Thursday morning I had the absolute pleasure of sharing breakfast with a room full of librarians and listening to four stellar authors speak about their books. I tweeted that it was the author panel of my dreams: Dhonielle Clayton, Alex Gino, Rex Ogle, and Traci Sorrell.
Librarian-turned-author Dhonielle Clayton spoke about how the kids she taught in her school library thought they hated to read because they never saw themselves in books. Her new middle grade novel is set at a magic school and makes space for all the kids who are pushed to the margins in other fantasy books. It asks the question “How do we decide to get along when we’re so different?”
Alex Gino talked a bit about the upcoming re-release of their book Melissa, which is being reprinted with the character’s real name as the title. Several folks from the audience shared about how Melissa had impacted their families in positive ways. They shared a story from a cisgender young reader who wanted to pretend his stuffed bunny was trans after reading the book with his family. Queer representation in books does not make kids queer. But it teaches them it’s okay to be who they are and how to support their queer friends. Their new book is about two nonbinary kids learning about queer history. It’s peppered with all kinds of queer characters because – it’s true – we’re everywhere!
Rex Ogle spoke about his treasured memories of watching monster movies with his father. He’s always wanted to write supernatural stories and got his start in comics. Although he loved speculative fiction growing up, he never saw himself or his friends represented in the stories they loved. His new book aims to help that gap and features diverse kids like himself and his friends from middle school facing monsters that kids can see, but adults can’t.
And Traci Sorrell talked about her son being her inspiration to write informational books about indigenous people. She realized that the stuff her son was learning in school about Native Americans was the exact same stuff she was taught. Nowhere did anyone mention anything about Native lives today. She knew she couldn’t change the entire curriculum, but she could help by creating better books for teachers and librarians.
It was a wonderful breakfast with a super group of authors. I loved hearing about their books in their own words and getting a glimpse “behind the curtain”. I am so grateful that there are so many more diverse and inclusive stories being published now than there were 10 years ago.