Books are either windows or mirrors.
Characters in a book either reflect a reader’s life and personality, or they offer a window into a different mindset and experience. In fact, I would argue that all books are both, because no book is populated entirely by identical characters. Characters represent the reader to a certain extent and help the reader explore what isn’t the same.
Because readers literally share in the feelings of the point of view character, books are powerful tools for developing empathy in readers—a quality we desperately need more of in the world. However, two things need to happen for books to change the world.
First, books have to represent many different viewpoints. The best representation comes from authors who are writing about their own experiences—whether literally, in contemporary stories, or through the metaphor of speculative fiction. Obviously, since we don’t want books with entirely identical characters, every author also writes about people who differ from themselves in some way, but there’s no replacement for the authenticity of personal experience. All readers deserve to find books that reflect their lives.
Second, readers need access to those books after they get published. They need to be on shelves in stores, libraries, classrooms, book fairs. As an author who writes for teens, I care especially about books for kids. Books have to be easy for the kids who need mirrors to find them, and for kids to stumble upon them as windows. Of course not every book is for every reader—the point is to have them available.
In other words…
We Need Diverse Books is a charity that focuses on both those important steps. It supports authors from historically marginalized groups with grants, training, mentorships, and more. These authors face challenges getting traditionally published—that is, by the publishers that have the biggest presence in schools, libraries, and bookstores—or marketing their books from small, niche, or independent presses. WNDB also provides resources for authors and the public to combat book bans.
For the last few years, I’ve been taking part in The Mighty Pens, a fundraiser that coincides with Nanowrimo. This year, we’re raising money for WNDB. If you donate through my page, you can help me win some cool author-related prizes, but more importantly, you’re helping to fill the world with stories of all kinds, for all people. And that’s love.