The Importance of Diversity in Literature

Back in 1990, Rudine Sims Bishop, a professor at The Ohio State University, wrote profoundly about books being both windows and mirrors. The metaphor is elegant and true, and it has been used ever since to help articulate why diversity in literature is so important.
Books can offer a glimpse into the life of someone different from ourselves. They can also reflect back to us our own image. Both functions are important. Through reading the stories of others, we broaden our world view and learn about lives so different from our own. Through seeing ourselves in stories, we find validation for our own experiences.

One of my jobs as the librarian is to make sure our students find both windows and mirrors in our collection. Happily, there are more and more resources now that help me do that. The major library journals are increasing the space they devote to diverse books and authors. Additionally, many online communities are dedicated to getting out the word about books that portray marginalized voices. For example, The Brown Bookshelf promotes black children’s book authors and illustrators; Latinx in Kids Lit promotes children’s books by, about, and for the Latinx community. A quick Google search on “children’s books” and whatever group you want will produce results about that specific sector. If you’re interested in a more general spectrum of diverse titles, #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #ReadYourWorld are two great Twitter feeds to follow.

Here are a number of books we’ve recently purchased that I highly recommend:

Picture Books:
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
There are times when we all feel different and out of place. But by sharing our stories, we can find human connection and fellowship.

Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal
Alma has a very long name. Too long, in her opinion. As she learns about each part of it, however, she comes to embrace the whole thing.

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales
A beautiful book about the immigrant experience, new beginnings, and the power of story.

For Early Readers:
Meet Yasmin! series by Saadia Faruqi
Yasmin is a spunky Pakistani-American second grader who is a real problem-solver.

For Middle School Readers:
Front Desk by Kelly Yang
Ten-year-old Mia Tang works the front desk at the hotel her parents manage in this heartfelt immigration story.

Just Like Jackie by Lindsey Stoddard
Robinson and Grandpa are a small—but mighty—team; however, Grandpa’s memory is going, and Robbie worries what will happen if anyone finds out.

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur by Brandon Montclare & Amy Reeder
A comic series from Marvel featuring a black pre-teen and her dinosaur sidekick.

For Young Adult Readers:
Fresh Ink: An Anthology edited by Lamar Giles
From the co-founder of WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS, here are twelve stories from twelve different diverse writers.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Xiomara has a complicated relationship with her Dominican mother, her faith, and even her own body. Poetry helps her make sense of her world and express her feisty, beautiful voice.