Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Today we're revealing part three of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, a project that’s near and dear to my heart! Part three is called “Diversify Your Shelves,” and it’s all about taking a personal approach to promoting diversity in literature.

What, exactly, does that mean? Is this maybe something we’ll do for a week and then go back to buying books by old white guys?

Well, no. “Diversify Your Shelves” is a continual celebration of fabulous diverse literature, by fabulous diverse authors. Checking out what books we have on our shelves, and seeing how we might diversify them, is just a jumping off point.

There's also going to be a “Diversify Your Shelves” chat on Saturday, May 3rd at 2PM EST to discuss our favorite diverse books and authors! Use the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag to join in!

But wait! Why is this so important?

Well, there are lots of people blogging about this more eloquently than I, like here, here, here, and here, but some of my biggest reasons are:

Because, at every conference I or my writer friends attend, there are kids asking why they can’t find books with characters who look like them, either on the cover or in the pages.

Because the same thing happens at book signings, except there the kids are saying they’ve always wanted to get into writing, but don’t think they’ll be successful because they’re people of color.

Because queer kids are still killing themselves over being different (or being told that they’re different) and the greater representation they have in books, the less alone they’ll feel.

Because awesome genres like YA wouldn’t exist if we hadn’t moved away from the old, white dude model of literature and started reading stories written by ladies. Diversify Your Shelves is a continuation of that principle—hearing all stories from all voices.

Because it’s 2014, but we still keep seeing all-white panels at book festivals, or even all-white male panels (in genres vastly dominated by women!) and that’s kind of insane to me. Diversity shouldn’t be the exception. It should be the norm.

And because, at the end of the day, when I look at my shelves, I think:

I can be better.

I can do more.

And I’d love for you to join me.

So, without further ado . . .

Let’s Diversify Our Shelves!
Here’s how it works: this weekend, May 3rd and 4th, we’re all going to head out to our local bookstores* to pick up books by fabulous diverse authors. (Need recommendations? Check out the May 3rd #WeNeedDiverseBooks chat!) Then, once you’ve returned home, snap a photo of your new diverse book(s)** and post it as a comment below! And if you want to get really creative, you can take Before and After photos of your bookshelves: Before, when they weren't too diversified, and After, when you've added in books by fabulous  PoC authors, queer authors, and authors with disabilities! Woot! 

This Monday, May 5th, one lucky winner is going to win FIVE BOOKS OF THEIR CHOOSING out of the choices below!!! And every Monday throughout the spring, a new winner will be chosen to receive two fabulous diverse books! Woot!

But wait, it doesn’t stop there. Remember when I said “Diversify Your Shelves” was a continual celebration? That means any time you buy a book from a diverse author, or featuring a diverse character, snap a picture of that book and post it to Twitter with the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag! We’ll retweet you, and help spread the word about what diverse books people are buying! And by participating in the “Diversify Your Shelves” movement, you’ll be showing publishers the kinds of books you want them to buy, showing conference organizers which authors you want to see on panels, and helping tweens and teens find representation in books! Which, really, is the awesomest prize of all!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Obviously, not everyone has the money to “Diversify Their Shelves” at this particular moment. That’s okay! Because stopping by the library and having them order a book by a diverse author, or even sending them an email about your interest in diverse books, can make a big difference in the “Diversify Your Shelves” movement! You can even snap a photo of a certain section in your local library, and then snap another one after they’ve ordered more diverse books for you! That way, you’ll not only be diversifying your own shelf, but you’ll be diversifying the shelves for your entire neighborhood! Go, you!

**Don’t worry, e-book lovers! You can totally enter the contest too. Just snap a photo of your reading device with the book’s cover showing (or a screenshot of the purchase), and you’re good to go!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

We Need Diverse Books Campaign

Recently, there’s been a groundswell of discontent over the lack of diversity in children’s literature. The issue is being picked up by news outlets like these two pieces in the NYT, CNN, EW, and many more. But while we individually care about diversity, there is still a disconnect. BEA’s Bookcon recently announced an all-white-male panel of “luminaries of children’s literature,” and when we pointed out the lack of diversity, nothing changed.
Now is the time to raise our voices into a roar that can’t be ignored. Here’s how:
On May 1st at 1pm (EST), there will be a public call for action that will spread over 3 days. We’re starting with a visual social media campaign using the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks. We want people to tweet, Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, blog, and post anywhere they can to help make the hashtag go viral.
For the visual part of the campaign: 
  • Take a photo holding a sign that says “We need diverse books because ___________________________.” Fill in the blank with an important, poignant, funny, and/or personal reason why this campaign is important to you. 
  • The photo can be of you or a friend or anyone who wants to support diversity in kids’ lit. It can be a photo of the sign without you if you would prefer not to be in a picture. Be as creative as you want! Pose the sign with your favorite stuffed animal or at your favorite library. Get a bunch of friends to hold a bunch of signs. 
  • However you want to do it, we want to share it! There will be a Tumblr at http://weneeddiversebooks.tumblr.com/ that will host all of the photos and messages for the campaign. Please submit your visual component by May 1st to weneeddiversebooks@yahoo.com with the subject line “photo” or submit it right on our Tumblr page here and it will be posted throughout the first day. 
  • Starting at 1:00PM (EST) the Tumblr will start posting and it will be your job to reblog, tweet, Facebook, or share wherever you think will help get the word out. 
  • The intent is that from 1pm EST to 3pm EST, there will be a nonstop hashtag party to spread the word. We hope that we’ll get enough people to participate to make the hashtag trend and grab the notice of more media outlets.
  • The Tumblr will continue to be active throughout the length of the campaign, and for however long we need to keep this discussion going, so we welcome everyone to keep emailing or sending in submissions even after May 1st.
On May 2nd, the second part of our campaign will roll out with a Twitter chat scheduled for 2pm (EST) using the same hashtag. Please use #WeNeedDiverseBooks at 2pm on May 2nd and share your thoughts on the issues with diversity in literature and why diversity matters to you.
On May 3rd, 2pm (EST), the third portion of our campaign will begin. There will be a Diversify Your Shelves initiative to encourage people to put their money where their mouth is and buy diverse books and take photos of them. Diversify Your Shelves is all about actively seeking out diverse literature in bookstores and libraries, and there will be some fantastic giveaways for people who participate in the campaign! More details to come!
We hope that you will take part in this in any way you can. We need to spread the word far and wide so that it will trend on Twitter. So that media outlets will pick it up as a news item. So that the organizers of BEA and every big conference and festival out there gets the message that diversity is important to everyone. We hope you will help us by being a part of this movement.

My website is safe again!

Thanks to Alex who gave me the heads up about the virus on my website and to my amazing web designers, Denise and John Biondo, who worked really hard to clean it all up for me. Ellenoh.com is safe!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

My author website HACKED!

 Guys, my Ellenoh.com website has been hacked. Please do not go there!! It has been infected with very bad malware.  Fortunately, my blog is hosted on blogger and I never moved it to my website. I always thought that was a pain but now I'm very grateful because my blog is safe.

I would gladly hurt the person who did this to me. Also, if you see any emails from ellen@ellenoh.com - DON'T open for now!! Delete! Everything has been compromised and it's a huge mess. I'm real sorry guys!!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

We Are Still Not Doing Enough for Diversity in Kid lit

I’ve written about Why Being a POC Author Sucks Sometimes. I’ve written about the importance of Diversity and Diverse Reading Lists. And I’ve even written about Diversity in Writing. The discussion about why diversity in children’s literature is continuing because POC are still greatly underrepresented at less than 10%. (see this fantastic post by Malinda Lo at Diversity in YA.) There’s even an article in CNN about “Where’s the African-American Harry Potter or the Mexican Katniss?" There’s a lot of good talk but there’s still no action. And furthermore, there’s a lot of lashing out that somehow when we ask for diversity, we are somehow anti-white. If we talk about our need for representation, our articles are just "race-baiting" and discriminatory toward whites. How can asking for more authors of color and characters of color in children’s literature mean we are anti-white? I will never understand this thinking and I have no use for it. Kelly Jensen, a librarian and true supporter of diversity, said in her excellent post “When you support one group of people, it is in not denigrating another group of people. Instead, it’s doing your part to raise everyone up.” And this is what we are fighting for. Raising us all up because diversity is good for everyone.

How bad is the problem?

Of the 3,600 books the Cooperative Children’s Book Center reviewed in 2012:
  • 3% were about Africans/African Americans; 1.8% were written by Africans/African Americans
  • 1.5% were about Latinos; 1.6% were written by Latinos
  • Less than 1% were about American Indians; less than 1% were written by American Indians
  • 2% were about Asian Pacifics/Asian Pacific Americans; 2.3% were written by Asian Pacifics/Asian Pacific Americans
Click here for a fantastic illustration by Tina Kugler that really highlights the problem based on statistics released by the CCBC.

There are a lot of good people out there fighting for more diversity in publishing. But it’s not enough. There’s even more people who nod their head and agree whole-heartedly that we need more representation. But it’s definitely not enough.

Today I’m pointing fingers. At publishers, librarians, teachers, booksellers, publicists, conference and festival organizers, reviewers, journalists, in fact our entire media. You are all not doing enough. There are some wonderful children’s books authors of colors out there publishing amazing books that are just not getting the attention they deserve. They are ignored. Where is their media coverage? Where are their book tours? Why isn’t their more diversity at book festivals and conferences? Why is it that any promotional materials talking about ALA award winning books don’t also highlight the Coretta Scott King or the Pura Belpré, etc? (See Meg Medina’s post on this.)

Publishing and promoting books that include diversity by white authors is a good start for diversity. But that is not enough. Publishing and promoting authors of color so that we break the arbitrary 10% cap is what is really needed. We need more published authors of color. But if current authors of color are not promoted, then it hurts the chances for all other potential POC writers. It becomes a vicious circle. A self-fulfilling prophecy that continues the belief that books by and about POC don’t sell. We are not doing enough to break this prophecy.

Recently there was a big controversy over the fact that BookCon was featuring an all white male power panel at BEA. Lerner Publishing Group editorial director Andrew Karre said in the PW article, “If they really want to put their money where their mouth is, they should have a panel on this topic, the issue of diversity in children’s books.” I want to put a rallying call out for this to happen. Meg Medina, the fabulous author of the award winning Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, and I were recently talking about how we wanted every conference and every festival in the country to have a diversity panel until the day comes when we don’t need to do it anymore. So yes, ReedPOP, please include a diversity panel to make up for your world class blunder. And please don’t fill it up with white people. We authors of color are here yelling into the crowd. We are writing our books and fighting to promote them in an ocean filled with white capped waves that wash over us. But we are here because there is a need for us. And we won’t stop fighting or raising our voices.

Several months ago, I was at a school event where a very young black girl was standing shyly off to the side as I was chatting with some 6th grade students after my presentation. She gave me her notebook and asked me to sign it, which I was glad to do. It was a book of her own poetry and short stories. I smiled and said “I’m so glad to meet a young writer!” She beamed at me and said “I love writing and I want to be a writer but I didn’t think I could because I’m not white.” I was surprised and asked her if she’d read any books by Walter Dean Myers, Angela Johnson, or Linda Sue Park. She nodded and shrugged her shoulder and said, “But I’ve never seen them in person.” To this young teen, an author of color was a mythical creature, not to be believed, until she’d seen one in person. She couldn’t believe in her dream to become a writer until she saw for herself that a real life POC had done it. This is why we must continue to fight for diversity in children’s literature. For all of our children, so that they can see that we exist and that they can believe that their dreams of becoming whatever they want, can come true.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Teen Librarian's Book Battle!

So I just found out that PROPHECY won a book battle over at the Teen Librarian's first ever book battle in her library and I couldn't be happier!!

Here's the link to go read all about it!! Thanks so much Teen Librarian!

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