Skip To Content

Librarian in Residence: We Need Diverse Books

By Jessica Green on April 8, 2016

Jessica Green is a book addict and library card holder since the age of 3. She’s a librarian at the Ottawa Public Library and currently the Apartment613 Librarian-in-Residence, sharing a compendium of literary thoughts and tips.

April 13 is the International Day of Pink, which was created to celebrate diversity and raising awareness to stop all forms of bullying, including homophobia, transphobia and transmisogyny. This day came about when two straight high school students in Nova Scotia spotted a gay student being bullied while wearing a pink shirt. After intervening in the incident, the two students wanted to prevent further bullying so they came up with wearing pink shirts and convinced their student body to join in. This has transformed into a movement where anyone can wear pink on the second Wednesday of April to show their willingness to stand up to bullies.

Even though the Day of Pink was started by students, bullying affects all ages. Just last year, the Hugo Awards, which celebrates the best in fantasy and science fiction, was the focus of concentrated efforts to change the ballots as the Puppies (what the groups ended up being called) felt that the awards were becoming “affirmative action awards” and not truly representative of sci-fi and fantasy. The controversy became nasty, but in the end, many others joined together to reject the efforts of the Puppies in several categories, and instead gave out “No Award” . It remains to be seen if the Puppies will attempt again to keep the diversity out of the Hugo Awards, but it is disheartening that even in what could be argued as one of the most creative areas of storytelling, some believe that there is no room for diverse voices.

51hOlKSoo1L._SX368_BO1,204,203,200_There is a real appetite out there for different viewpoints in stories, movies and TV. Books are seeing an increase of characters and authors from different groups but it’s a small increase on a low percentage to start with. It is especially important to have diverse books for children as according to that same essay I found about the publishing industry – “The need for diverse books is thus twofold: children need books that reflect their realities to improve their own self-esteem and academic engagement, but also to learn to be inclusive of others.“ A great website to look at for diverse books is We Need Diverse Books, which has fantastic booklists for children of all ages.

So wear your pink proudly on April 13th to show your support and pick up a different kind of book. You might just find something really great.

A very short and not remotely exhaustive list of books to try:

Picture Book Picks

7507944Juvenile Picks

Teen Picks

Quick Picks

  • Moonshot: the Indigenous Comics Collection, Volume 1 Moonshot contains an interesting collection of indigenous stories from all over. The stories and art are very different but suit the tales very well. I really hope there are further volumes of this collection as it’s one of the coolest comic collections I have read in quite some time.
  • Rarely Seen: Photographs of the Extraordinary, by Susan Tyler Hitchcock: This is another stunner of a coffee table book from National Geographic which shows off pictures of the rarely seen – places, objects, people, and events. A must read for the armchair traveller and anyone who likes fabulous photographs.
  • The Last Days of Magic, by Mark Tompkins
    Set in Ireland in the 14th century, this novel follows the battles that ensue as the Vatican tries to eliminate magic users, the Sidhe try to keep Ireland for their own use, and the English try to invade to have space for their colonies. There’s some intriguing world building, and the ending is a set-up for a series, which I’ll be looking forward to reading.