It’s been a while since I wrote anything in this space, so let me catch you up real quick. I work in a library – a small public library in Missouri – and from December through February I’m in charge of our displays. This month, I set up a display themed around reading diversely.
February is Black History Month, and where I work the entire staff is white women. Most of what comes across the circulation desk is written by straight, white, cisgender men, and I’d like to see some more diversity. Which is not, of course, to say that straight white cisgender men don’t write great books, plenty do. But plenty of other people do too.
Even though this is Black History Month, I chose to do a general diversity theme because I am almost certain that when my quarter of the year on displays ends there won’t be another similar display. I’m only on displays from December-February.
So I scoured our catalog (twice actually – lost the first list) and cross-referenced it with a bunch of lists of popular authors from different racial and ethnic backgrounds until I had eight shelves worth of fiction, poetry, and children’s books to display. Eight shelves worth is a ton of books, but there were a few sticking points.
While I was able to find a bunch of authors, I also found that we most often only owned one of an author’s books. At least, that held true for authors of color. I couldn’t count on both hands the number of Clive Cussler or Gilbert Morris books we have on the shelves. On top of that I had a really hard time identifying Native Hawaiian, Indigenous Australian, or Polynesian authors. If you know of any, please, leave a comment. Though we had quite a few children’s books by Native American authors, adult books by Native authors mostly eluded me.
Ultimately, the diversity display, and the call for diversity in literature in general, isn’t about me. It’s about the little girl who opens up Corduroy and sees a girl who looks like her, or the teenage boy who’s finally drawn to reading when he sees a name like his own on the front cover. It’s about showcasing the stories of people who don’t experience the world in the same way that I do. As a white person with white privilege, it is my duty to use that privilege to elevate the voices of people who do not.
I used GoodReads lists to find popular authors of different backgrounds. Native American | African American | Latinx | Asian American | Polynesian
If you know of any Native Hawaiian, Polynesian, or Indigenous Australian authors, please, leave me a comment so I can add their books.