we were given an opportunity to speak up about books with diverse characters that we found inspiring and worth sharing with the group. (Check out the list of great books!)
Thank you Cynthia for teaching us about the need for diverse characters! For more information on the topic you can visit: weneeddiversebooks.org
Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-time by Mark Haddon
Wonder by R. J. Palacio
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Year of the Dog by Grace Lin
Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork
How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon
Rules by Cynthia Lord
Various picture books by Susan Middleton Elya
My Sister Alicia May by Nancy Tupper Ling
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom by Lynda Blackmon Lowery
Nightingale’s Nest by Nikki Loftin
Hope and Other Luxuries: A Mother's Life with a Daughter's Anorexia by Clare B. Dunkle
Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan
Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
Books by Tim Tingle
When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly Willis Holt
It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Absolutely Positively Not by David LaRochelle
My Father’s Summer by Kathi Appelt
Firegirl by Tony Abbot
How Smudge Came by Nan Gregory
More Than This by Patrick Ness