Did you know that this coming Sunday, April 23rd is the UNESCO’s World Book and Copyright Day? Begun in 1995, the day was established to celebrate the immense power of the written word to tell stories that connect us to others and take us on imagined journeys. The day also celebrates publishers, booksellers, libraries – really all who are involved in the production and distribution of books. I find it fitting that this year’s celebration comes amidst a time the American book community is in turmoil.
As the day draws near I can’t help but think of the rise of book bans that are running rampant across our country. It is so clear which voices these groups are trying to stifle and what lengths these groups are willing to through to reach their goal. It is also very troubling that publishers are starting to acquiesce to the pressure such as the experience author Maggie Tokuda-Hall shared about Scholastic asking her to remove any mention of racism in the author’s note of her book “Love in the Library”. (Read the article here). For such a large publisher to ask an author to make such a change is heartbreaking. While Scholastic has issued an apology, the fact that the change was requested without forethought shows how easily publishers, school districts, etc. are bowing to these extreme groups just to avoid controversy come their way. This self-censorship by schools, districts, and publishers will only hurt the voices who are only really starting to be heard. Publishing has come a long way in the past few years of providing more diverse stories that it would be disastrous for the wonderful forward momentum we’ve been experiencing to suddenly stop.
As Audrey posted last week, Rich in Color just celebrated our 10 year anniversary. Ten years ago four folks concerned about diverse representation in YA Literature came together to make a change. I feel we have done that but it is clear that we still need to keep fighting. Keep using this platform to highlight and promote diverse stories. Keep using this platform to celebrate debut authors and to have conversations about books that we love.
So how am I planning on celebrating World Book Day this year? Well, I’ll be the Los Angeles Times Book Festival spending money and adding to my already large TBR pile. While I know not everyone can attend a book festival, what you can do is purchase a book on the banned list for yourself, or a family member, or a student, or a classroom, etc., the list is endless. What authors, librarians, educators, and yes, publishers need is support from the public to push back against these bans and ensure that the great strides in having more and more diverse voices published, continues.