BookExpo America 2015 Still Lacking Diversity

Maya Reddy ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Many followers of BookExpo America, often referred to as BEA, will most likely be quick to remember a campaign made in the summer of 2014, in response to the May 31st children’s literature reader event made up of all white men. This was one of many examples of the lack of diversity in children’s literature that bothered members of this movement. The hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks quickly went viral, and in response, the BEA invited the members of this group to speak at a panel at the convention. The panel was an all-out success with more than 300 people attending and as Ellen Oh, the group’s founder insisted, the campaign was “a call to arms” and not yet over. Thus began the grassroots organization “We Need Diverse Books” that continues to push for more diversity in children’s literature.

Since this first success between WNDB and BEA, We Need Diverse Books has gained quite a bit of traction, including an extremely successful Indiegogo campaign while the two organizations continue to work together. As of December 2014, WNDB and BEA are teaming up again for the 2015 BookExpo, in which they are working together to create two new panels shaped around diversity in literature. The first panel scheduled for May 30th will center around science fiction and fantasy, while the second panel for May 31st will bring together diverse Children’s and Young Adult authors.

While all this work in bringing diverse books into the spotlight may seem promising, there is still work to be done. Most recently, BookExpo America brought on more ire with the reveal of its small line-up for the May 29th Children’s Book and Author Breakfast, in which all four of its participants are white. While such a small decision may seem insignificant, it still draws the eye considering the We Need Diverse Books movement being so focused on the importance of diversity in children’s literature, and just how recent the movement was. Such a simple decision made by BEA, suggests that perhaps diversity isn’t improving as much as book lovers are thinking.

Allowing authors to talk about their specific perspectives in a space that often does not embrace these points of views is very important. And so these panels focused completely on diversity are extremely necessary. Yet they seem to be doing little in allowing for a greater integration of these diverse authors in other such circles. Perhaps this is a cynical view on the progress BEA is making in its attempts at diversity, but nonetheless it still has a ways to go. Its collaboration with We Need Diverse Books is definitely a step in the right direction, but hopefully they won’t be relying on those two new panels as their only source of diversity as future events for this year’s BookExpo are revealed.

Ideally, BEA needs to look beyond just those two panels made in collaboration with WNDB to create a more diverse atmosphere at the convention. We Need Diverse Books has done what they can, and they’ve achieved quite a bit in creating these new panels. Unfortunately these panels are just isolated aspects of the convention. The problem of diversity is with the convention, so BEA is responsible for addressing the convention’s lack of diversity overall in their general panels as well.  This expansion really must come from BookExpo America, whether or not they can encourage more diversity throughout the rest of the convention will depend on the choices they make for the upcoming lineups.

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