From Hashtag to Movement to Book: #WeNeedDiverseBooks Publishes First Anthology

Ten writers and an editor were involved in the creation of "Flying Lessons & Other Stories," including Kwame Alexander, Grace Lin, and Matt de la Pe?a.
Ten writers and an editor were involved in the creation of "Flying Lessons & Other Stories," including Kwame Alexander, Grace Lin, and Matt de la Pe?a.Courtesy of Ellen Oh

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By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

What started as a hashtag response to an all-white, all-male panel of children's book authors at a 2014 BookCon reader event has resulted in a newly-published book aiming to promote diversity in children's literature.

Since 2014, the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks has grown into the We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) nonprofit organization supporting diversity in children’s literature with special events, panel discussions, writing contests, grant awards, mentorships, resources for teachers and librarians, and now, its first book — “Flying Lessons & Other Stories,” a middle-grade anthology for children ages 8 to 12 released this week by Crown Books for Young Readers.

“My first book was published in 1999, so I have been talking about diversity in children's' books for at least 18 years,” Grace Lin, award-winning author and illustrator of "Where the Mountain Meets the Moon" and “When the Sea Turned to Silver,” who is featured in the collection, told NBC News. “For a while, I kind of stopped talking about it because it felt like I was speaking into the wind — no one new was listening and everything stayed the same. But then WNDB came along, and for the first time ever I am starting to see real changes.”

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“The importance of this anthology is twofold — it's diverse voices finally being heard and, by supporting WNDB organization, it's the promise of them being listened to,” continued Lin.

The anthology features award-winning authors Kwame Alexander, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Peña, Tim Federle, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Tim Tingle, and Jacqueline Woodson. Stories range from basketball dreams to family fiascos, first crushes, new neighborhoods, and more. It also includes a story by first-time author Kelly J. Baptist, who won the WNDB short-story contest, and a story by the late children’s author Walter Dean Myers.

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“This anthology has been one of the most meaningful experiences of my career,” said author and WNDB president Ellen Oh, who edited the anthology, in a statement. “It is a dream come true to work with these amazing authors, and I know that these stories are going to resonate with so many readers.”

The next WNDB anthology, “Lift Off,” is scheduled to be released in the summer of 2018 and will be edited by author Lamar Giles.

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