Words | Aisha Saeed
I am very proud to have been one of the founding members of the non-profit organization We Need Diverse Books (WNDB). WNDB is a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honours the lives of all young people.
WNDB was borne of a Twitter exchange in April 2014 when Ellen Oh, myself, and other authors were expressing our frustration with the lack of diversity in children’s literature and the dismal statistics for how diverse books fared in the marketplace. Tired of merely expressing our frustrations, we decided to do something about it and so we launched our campaign on social media to share why we needed diverse books. The hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks went viral almost instantly. None of us could have anticipated just how much people took to heart what we were trying to do.
After seeing the outpouring of support from readers, writers, and publishers and the community at large we realized we needed to have more than a three-day campaign; we needed to work toward long-term solutions to help make the literary world a more diverse place. We Need Diverse books is now a non-profit organization with numerous projects underway from Walter Dean Myers grants for unpublished writers, publishing internship programs that help fund interns who are interested in working in the publishing industry, and many other initiatives. I stepped down from WNDB committee after the birth of my third son, but I am still a strong supporter of all they do.
Many people ask what they can do to help support diverse books in the marketplace. My biggest piece of advice is: buy diverse books. Buy them for yourselves, buy them as gifts for your friends. An author only has a future when their books sell, and so, if you believe in the cause, this is the best thing you can do. When I learned that Amal Unbound had become a New York Times Bestseller in May, I was touched and overwhelmed that people were buying my book, and I was hopeful that, by getting the honour of being a bestseller, the example of Amal Unbound might mean that more publishers take chances on books with diverse characters. Book sales send this message. Not everyone can afford to purchase books, but it also helps if you recommend books to others, borrow them from the library, signal-boost diverse authors and diverse books on social media, and write reviews on sites where books are sold. Every little thing we do can make an impact and help more diverse books be written, published, and read.
Aisha Saeed is a Pakistani-American writer, teacher and attorney. She has been featured on MTV, the Huffington Post, NBC and the BBC, and, as one of the founding members of the much talked about ‘We Need Diverse Books’ campaign, she is helping change the conversation about diverse books. Aisha lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and sons.