We Need Diverse Books: Symposium & Walter Awards
Welcome to the 2021 Symposium on Diversity in Children's Literature, and the Walter Dean Myers Award for Outstanding Children's Literature. Each spring, the Library of Congress, and We Need Diverse Books, co-host this event to celebrate diverse children's books and to honor the memory of Award-winning Author and former National Ambassador for young people's literature, Walter Dean Myers. 2021 marks the first year, this event has gone fully virtual and we are excited to welcome you and new viewers from around the world. The theme for this year symposium is listening, learning, creating communities. Our panelists will demonstrate how diversity and children's books can help us better understand each other and our communities. And I know from experience, personal and professional, how diverse children's literature strengthens lives.
In fact, reading my favorite book, "Bright April" was the first time I saw a character in a book who looked like me, and that experience sparked my passion to become a librarian and serve my community. Today, we will hear from the 2021 Walter Honorees, Kacen Callender, Traci Chee, Robin Ha, and Daniel Nayeri, all authors who feel a calling to serve young people. Our symposium moderator is my very talented friend, Debra Taylor. Debra Taylor is the recipient of the Coretta Scott King- Virginia Hamilton practitioner Award for Lifetime Achievement from the American Library Association. She has also served as President of the Young Adult Library Services Association and Chair of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards. Deb recently retired as Coordinator of School and Student Services at the Enoch Pratt Free Library where she had worked since 1974 in various roles including as a Branch Librarian and Head of the Office of Children and Youth.
So without further ado, help me welcome Debra Taylor. And I hope you enjoy this year's 2021 symposium on Diversity in Children's Lives. Thank you for that introduction Dr. Hayden, and good afternoon to everyone watching. We're excited to have you join us as we kick off this year's diversity in Children's Literature symposium. And now I have the pleasure of introducing our 2021 Walter Honorees who will make up our symposium panel.
Daniel Nayeri is the publisher of Odd Dot imprint of Macmillan's Children's Publishing Group. And he was born in Iran and spent several years as a refugee before immigrating to Oklahoma at age eight with his family. He's the author of several books for young readers. And we want to congratulate him because "Everything Sad is Untrue," a true story, is also winner of the Printz Medal. Kacen Callender is originally from St. Thomas
in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Kacen has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and MFA from New Schools Writing for Children's Program. They are also the author of the young adult novel, "This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story" and the middle grade novel, "Hurricane Child" which was the winner of the Stonewall Book Award and the Lambda Literary Award. Tracy Chee is a bestselling and award-winning author of books for young people, including New York times bestseller and Kirkus Prize Finalist, "The Reader" and Prince Honor book, as well as the Walter Dean Myers Honor and National Book Award finalist for, "We Are Not Free." Robin Ha is a Korean-American cartoonist based in Washington, DC. She is the author of the graphic novel memoir, "Almost American Girl" and "Cook Korean!" a comic book with recipes.
Robin grew up reading and drawing comics in Seoul, South Korea and moved to the United States at age 14. So I thought that I would just get started by giving you all a warm welcome and reminding you that our symposium theme this year is Listening, Learning, Creating Communities. And I'm excited to dive into what that might mean. I'm going to start off with a question for Kacen. And one of the things I took away from, "King and the Dragonflies" is how different listening is from hearing. At one point, the conversation between Sandy and King goes beyond listening to actual hearing.
how can this difference influence the building of community? It's so interesting that you said that because as you just gave the description of community that's the first thing that pops into my head is the difference between listening to a person's words almost as if you're kind of like waiting with your own response without actually like hearing and actually taking in what they're saying. And when that happens it's kind of like, you know, if you're trying to talk to someone about your experiences as a marginalized person, so I'm trying to explain as a black person, as a trans person, as a person queer person, my life is different from yours, that person a lot of the times, when I'm trying to talk to them, we'll already have kind of like these responses that they have memorized like, "Oh, but..." You know, I don't want to even say them, honestly.
I think we already know what those responses are which is so sad because that's just kind of like the automatic defensive response. So it's kind of like the difference between listening and hearing for me is actually like hearing with your heart and not actually having a response plans, defensively and really just wanting to know empathetically what it is that the other person needs to change so that they can have the right to exist in the same way that we all should. Oh, that's a terrific response. And when I read the book, that's what I thought. That's what it meant to me when I was reading the book, was that I see a difference between listening and hearing, and you really did illustrate that extremely well.
So Daniel, okay if I could move to you for a second, listening and sharing stories is a really at the heart of, "Everything Sad is Untrue." How do the stories we share contribute to building community? Well, thank you for the question. Yeah, so, I mean, I think that's a difficult question because in my head, I was like is there anything else that contributes to really ? And the answer is yes, food. But it's such an important part of it that I sort of had to back out and say, well, storytelling is literally the language we use to define ourselves. The limits of your language are going to be the limits of your horizons for how you perceive the people around you. And we actually use these kinds of words all the time to create sort of a mutual understanding of how we're going to go about being a community.
So I'll give you an example. The first and biggest example anywhere is history, right? Whoever gets to write history gets to define where the majority sort of community is residing. But if you're in a community that doesn't get to write the history, then you have stories.
Then you have an oral tradition where people are passing back and forth, the definitions of what we value. So in my particular example, I don't even know this is true. This is sort of something my dad tells me all the time and a lot of Iranians believe, which is that, you know in the sort of, well, just pre Islamic conquest, so this would be like the 7th century, Iran spoke Farsi. This is the language of Iran. And then of course after the conquest and you know, there's a gigantic number of cultures that it sort of encompassed, you have like the Assyrians and the Syrians speak Arabic and the Egyptians, and they shift to Arabic. But for some reason there is this anomaly where the Persians, the Iranians don't switch, they stay with Farsi and you know it would take a sort of a linguistic historian to tell you why, but if you ask my dad and if you ask most Iranians, they will tell you it's because of one story.
It's because of one book called, the "Shahnameh" which is written this gentleman by the name of Ferdowsi. And he writes it as the history and the mythology and the legends of the Persians. And people will tell you that it was so heartbreakingly beautiful and such a defining story of this culture that even after a conquest, which is by the way, like the religion comes in, that people sort of believe it. It is not something that centuries later, people look at as a deeply negative thing, but nonetheless Farsi stays. So like, why did the language stay? And the perception is it stayed because they had to keep reading Ferdowsi story.
They had to understand it and remain there. And so, you know, so this language that, you know could have been lost to history, wasn't and this culture and community that could have gone a lot of different directions over the course of, you know, 1300 years sort of remains because Ferdowsi was telling us about you know, the Kings like Jamshid. Who's like this ancient King that is revered, and my son is named after. And the why, well, because of this story and I think this is the case with any sort of, you know, communities, you know I'm going all the way back, thousands of years, you don't have to go that far back in American history to find communities that are staying unified by telling each other, the stories of who they were and making sure to keep that because there wasn't going to be recorded by history You know, and the whole idea of what makes up community and people holding on. I love that story about them.
You're going to hold onto a language so you can hold onto a story. And Tracy, in, "We Are Not Free" we also see young people trying to hold onto a sense of community and in a very difficult environment. And you also depict the strain that can come upon a community, even when people have so much in common. Could you speak to that a little bit? Yeah, so, "We Are Not Free" is set in kind of the Japanese-American incarceration camps of World War II. And that happened for a number of reasons, chief among them being institutionalized racism, and, you know more than 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry on the U.S. West Coast were evicted from their homes, sent to temporary detention centers and then later to these kind of more permanent incarceration camps in the American interior.
And on the one hand, yeah, all of these people had like this similar ancestry and they were all together, crammed into these very cramped quarters. And there was, I think, a sense of that identity, but at the same time, this was more than a hundred thousand people. And so there were huge differences, right? In kind of what assets they had at the time of the incarceration, so what they lost.
And also, their education was different, their classes were different. A lot of them were working class, but even within that some of them were very, very, very poor like below the poverty level poor. My family was, you know, working, blue collar working class. And so there was just so much diversity within this community. And with more than a hundred thousand people, there's going to be a lot of different personalities too, and different reactions to this really, really extreme kind of pressure cooker situation. So people took this really differently, right? A lot of people were angry, and that anger also took a lot of different forms, right? Some people kind of internalized that anger or turned it in word towards themselves.
Some people turned that anger towards resistance through the legal system like Fred Korematsu and kind of resisting in that way. And other people turn to violence and other people turn to, I think this very interesting point in 1943, this community had been in the camps for a year at this point, and the U.S. government was like, "Oh hey, by the way we're going to give you this questionnaire. And you can tell us if you're loyal or not." And people were like, "This very late.
We have been here for a year. Why couldn't you have done this sooner?" And then also, there were all of these problems with the questionnaire and how it was worded. And it felt like a trap to a lot of people. And so that also kind of divided this community in these really huge ways into the loyals and the disloyals, and it caused huge tensions within the community. And what I keep coming back to is that, yes people are different and are going to have different reactions, but what creates those cracks or those wedges feels to me to be kind of external pressure or like forces imposed on this community by an institution like the federal government or racism within the federal government.
And so I think that, that these outside forces really, really work even within a community of people who share an ancestry or these were all on the West coast, right. So share this kind of shared community and background as well. And so that gets really, really difficult to kind of cling together through that. Oh, that's such an amazing aspect of this whole experience that we often don't get to see that kind of insight into the interior of what a community is experiencing.
Robin, in, "Almost American Girl," like in some of our other Honorees, a character is leaving a familiar community and for one that is very different with a unique set of demands. What's the biggest challenge for a young person in that setting? I think the biggest thing that I have struggled with in that time period was to be okay with my vulnerability. So I grew up in Korea, so I spoke Korean perfectly and you know, I was doing well in school.
I had a really tight group of friends, so I was all set in my life and I had to leave all that and start from the beginning with nothing, not even a language. So I felt very vulnerable. and I think I was really hard on myself. So when it took really long time, I mean, it wasn't a really long time. It took me about a couple of years to be comfortable with the language enough to make close friendships with people who are not Korean in America. So when it took me, you know, month and month and months to get used to the language and a new culture I think I was very hard on myself to not being able to do that quicker and also to ask for help.
Like that was so difficult for me. Like, I felt something was wrong with me. I should be able to figure this out on my own, and all that was like a compounded the situational stress.
So I think a lot of young people and also adults, I feel like whenever they come across some kind of problem in their lives, they often kind of fault themselves and it's very difficult for them to own that vulnerability and ask for help. So I think that's the biggest challenge. Yeah, I think when I was reading your book that was one of the things that struck me is that young people can feel isolated, you know, as opposed to seeking out help when they find themselves in a situation like that. Kacen, when King finds himself trying to really get a sense of who he is, he has also having to cope with toxic attitudes about, you know anybody who's different or anybody that is not understood. How do we keep from bringing those old toxic attitudes into a new sense of community? You know, I think it's impossible to not have those toxic attitudes because unfortunately, we are in a system that is toxic.
So we are in a system of racism. We are in a system that is patriarchal which has like sexism and anti-queerness. So I think it's important to acknowledge that it's there, and to be able to speak about it and to be able to educate ourselves with that awareness and to be able to say, "Oh, this is sexist. This is anti-queer. This is anti-trans. This is racist. How do we start to break the system down? 'Cause I think it's already there.
Like it's already, unfortunately, a part of our foundation literally through racism and slavery and the genocide of Native American people. So it's impossible to say, like, it's not here, but we have to figure out how to be aware of it in everyday life and how to just kind of like break it apart so that it isn't affecting our lives. And also, kind of like have be able to daydream and believe in a future where we can dismantle it completely so that we can exist without it. Yeah. I really hear you, the idea of how do you undergird
young people so that they aren't crushed by it. What are the tools we can give them, or we can lead them to 'cause ultimately, they have to get them, but what are the tools we can put in their path to keep them from being crushed by those kinds of toxic attitudes? Education, I think continuing to be aware of it and speaking about it and not feeling like... You know that's why I wanted to write, "King and the Dragonflies," like I felt like I had not seen conversations on paper or in media between young people discussing things that King and Sandy talk about where it's like I'm black and queer and you're white and queer, like, does that mean that you have more privilege than me even though you're also queer and you also struggle with abuse and you also struggle with poverty. Like what is white privilege? Like children are having these conversations. I think that we, adults tend to feel like, "Oh, children can't be having these conversations because they won't understand."
But if you're on TikTok like I am, the kids are the conversation, they're already aware. So I think as long as we continue to understand that they need to have the education and they need to continue to have the conversations, we need to give them that space to have those conversations, I think that they will be fine. In terms of like, support that we can give them, I almost feel like that's a different conversation, but in terms of like giving them the tools, I feel like as long as we understand that they are capable of having these conversations and understanding that, they're good. That's a great way to think about it. Daniel, I'm going to read this because I want to get it right.
One of my favorite lines in the book, "Everything Sad is Untrue" is, "Just why we can see the same things, but come to different conclusions about how to heal all our broken hearts." The whole idea of that we can. And it kind of goes back to everything, everyone has been talking about, how we can see the same things, but come to different conclusions about how to heal all our broken hearts. How do we reconcile those different conclusions? And is that a greater challenge today than ever before? Yeah, well, yes . I think it is a greater challenge, but I'm not sure that's a bad thing, and I'll try to make that case.
I really liked the way Kacen just sort of defined, in some ways or how I took it was, disability to daydream as being a pretty good barometer of saying, "Okay, this is where we want to get to." I think that's really beautiful. And so the case I'll make for why it might be better, that it's more difficult for us to come to the same conclusion. And the reason for that is, well it sort of goes back to, I guess to like how you think we should make a just society, right? So like, I guess before, you know in the West anyway, before the French Revolution, you've got this like this way... So the way they would think about the just society would be the way Aristotle's thought about the just society.
This is why we have the Renaissance. Aristotle's idea was a teleological idea. It was a, let's start at the end and say, "Well, a just society is a society that lets everybody have a good life." And we'll start there and we'll work our way backwards. And so here's the, I think where the rub came in for Aristotle was, "All right.
So let's just define the good life and we'll let everybody have it." So then they'd be like, "Okay, well, what is the good life?" Never have we seen this better exemplified than in the 1950s of America, right? They're like, "Well, the good life is, you know you're a dude, you're in a suit. I'm always talking to you 'cause you're a dude. And then you've got a wife, you've got two kids, you've got a white picket fence, you've got a dog." That's the good life, and we have a great society 'cause we are going to give you access to it. And then you start the teleology of saying, well, we define the good life and let everybody go to that has I think been questioned.
And you say, "Well, you know, if we're going to allow for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, I'm sorry, I don't really want a white picket fence or any of that, that what you just defined." And so you do have people who are coming to different conclusions. And I think now we live in a world where we have to make room for those conclusions. And why I love the metaphor of daydream is because it's going to take a lot of searching on the individual's part in order to come to that conclusion and to weigh it.
I'm not saying just 'cause you go, and certainly, if I go and daydream does not mean I'm going to end up in the right spot but I then get to listen to people. I then get to hear and speak and compare and say, "This is what I came up with." And you fundamentally have to weigh what these conclusions are that you have for yourself, and hopefully learn from others. This is why hearing, I think is at least something we're talking about as a value is 'cause that's what they're going to tell you. They're going to tell you what they came up with, they're going to give you wisdom, they're going to share their experience with you, and that will greatly affect your path. So I guess yes, it's far more difficult than everybody picking one brass ring as a society and saying, "What's wrong? I gave you access to the white picket fence."
But I do think that that's a challenge worth taking on. And so here we are. Yeah. And it's almost like we don't have a choice because we come through so many different streams that we have to figure out a way, you know, to make it all work .
Yeah. So if we want to live in a society where everybody gets to have equal standing, absolutely, I think in the past it was, well, we don't really listen to that voice. We just tell you to go forward, yeah. Yeah, and that leads me to my next question for Traci, which is, you know, in American it's part of being of America that we erase things that people don't want to think about. You know, we want to encourage that eraser of tough things, difficult events.
So did you meet any resistance in telling this story? Because it is so tough. Ah, that's tough question. Yeah, and I would say personally, I had so much support from my family and I am so grateful for that and them sharing kind of their stories from the incarceration camps. And that really kind of bolstered me through any resistance that I maybe encountered. I would say too, though that I am lucky enough with the topic of the Japanese American Incarceration Camps that I have a long history of other authors writing about this, authors were actually in the camps. Mine Okubo wrote, "Citizen 13660."
John Okada wrote, "No-No Boy." Yoshko Uchita wrote so many stories that I was reading as a kid, and so I think in their speaking out, they paved the way for me to be able to give my spin on it as a fourth-generation Japanese-American. And also in addition to that, there's again, a long history of kind of advocacy and resistance through the legal system, right? Fred Korematsu is a great example, but then we also have Japanese-American activists lobbying for redress and reparations throughout the 1970s. And we got this commission to study the Japanese- American incarceration in 1980. We got the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. And then reparations checks-in the early '90s.
And I feel like that formal apology from the U.S. government was instrumental, from my perspective, in allowing us to even begin healing, right. A lot of us are still so angry and so kind of torn up maybe about the incarceration and what that did to our families and our community, but the fact that we got this, kind of two-pronged acknowledgement in literature, in storytelling was so important. And then through the legal system was so important.
And so I think that really helps my community to say, "Yeah, we're ready to talk about this. Yeah, we have to talk about this. We cannot let these things happen to others."
And I think seeing some of those things repeat now, like, you know, in ICE detention centers really kind of fuels that fire and gets us out there. And that's something I feel really, really grateful for. Oh, that's great. Robin, did you find special opportunities or challenges in telling your story in a graphic format? Not at all. As prepared for it, right? So whenever I think about any kind of story I always think of it in comics.
So I knew right away how I can convey some of the... I guess it could be more challenging to tell my story in other forms. I can't really imagine it being done in novel or in a movie 'cause I use tools that's very specific for comics to convey, like, you know my difficulty understanding English and like speaking two different languages at the same time you know, all that stuff was kind of like really fun for me to explore as a cartoonist. Yeah, but I would also like to see how it could be translated to another language. I just don't how, like that's... Well, I'm sure someone will figure it out because I think it's a story worth telling across many different languages.
So it would be great. I think there's some things that people experience in a visual way, and I think telling that story of going from place to place is highly visual. So I think that's one of the reasons that contributes to the successful storytelling like you did with that. Thank you so much. All of what you guys are saying so far, it's been tremendously educational for me. I mean, I think I am the only one out of four of us who like, spent like half of my life in another country.
And I moved here and English is my second language. So like past four years, especially past year or two like living through a pandemic in America has like really like opened my eyes to see like, there's still a lot of work to do in this country. And we need to write more stories like this. Totally agree. Kacen, one of the things that struck me also, despite the fact that people were keeping things from each other, there is still a strong sense of community in this book.
There's some things that connect people even when they're not being their total full selves. Was that your thinking in this telling the story, was there were ways that people connected even when they weren't being there true authentic selves? Absolutely . And you know what? I was thinking, sorry to go back to your previous question also. I have ADHD, so my mind tends to like .
That's quite all right. I realized I said. I want you to be your authentic self. I'm being my authentic self. I realized, I said, education kind of vaguely, but I should say like specific tools, like specific books that could be used for dismantling of that sort of, you know Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
worked together on a book for, "How To Be an Anti-Racist" I think for the young readers edition or perhaps it was. And then also, Ibram X. Kendi, I think it was a younger edition with," "Stamps" and hope you've heard the two adult versions, but I feel like those are such amazing places to begin for younger readers. And I hope I got those titles correct, I think I might have mixed one of them up, but anyway, so for your question of this one of like how to be your authentic self and still maintain community. I did go in very specifically, thinking about how for queer people and trans people, especially there's just been a history of expectation that we have to come out to be our true selves. And we have to come out to show our pride in ourselves.
And I've even had like other people say to me, "If you don't come out, then you're not actually proud." And I was thinking of how dangerous that is for young people, because especially for young people, but for everyone, honestly, because there's an implication that if we don't come out, then we're not being our true selves or being liars or being cowards. And if you tell that to a young person who is in a dangerous household, where they might be kicked out and by the way, houseless youth, that 40% is LGBTQ plus youth, that's not a coincidence.
So if you're telling young people, you have to come out to be proud and to be brave, then they come out to a dangerous household, where they're kicked out or where they're abused, or it's a dangerous classmates, I just want it to kind of like pull that conversation into the idea of, yeah, you can be your authentic self without meaning to tell anyone about your identity if you don't feel safe. So I don't think it's a spoiler to say that King, at the end of the book ends up telling people that he feels safe with that's he's queer, but he did tell two people specifically who has shown antique queerness throughout the book. Yeah, that was important for me to say you can be a part of a community if you choose to be, if you want to be, if you feel safe enough to be while keeping certain things, certain aspects about yourself to yourself, it doesn't mean that you have no pride. It just means that the other people around you have not proven themselves to be safe enough for you, to share that part of yourself with. I think that's a really important point is that, the first thing is that we want young people to feel safe. We want them to be able to grow and to be able to recognize that the issue is outside of them, it's not who they are.
Exactly. But people do have power to make them not safe, but we want to keep them safe. And so I thought that was an excellent point in the book as well.
Daniel, is there a special nuance brought to community by folks, by young people who have had experiences other than those in this country? Yes . Well, there's a nuance. I think That's a good question. A special nuance brought by children outside of this country? Yes, in so far as I think their participation in the community highlights a metaphor that I think is really important. And I think this is the hopeful part, right? I think there's a little bit of like, so Persians will tell you a lot in their silences and in the stuff that they'll like, just like ignore that. I'm telling you something.
Often I tell people like, I think this is the American project, right? And I know that not everyone agrees this is the American project, but I'm telling you, I think it's the American project, you know bringing a lot of different cultures together and finding a pluralistic society that makes room for the minority, makes room for everyone. This is just what I've decided and I think, by the way, I'm not the only person who thinks this is the American project, I think some of the better parts of our founding documents, you know, at least begin to think about that, flawed as they are. And so you start to say, okay if this is the American project then how can someone who's from outside the community bring something that we value.
And I think this is important because often the metaphor that gets used by maybe someone who doesn't feel this way is this metaphor of like, well, you know someone who's coming here is really only going to come and be a drain or someone's coming here is going to be you know, like "Why do I have to host these people?" Like, but there's this interesting dynamic that they have in their minds, which is like, "I don't want to host them. You know, this is my space." And I think that's really fascinating Well, because in the culture I come from there's a lot of obligations from a host, right? It's a culture of a hosting. It's a culture of understanding that the guest is actually a sacred sort of person or person that can come and bring quite a lot to the community, and the guest has their own obligations. The guest's job is to come and be a good guest. And like, what does that mean? And so there's a lot of language around the job of someone who's already there and the job of someone who's arrived and how they can come to not only peace, but understanding and mutual appreciation of one another, right? Like that's a metaphor I love, I want to use all the time because it's undeniable that yes, people, you know, as they come to the states, we want to or I want to create a scenario of welcome, right? And create a scenario wherein this is not a asymmetrical giving and getting, it really is, these are people who are bringing something and they're coming with gifts.
And what are those gifts? Well, it's a lot of lived experience. It's a lot of great stories. It's a lot of wisdom.
It's a lot of, you know what I call the immigrant mentality, right? A lot of hustle, they bring a ton of amazing qualities. Is that the reason you should welcome them? No, you have your own obligation. Your job is to welcome them in other ways, but they'll come, there's just this mutual ceremony of giving and getting in an equal measure, of listening and speaking in equal measure, and creating this sort of shared community. That's a really difficult project.
That's a really difficult project when you feel that resources are scarce. It's a difficult project when you start to get this like what I think of as like famine mentality, this idea that like, "Oh my gosh, there's only one of them and there's two of us, who's going to get it?" And you are like, that's not to me, a useful metaphor. I love the metaphor of the host and the guest especially the good hosts and the good guests, right.
So, yeah, I think that a person from outside of the community brings with them that metaphor. Brings with them that opportunity for us to see them that way. And I love that 'cause I love that for our country.
That's the version of the conversation I'd really like to have when it comes to immigrants or people, you know, like myself I came when I was eight But you know, that's such a powerful metaphor for people who've lived here all their lives. Sure, yeah. There all times when, sometimes I'm a host and sometimes I'm a guest, you know, and with anyone I have a relationship with. So I think that that's a powerful gift that folks who come from outside can bring in to remind us that we each play that role in any relationship.
Sometimes I'm the host and sometimes I'm the guest. So I'm going to remember that. That's a great way to put it. Yeah. Traci, how do we actually build community in a place where we have such egregious wrongs and memories like the Japanese internment camps? I was thinking about this question, and it reminds me of how I first found out about the Japanese-American incarceration and the fact that this happened to my family.
They didn't talk about it for a really, really long time for reasons that I think have to do, you know, with shame and wanting to just kind of move past it or leave it behind. But in 1997, I was 12 years old, and my grandpa was awarded an honorary high school diploma from the school that he should have graduated from if he had not been, you know, evicted from his home and then inprisoned for three years in an incarceration camp. And during kind of that time, he was interviewed by the local newspaper and he had one quote in there that I can remember and it stuck with me for decades. And it was, "Where were the bleeding hearts in 1942." And in that quote, I felt his bitterness and his anger and his sense of like this is nice, but it's too late, right. You missed your chance to really advocate for us and be allies to us.
And so I think about that a lot. Oh my gosh, I'm having teary, sorry. So I think about kind of the necessity for inter-community solidarity a lot, because that's what we needed in the 1940s you know, and before, because anti-Asian sentiment in the United States stretches, you know decades before that as well.
And it's happening right now, right? And so I think there is a necessity for people from different communities to hold together, right. To hold fast, and to listen, to really listen, I think to Kacen's point with your heart and say, "What do you need? We are here to help you. We are going to stand with you in the ways that we can and the ways that you want us to." And so I think that that is so vital right now.
I mentioned redress and reparations for Japanese-American victims of the camps and there is a movement going through congress right now, H.R.40, for a commission to study the effects of slavery or enslavement and its legacy on the African-American community. And I think we should support that, right? I think there should be a vocal cry from my community, from the Japanese-American community and many, many others that this is a necessity. We need to stand up and support this. It was so vital for our community. We need to be outspoken advocates for others as well.
Or the ICE detention centers, right. We need to be standing there and saying "This happened to us. We can't let it happen again. We have to close these camps." And so that to me is really, really vital in kind of building a community with similar, and then also kind of other communities as well.
I think that's really, really important. Yeah, I think that the whole idea of folks that coming together, who have had these various experiences and then pulling together, is such a powerful one. I think young people probably get that, but getting them to hold on to that, is going to be, I think a challenge. And Robin, one of the things that your book really shows is how many different communities that young people must navigate in their journey. You know, whether it's the high school community, whether it's the home community, whether it's, you know folks from their own background.
What kind of tools do we need to help young people move comfortably between all of these various communities? I think the key is to cultivate a safe environment for these young people to explore themselves. Because I think a lot of these issues we have because I mean, even within the same community there are so many different people. We only notice the difference, but we don't really notice what we have in common. And I think it comes from because we don't really get to...
Maybe a lot of us didn't have the resources to really know ourselves and know what our vision of happy life is and what we can do as a member of a community. Not only asking, you know, how is this going to serve us, but you know, ask ourselves how we can actually, you know lift people up and create this environment for young people especially to really know themselves and feel safe to you know, really explore what they want in their life and what their strengths are. And I see that happening a lot these days. So I'm really thankful, you know, I'm like forgetting the girl's name, but like she advocates for climate change. She's I think from Sweden or? Oh, Greta.
Greta, like there's so many young people, like, and also... Everybody's name is like completely leaving my brain but there are a lot of, especially young girls who are really out there, like in the forefront, also with like the gun control issue. A lot of these students are really forefront of all this movements. So I am really hopeful for the future. I don't know if I'm going to be allowed to see this changes.
Like maybe it will be like, you know, 1500 years from now. I'm not that optimistic to think that it's going to be like next 10 years or so. and I see that those kids who are like in the forefront of these really big changes, probably got there because they were lucky enough to have the environment you know, when they're growing up whether it was their school or their family or their teachers, to really like cultivated their confidence and educated them to become this leaders. Well, I just can't thank you guys enough for your insight. First of all, for the books themselves, that give us these great opportunities to think about these issues and questions. And I just want to thank you for your time.
I want to congratulate you again for your honors. You have enriched our literature so much by the work that you've done. And I want to thank the Library of Congress for hosting this symposium and to all of the viewers who were able to tune in this afternoon.
We're going to have a short intermission and we encourage everyone to stay for the award ceremony. But once again, I just want to thank everyone for this great opportunity to talk to such wonderful and insightful and gifted authors. And thank you for all that you were able to do for us this afternoon. And I wish you well and I can't wait to read the next books that come up. Thank you. Thank you so much.
We are delighted to have with us, Jason Reynolds two-time Walter Award Winner and the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. Jason, what would a literary beloved community look like to you? How would you draw young people into the community? Thank you so, so much, Deb. First of all, Deb I miss you so much, but thank you so much. I'm so happy to be here and to be a part of the 20 21 symposium on the Diversity in Children's Literature.
And to answer this question, you know what? Do I think or rather what would a literary beloved community look like? Which is such an interesting question, because it would require us to first understand what beloved means, and you know, beloved means dearly love, right? Like that's usually what beloved, that term represents, dearly love. And then it would mean, well, what exactly does love look like, right? Like what does it look like to be dearly loved? Now, there are all these definitions that people use to sort of categorize love and yada, yada, yada, I sort of like Angel Kyodo Williams, was this scholar and a Buddhist sort of priest in certain ways. And one thing that she says is that love should really just be defined a space, right? So if we think about it this way, what would this literary beloved community look like? It would look like the community of space.
Now, what kind of space am I talking about? I'm saying it would mean that young people would have the space to explore literature on their own terms. And that we, would sort of be there as sort of guides to help them figure that out, but not just the space to explore and discover, but also the space to have access to literature. So it can't be a beloved community if the access is limited, right? Just like it can't be a beloved community. If the options for what is readable and what is supposed to be read, are limited.
So it has to be wide open. And if we can figure that out, which means that we have to publish as much as possible in all sorts of different sort of spaces, right? Which means video game, books camp or more graphic novels, or all the different sort of sectors of our humanity, and our identities and all the different sort of slivers of identity, if we do all of that and make the work accessible whether it be giving away books, figuring out more book drives and give giving away books or more obviously, more access to libraries and make sure all libraries are stocked with all the things that are necessary or whatever that might look like, if we can do all of that, then I think we would've created to me, our literary beloved community. And I think it's possible. I think people like you Deb, make it happen all the time or you've been making it happen for three decades. And I hope to be a part of it. So, thank you.
Hi everyone. My name is Sasha Dowdy and I am a Program Specialist in the Young Reader Center. I work on a team that serves kids, teens and families at the Library of Congress. You can visit some of our resources at loc.gov/families. I'm here today to talk about sample Library of Congress collection items that directly connect with the books featured in today's events. As you explore these resources, you can get a glimpse into the depth and variety of our collections.
So we'll start with the Young Readers Category, and the book, "When the Stars Are Scattered" by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Muhammad with color by Iman Getty. This graphic novel is about growing up in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya as told by a former Somali refugee. The library has a large collection of maps from all over the world, including this map, illustrating conflict and refugee movement in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia.
I encourage you to explore this map and find a Daadab, the refugee camp, where Omar and Hassan, the main characters in "Stars Are Scattered" spent the majority of the story, and see what other details you notice. And to see more digitized maps in our collections visit loc.gov/maps. Our next book is, "King and the Dragonflies" by Kaicen Callendar. In a small Louisiana town one boys grief takes them beyond the by use of his backyard to learn that there is no right way to be yourself. Kingston James or King for short, spends most of the story in his hometown, but he visits a Mardi Gras parade in new Orleans later in the novel. This is one of the many photos from our prints and photographs collection that captures Mardi Grass celebrations.
And I personally like that the alligator recalls the perfectly captured by you setting of Callendar's book. If you'd like to find more photography in our collections, go to loc.gov/pictures. And our last book in the Young Reader category is, "Everything Sad Is Untrue." A true story by Daniel Nayeri. This autobiographical novel follows Nayeri from his childhood in Iran to his living as a refugee in Oklahoma.
In the novel, Khosrou whom everyone calls Daniel, embroiders his story with Iran history and legends often storytelling in the tradition of Shaharazad. And this illustration is from an 1889 translation of the 1001 nights picturing Shaharazad and King Shahryar. These tales have been translated many times into many languages and the Library of Congress holds many rare editions. You can read the 1914 version, "The Arabian Nights" in its entirety on read.gov/books. And now I will move on to the Teen Category starting with, "Punching The Air" by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam, illustrated by Omar T. Pasha. This novel and verse is co-written by author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five, about a boy who is wrongfully incarcerated.
Throughout history, there have been many wrongfully imprisoned African-American boys and men. Here is one article from the library's archive of digitized newspapers about the case of Scottsboro Boys. A trial during which nine black boys and teens were wrongfully accused of sexually assaulting two women. Ultimately, all defendants were released, but they had each served an average of 10 years.
To read more historic newspapers and to find more stories, visit chroniclingamerica.loc.gov. Our next book is, "We Are not Free" by Traci Chee. And it's a collective account of a group of young Nisei, second-generation Japanese-Americans whose lives are changed by the mass us incarcerations of World War II. This photograph, also from the libraries prints and photographs division shows people dancing in the recreation hall at the Tule Lake Relocation Center in Newell, California. "We Are Not Free" shows us the struggles and resilience of young Japanese-Americans and that life went on despite everything. This photo is a great illustration of what it might've been like for a teen in Tule Lake.
To see more photos from this time period search for Japanese relocation center in loc.gov/pictures. And our final title is, "Almost American Girl: by Robin Ha. This is a graphic memoir about Ha's challenges as an immigrant from Seoul, Korea.
Ha finds plenty of new challenges in her new life, but everything changes for the better when she enrolls in a comic drawing class. The library has many online exhibit, and I'd like to highlight "Drawn To Purpose American women Illustrators and Cartoonists" particularly check out the new voices, new narrative section where you can find examples of vibrant varied stories told in diverse voices and styles in recent comics and graphic narratives. You can find this and other exhibitions if you visit loc.gov/exhibitions. And that's our final item from the library's collections.
Thank you for joining me today. And I hope you enjoy exploring these items and more on loc.gov. On behalf of We Need Diverse Books, I'd like to thank the authors for their time and to congratulate them once again for their Walter Honor books. Many thanks to the Library of Congress for co-hosting the symposium and to all the viewers who tuned in this afternoon. We'll now have a short break. So feel free to stretch your legs for a bit, but come back soon because the award ceremony will begin shortly with celebrated author, Laurie Halse Anderson as our MC.
Hello. Thanks for joining us for the 2021 Walter Dean Myers Award Ceremony. I Meg Medina, and I'm a member of the Advisory Board of We Need Diverse Books. We Need Diverse Books, it's now in its sixth year of the Walter Awards where we come together to celebrate diverse books by diverse authors and illustrators. Reading as you know is magical, but it's also a powerful tool to fight racism and prejudice.
It can open the doors to empathy and that's one of the reasons that we've committed to making the books widely available and why we established the award in the first place. Every year, we make 4,000 copies of the books available. So far we've given away 12,000 with many more giveaways planned. It's now my honor to introduce the MC for our ceremony who barely needs an introduction because it's Laurie Halse Anderson. Laurie is a "New York Times" best-selling author.
Who's writing spans young readers teens and adults. Combined, her books have sold 8 million copies. Two of her books "Speak" and "Chain" where National Book Award Finalists and "Change" was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. In 2009, Laurie was also selected by the American Library Association for the Margaret A. Edwards Award. She lives in Philadelphia where she enjoys cheese steaks while she writes. And I'm so proud to call her my friend and a friend of the, We Need Diverse Books community.
So please, right now, a round of applause for Laurie. And thank you again for tuning in. Welcome to the 6th Walter Dean Myers Awards for outstanding children's literature.
I'm author Laurie Halse Anderson. And I can't wait to celebrate the 2021 winners and honorees with you. In years past, WNDB has typically held this event at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC which has graciously co-hosted us since 2015, but this year we're going virtual because of COVID. We are excited about the chance that a virtual event gives us to reach a wider audience not only across America, but around the world.
So welcome to all of you. If you're new to these awards, they are named after the American author, Walter Dean Myers whose career spanned over 45 years and who wrote more than 100 books. Walter was not only a celebrated author, but also a lifelong advocate for diversity in the literature for children and teenagers. He was also an incredible man who is sorely missed. Walter's impact as a writer of great books will continue to make the world a better place for generations, but his legacy goes far beyond that. He was a wonderful mentor to new writers in children's literature, including me.
We met in the fall of 1999 when his classic novel "Monster" was nominated for the National Book Award, along with four other titles including my first novel, "Speak." Walter took me under his wing as he did for so many others. He taught me that our first responsibility is to our readers every day, all the time. Equally significant was Walter's steadfast commitment to making books for children and teenagers, the first body of literature to honor and celebrate the lives of readers in every single community and to all lived experiences.
His example, his essays and his memory have helped shaped our world today, so that we're finally beginning to make overdue progress in matters of diversity and representation. Here's some more about the life of Walter Dean Myers Writer, teacher, advocate, literary giant. Walter Dean Myers embodied these roles and much more. His enduring legacy lives on in dozens of award-winning books that demonstrate his dedication to children everywhere by helping them discover the power of reading. Throughout his long life, Myers won many career-defining awards, including the Newbury Honor and the Coretta Scott King Award.
He received the first ever Michael L. Prince Award for Young Adult Literature in 2000 for his groundbreaking novel "Monster." A book that illuminated the plight of young black men in contemporary America. From 2012 to 2013, Meyer served as the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature and honor bestowed by the Library of Congress, the Children's Book Council and Every Child a Reader. On March 15th, 2014, Myers wrote his final piece, a "New York Times" essay entitled, "Where Are the People of Color in Children's Books" which helped launch the, We Need Diverse Books Movement. Upon his death on July 1st, 2014, the world lost one of the greatest voices in children's literature.
And one of the strongest advocates for inclusive representation in books, but Meyer's legacy lives on. In 2016, WNDB presented the inaugural Walter Dean Myers Award for Outstanding Children's Literature affectionately dubbed, The Walter to honor the memory of its namesake and to celebrate diverse children's books. Each year, a panel of judges selects the winners and honorees in two categories, teen and younger readers to showcase the best in children's publishing. Past winners include John Lewis and Elizabeth Acevedo. The Current National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, Jason Reynolds is a two-time recipient and was mentored by Walter Dean Myers. Since the Walter Award's inception.
WNDB has also distributed the winning books to schools and libraries nationwide. As of 2020, we have donated over 12,000 copies of our winning titles and have more giveaways planned. Along with our co-host, the Library of Congress, please join us in congratulating this year's winners and honorees. We are grateful to the Myers family for giving us permission to name our award program after their beloved husband and father.
We also extend our deepest thanks to the Library of Congress staff who helped us organize The Walters year after year. And we wouldn't be here at all if it wasn't for our valiant co-directors, Kathie Weinberg and Terry Hong, as well as our interpret judging committee who tirelessly reviewed over 300 books during a pandemic no less to select the 2021 winners and honorees. Please give a round of applause and some appreciation in your heart to our judges which include Morika Tsujimura, Committee chair, science and math teacher at the Grace Church School in New York city.
Cathy Berner, Events Coordinator and children's, YA specialist at Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, Texas. Lindsay Hall, Lower School Librarian at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC. Alicia Long, Access Services Supervisor and Librarian at the State College of Florida in Bradenton, Florida. Gregory Lum, Library Director at the Jesuit High School in Portland, Oregon.
J. Joseph Prince, Curriculum and Outreach Educator at Bowling Green State University's Jerome Library in Bowling Green, Ohio. And Hadeal Salamah, the Lower Middle School Librarian at the Georgetown Day School.
And now we would love to recognize the 2021 Honorees in the Younger Reader Category. Kacen Callendar, "King and the Dragonflies." And Daniel Nayeri for "Everything Sad Is Untrue" A True Story. Congratulations to both Kacen and Daniel. And in case you missed it earlier, please check them out on our earlier symposium.
And now I'm so excited and honored to introduce the winners of the 2021 Walter Award for Young Leaders, Victoria Jamieson, and Omar Mohammed, for their astounding, wonderful middle-grade book, "When stars are scattered." Victoria Jamieson grew up in Havertown, Pennsylvania where she wrote and illustrated her first book in the third grade. After receiving her BFA in illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design, she worked as a Children's Book Designer before becoming a freelance illustrator. Along with coauthoring, "When Stars Are Scattered" she is also the creator of the graphic novels, "All's Faire in Middle School" and "Roller Girl." She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and son. Omar Mohammed spent his childhood at the Dadaab Refugee Camp after his father was killed and he was separated from his mother in Somalia.
He devoted everything to taking care of his younger brother Hassan and to pursuing his education. Omar now lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania with his wife and five children, and works at a center to help resettle other refugees. He is the Founder of Refugee Strong, a non-profit organization that empowers students living in refugee camps. Many thanks to both of them for bringing this important book into our world, and congratulations.
Hello, my name is Victoria Jamieson and I'm honored to be here today with my co-author Omar Muhammad, to accept the 2021 Walter Award for Younger Readers for our book, "When Stars Are Scattered." Working on this book with Omar has been a tremendous gift to me, personally and professionally, that this was not my story to tell, but Omar really welcomed me into his life and his story with honesty and openness and humor. And it's a gift I'll always be grateful for. So thank you for that trust, Omar.
I'm grateful to have our book honored by the Walter Committee amongst so many other beautiful and important diverse books published this year. It's a tremendous honor. So thank you for that. I would like to thank our publishing team at Dial Books for young readers, especially our editor, Kate Harrison and our colorist Iman Getty who supplied the beautiful colors for our book. And above all else, thank you to Omar for sharing your story with me and sharing your story with the rest of the world. And above all else, this book is Omar's story.
So without further ado, I will pass the speech over to my co-author, Omar Muhammad. Thank you so much, Victoria Jamieson, it was an honor working with you about, "when Stars Are Scattered" my book. As you all know, the book is certainly based on my personal story, me and my younger brother. So I would like also to thank the Walter Award Committee for recognizing our work and also our book. I also like to thank all those who are involved making this this possible because I always wanted to write, to share my story not for me, but those who can share their voice.
I always want it to be a voice for the voiceless. And this is a dream come to me, but not also to me, but also those who are around the world seeking refuge, those refugees who are around the world. So I would like to thank each and everybody who had made this possible.
I also would like to thank our publishers and our wonderful characters, my friends like Jerry, Tur Sellen, also my adopted mom, Fatuma, my brother himself, Hassan who make it this all possible. It was a teamwork and it really worked very, very well. So thank you again, the Walter Award Committee for also given us this award. Thank you very much. Next I'd like to acknowledge the 2021 Honorees in the Teen Category.
Traci Chee for "We Are Not Free." And Robin Ha for "Almost American Girl." Both of these books kept me up reading one night, way too late and I don't regret a second of it. I highly recommend them. Congrats to Traci and to Robin. I'm now proud to introduce you to the winners of the 2021 Walter Award in the Young Adult Category.
Dram roll, please. Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam for their incredible, powerful, timely and vital book, "Punching The Air." Ibi Zoboi was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of the Fine Arts.
Alongside "Punching The Air" her work includes YA novels like "America Street" which I loved and "Pride" as well as the middle grade book, "My Life as an Ice-Cream Sandwich." Raised in New York city, Ibi now lives in New Jersey with her husband and their three children. Dr. Yusef Salaam was just 15 years old
when he was wrongly convicted with four other boys in the case known as the Central Park Jogger Case. In 2002, after the young men had spent years behind bars, their sentences were finally overturned. Yusef is now a poet, activist and inspirational speaker.
He is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from President Barack Obama among other honors. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife Synovia and their children. Congratulations to both Dr. Salaam and Ibi Zoboi
for bringing this book into the lives of all readers. Thank you. Hey, Yusef Hey, Ibi. How's everything going? Good to see you. Good to see you too. We just saw each other last night and this has been quite a journey.
Yes So we are here at the Walter Award Ceremony and we are the winner, "Punching The Air" won the Walter Dean Myers Award from We Need Diverse Books. And we are so grateful for many reasons. This has been quite a journey. Yes, indeed. So we are grateful. I'm going to start by thanking some people who were incredibly helpful along this journey.
And you know, we're going to wing it, this is so informal. We're not reading a speech or anything like that. We're so used to just conversing with each other and it's been such a wonderful, wonderful very smooth journey.
Wouldn't you say? Absolutely. This is actually, pretty powerful. I mean, we showed up right on time. And I mean, when you look at what's going on in the world today, our gifts, our purpose has been revealed in such a powerful way that we're literally on the cusp of changing the world in a really, really great way. Everybody's vibrations are being risen higher and higher and higher.
And man, it's just tremendous. So first of all, I want to personally thank, "We Need Diverse Books and the Walter Awards Committee for this tremendous honor. I want to thank you, Yusef for allowing me to share this journey with you.
I never got a chance to say this, but I will take this opportunity to say this directly to you Yusef, I did not want to collaborate with you simply because you are a member of The Exonerated Five or just because you experienced this terrible, terrible you know, injustice. I decided to collaborate with you because one of the first conversations we had not when we met in college in 1999, but when we reunited at the Vegas Valley Book Festival. Yes, yes. And one of the conversations we had was around the stuff that we learned in our college classroom.
So we both attended Hunter College. And I'm now realizing that we were in Professor Marimba Ani's class looking for the same thing. For the audience, Marimba Ani was our professor. And this is where I met Yusef Salaam.
She is formerly, Dona Richards of the Studen