Last week I had the privilege of hosting a conversation on the intersections between diversity and the selection of books for awards and best-of lists. I got to pick the brains of Jason Low, Debbie Reese, Marilisa Jiménez García, Pat Enciso, and Daniel Kraus. Now you can enjoy their insights, which have just been published in this post for the Booklist Reader.
Our conversation brings to the fore a number of issues that impact both what books get considered for special recognition and how discussions of those books proceed. As the participants show, we’re finally deconstructing the notion that “diversity” and “quality” are in competition. Instead, how diversity shapes our understanding of what “quality” is.
Nowhere is this work more important than in the meeting room where book awards and other distinctions are deliberated. And, as we discuss, how books are reviewed also shapes which books get noticed. In our conversation, Jason Low points out the importance of “diverse reviewers… who can serve as a cultural sounding board when issues like nuance, perspective, and authenticity issues are in question.” School Library Journal has been actively educating its reviewers and recruiting reviewers from diverse backgrounds. Booklist is working on this, too. In fact, just as we were wrapping up our conversation last week, Booklist issued this call:
Booklist is actively seeking book reviewers of diverse background, whether that background is cultural, racial, gender, or another. We are also looking for reviewers fluent in Spanish. Candidates with critical acumen and knowledge of a public-library audience should email writing samples (preferably published work) and reviewing preferences (fiction, nonfiction, adult, YA, picture books, graphic novels, audio, etc.) to one of the following:
Daniel Kraus, Books for Youth (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Donna Seaman, Adult Books (email@example.com)
Sarah Hunter, Graphic Novels (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Joyce Saricks, Audio Books (email@example.com)
If you fit the Booklist criteria, we encourage you to get your review on! At Latin@s in Kid Lit, we put excellent books on readers’ radars and highlight issues that relate to writing, publishing, promoting, and recognizing kid lit by, for, and about Latinas and Latinos. We’re eager to have more allies!
Reviewing not your thing? You can still draw others into the conversation around diversity in publishing and literature. Do you have a colleague who may not be plugged into these issues? Invite them to check out the resources we offer here at LKL. The Booklist Reader conversation includes a list of excellent websites that offer vetted book recommendations.
I hope the Booklist Reader piece prompts you to reconsider what diversity has to do with excellence as well as how you can advance diversity in your own reading and work. As Marilisa Jiménez García puts it in our conversation, “We need more than books. We need to cultivate a system of children’s and YA literature— reviewers, librarians, educators, professors, publishers—that holistically integrates people of color. We need bridges.”
So, how about it? What bridges can we build today?