On Giving Diverse Books

I think about the need for diversity in books a lot.

First of all I live in a diverse neighborhood and I work alongside people of a diverse background. I see diversity every day. I work in the arts and I know how important it is for people to see their stories told on the page, stage, or screen.

Earlier this month while getting ready for my vacation I was looking at books at the airport bookstore. There is an airport bookstore at the MSP airport that kicks ass in terms of its children’s book selection. While I was looking at books, trying to get a little inspiration for my nephew’s upcoming birthday, the book A Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats caught my eye.

I think about diverse books a lot. A few years ago my dad married a woman from Mexico and is now the step parent to a wonderful soon to be teenager with a completely different background and heritage than him. My stepsister will go through life having experiences that I might never understand.

Last summer she came to visit and we went to the Mercado Central every day. The Mercado Central is a place in my neighborhood that is home to several owned and run by Latino people. The goal is to is to give people a way to grow and develop businesses. She loved getting to eat all of her favorite foods, buying her favorite kinds of candy at the Dulceria, and speaking with people at the Mercado in her native language. The children at the park by my house embraced her. Little ones looked up to her and ones closer to her age included her in their games. Since moving here she has also become a “typical” American teenager. She listens to pop music, she had a crush on Austin Mahone, but not Justin Bieber, she is a cheerleader and a gymnast. Recently she has begun to talk about how she is “losing her Mexican”.  I am always thinking about diverse books for her. Books with diverse characters, books written by writers from a diverse background.

Looking at books for my nephew that day and seeing A Snowy Day reminded me that I need to make sure I pay the same amount of attention to diversity when picking out books for my nephew. My nephew lives in Alabama. His parents are very conservative and religious. His parents live out in the country. They have juggled their lives around not putting my nephew in day care. It is possible that when the time comes for school that they will homeschool him or send him to a Christian school.

I don’t see him a lot but I realize that with this upbringing he may not be experience the same level of diversity in his life that a kid growing up in my neighborhood might. Looking at A Snowy Day I remembered that it is just as important to send my nephew books with diverse characters and diverse writers as it is to send my stepsister or any other child I buy books for.



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