That I might pursue writing never occurred to me until I was 16. I read How the García Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez and was amazed, absolutely amazed, that someone had made a career out of writing about my culture.
García Girls was a revelation. It was my first time recognizing myself in the pages of the books that I so enjoyed.
You could say that I 'found my accent' as the García girls were losing theirs. I never realized anything was missing in the books I read until I found it in Alvarez's books – my dialect, my country, my culture, myself – and it was transformative. It turns out that my culture, too, was worthy of memorialization.
The late Walter Dean Meyers sums up this experience perfectly when he said, in reference to his experience reading James Baldwin for the first time, "By humanizing the people who were like me, Baldwin's story also humanized me. The story gave me a permission that I didn't know I needed, the permission to write about my own landscape, my own map."
The numbers are startling and disappointing. Less than 10% of children's books published in 2012 were about people of color and the numbers have not improved since then.
For these reasons and more, "We Need Diverse Books", first a hashtag and now a full-fledged movement and non-profit organization, is long overdue and necessary.
Diverse books should be more than just a novelty item.
And kids shouldn't have to wait as long as I did to read a book about themselves. Sometimes we need books to be more than just windows, we need them to be mirrors, too.