What if I told you your story didn’t exist?
It’s like saying you’re not worthy of being a main character in a story. I don’t know about you but the number of times I’ve been told that I’m the main character in my story, better known as my life, is innumerable. Except, let me tell you my story doesn’t exist. At least not in any (fictional) book I’ve read.
I promise you it is not because I hate reading. In fact, I’ve been a voracious reader since I was young. I’m proud to call myself a bookworm. I read and walk, and I’ve given quite the number of teachers and friends heart attacks because of it. But despite the countless number of books I’ve read my story doesn’t exist. And guess what, my story isn’t the only one that doesn’t exist in the American publishing industry.
Welcome to the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. It began on May 1, 2014 in response to a whitewashed lineup at BookCon. And then in five days #WeNeedDiverseBooks garnered 87,520 posts from 23,275 unique users, with over 162 million timeline deliveries. BookCon even added a panel about diversity in response proving that if you speak loud enough and people care enough, change can happen.
It also showed what a powerful marketing tool society media platforms, such as tumblr and twitter, can be. After all this campaign went viral, proving to be so successful that BookCon added a panel about diversity in response. And because this cause proved to be so important, two months later in July 2014 #WeNeedDiverseBooks was no longer just a hashtag but a non-profit organization moving towards continual advocacy of diverse books.
So why are diverse books important? Well New York Times reported that 3,200 children’s books were published in 2013 but only 4% were about black children. Why is that relevant? Why does it matter? Reading is good for you. It helps in various ways that I won’t list because if you’re a reader you probably already know and if you’re not a reader you’re sick to death of hearing all the reasons why you should pick up a book and start reading.
But by reading diverse characters, ones who discover they’re queer, who aren’t white, who are disabled, readers learn to see these characters who are not like them as people. They learn to empathize. And this is powerful, empathy is probably the most important tool to use in the journey to end racism, sexism, and all other -isms.
However, for the people who have not been represented, there are no words to describe what it feels like to see yourself in the pages of a book. You exist. Your story is important. You are not the only one battling the struggles you thought were only yours.
#WeNeedDiverseBooks because I’ve read too many stories about the same kind of people with the same kind of problems. Because I want my story to exist. And I want yours to exist too.