The National Book Awards announced their longlist of titles for the Youth award section this morning and I am excited! Not only are the books listed high on my to-be-read pile, but more importantly the list is a step in the right direction for the #weneeddiversebooks and #ownvoices movements and for readers everywhere.
Last year’s slate was sorely lacking in representation for diverse characters and, most notably, creators. K.T. Horning at Reading While White commented on the overwhelming whiteness of the long, and then short, lists of 2015.
This year, however, the list features more writers of color than the longlists from 2013, 2014, and 2015 combined. When the Moon was Ours also features a trans main character. While it’s not a perfect list, and not every marginalized identity is represented, it’s a great step in the right direction.
I hope that this list sends a message to a couple of different groups of people. To the people who don’t want diversity in their books or who don’t want to read books about anyone other than white, straight, cis, able-bodied people: Get over yourself. Diversity is important and it is valid. It’s the world where we live. Finally, to the kids—because yes, this is the youth longlist—who like Rudine Sims Bishop says, need mirrors to see themselves in literature: you are here and you are valued. Look at these amazing stories written for and by you.
- Kwame Alexander, Booked (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
- Kate DiCamillo, Raymie Nightingale (Candlewick Press)
- John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell (Artist), March: Book Three (Top Shelf)
- Grace Lin, When the Sea Turned to Silver (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
- Anna-Marie McLemore, When the Moon Was Ours (Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martin’s Press)
- Meg Medina, Burn Baby Burn (Candlewick Press)
- Sara Pennypacker & Jon Klassen (Illustrator), Pax (Balzer & Bray / HarperCollins)
- Jason Reynolds, Ghost (Atheneum Books for Young Readers / Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing)
- Caren Stelson, Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story (Carolrhoda Books / Lerner Publishing Group)
- Nicola Yoon, The Sun Is Also a Star (Delacorte Press / Penguin Random House)
More National Book Award announcements will be coming out over the next few days, so be on the lookout for Poetry later, Nonfiction Wednesday, and Fiction on Thursday. I only hope that those lists are as diverse and amazing as the youth list.