Authors Kacen Callender, Kyle Lukoff, and author-illustrator Christian Robinson kicked off the afternoon with a conversation about LGBTQIA #OwnVoices stories with moderator Ellie Krug.
The panelists discussed how they approach the concept of “mattering” in their work. Lukoff said he doesn’t often outwardly state that, “we matter… because I know we do.” He starts with the assumption that these characters matter, that they know that they matter, and he tells their stories. Callender expressed how they received emotional wounds as a kid, how they still trying to heal; that’s one reason they write for children who are experiencing these, too. Robinson discussed his book “You Matter.” He said that book came out of a question, “what did I most want to tell children? … you matter because you are here, because you exist,” not because of anything a child does.
The panelists also offered advice for librarians to help and protect LGBTQIA kids. They gave several ideas, and Lukoff also noted that many librarians in the chat were saying the same things they wanted librarians to do. Treating any kid with respect, making sure safe spaces exist, and that LGBTQIA materials are both available and visible were key points. Librarians can also continue to help fight banning and censoring books that kids need. Both writing and providing access to these books can be considered activism.
Lukoff mentioned he doesn’t always feel “real,” but, “seeing something as narrative makes it real.” Authenticity is a “big lesson” for Robinson, and he said that “kids see the world really as it is… it’s not all rainbows and sunshine,” and children’s books need to be honest and present these stories. Callender said they are trying to tell stories that represent kids who may not get to see themselves in literature; “it can be healing in this extremely toxic and sometimes hateful world.”
They closed out by recommending some of their fave LGBTQIA books for both kids and adults, and talking about people who were positive forces in their lives. Robinson reminded us “how important it is to trust your own voice.” Such an inspiring panel. I left this one with my heart full.