Tuesday, May 03, 2016
I attended a large SCBWI conference this past weekend, with over 500 in attendance, and I noticed something I notice every SCBWI conference. The attendees were overwhelmingly white, upper middle class, middle-aged women.
Now, I don't have anything against white, upper middle class, middle-aged women. I'm one myself! But it made me think about the lack of diversity in children's literature, and it's cause.
Some have suggested the publishing industry is bigoted, or maybe readers are. Certainly, the white-washing that has regularly occurred on book covers (http://www.yalsa.ala.org/thehub/2012/12/10/it-matters-if-youre-black-or-white-the-racism-of-ya-book-covers) would hint that is possible, but I suggest a different reason.
Here is my reasoning. There isn't a lot of money in writing for children and young adults. Unless your name is JK Rowling, you will probably need to keep your day job, have a significant other who supports you, or be retired to pursue a writing career. But what if you have to keep two or even three jobs to make ends meet? What if you don't have a significant other, or you have no retirement savings, so you have to keep working when many others your age have retired? The fact of the matter is, if you are part of a marginalized community, chances are you don't have as much in the way of financial resources as others.
I'm not the only one who sees money as a significant issue in regards to diversity in children's literature. We Need Diverse Books has a number of scholarships available to help members of marginalized groups live their dream of writing, and I'm proud to say, at the Wild, Wild, Midwest SCBWI conference last weekend, thousands of dollars were raised to help fund these scholarships.
I know, some people will say one doesn't have to be part of a marginalized group to write about them, and certainly, that is true. Anyone can write diverse books, and we all should. But I personally feel no one is better able to write about a culture than the people inside that culture, and if money is the main issue, shouldn't that be a priority?
Posted by Rondi Olson