Proud of How Far We've Come
It’s easy to gush, “Oh, I’m so proud of you!” when a child brings home a good grade or behaves well at a restaurant or scores a winning goal. But what if we encouraged children to be proud of who they are, no matter if they fall outside the expected?
It’s pride week, and the city near where I live, San Francisco, is getting ready. (I particularly like this Bay Area Bike Share bike!) And I’m reminded that Pride began in 1969, when the opposite of pride—shame—was once commonly felt by gays and lesbians. The gay rights movement has come so far since the Stonewall days.
Attitudes are changing in the publishing world, too. I’m particularly proud of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, which has loudly, proudly demanded that booksellers and publishers and authors begin to look at which stories get published, what stories are purchased for our children.
It’s vital that we have books that reflect the world today. For me, I will never forget reading books that introduced me to people different from myself. The stories I read--Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Summer of My German Solder—built understanding and compassion for experiences other than mine.
But when I was young, I never encountered a story about gay parents or young people questioning the happily ever after of boy-meets-girl. It wasn’t until I began writing My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer that I searched for these books. They started to appear in the late 1990s—the first was Annie on My Mind in 1982—but too few were for middle grade readers. (School Library Journal provides a list of recommended titles for ages 8 to 12.)
Look how far we’ve come, now! Even two years after my book was published, the world is moving gay marriage to the mainstream (although we’re not there yet). Best of all, children can find more books at the library that will speak to them or their experience or their neighbor’s experience. (Thanks to Lee Wind for his exhaustive LGBTQ list!). And more diverse literature is not only good but essential for the future of our world.
If you are a writer, remember to do as Gary Schneider asks: “Write the stories that will give kids more to be human beings with.” And fly your rainbow flag with pride!
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