Children’s writer Nadia Hohn attended a recent conference and felt a sense of disappointment. “I learned a lot but I realized that I was, once again, one of few children’s book authors of colour in attendance and no presenters of colour,” she says. “I love my Canadian #kidlit colleagues. I do. I have learned lots over the 8 years since I began attending children’s and multi-genre literature workshops, classes, conferences, critique groups, and meetings, but I am often the only person of colour in the audience, if one of few. I also wondered, am I the only one seeing this issue? The only one bothered by the lack of diversity?”
According to statistics from the University of Wisconsin’s Cooperative Children’s Book Center in 2016, less than 6% of books were by written by people of colour. As low as these stats were, how did the numbers compare in 2017? And how do we compare in Canada? As small as these American statistics may seem, the numbers in Canada are much more concerning and I feel like it cannot only be attributed to our smaller population.
“As a Canadian children’s book author who is often the only person of colour in the room and a teacher who has difficulty finding books that reflect the children I teach, I feel that it’s time we have discussions about this disparity.”
Join summer 2019 writer-in-residence Nadia Hohn and panelists Raymond Nakamura, Mahtab Narsimhan, and Robin Stevenson for a lively discussion on diversity in Canadian children’s literature. This public event will be held Thursday, July 25, 7:30 to 9:00pm, at Historic Joy Kogawa House, 1450 West 64th Avenue, Vancouver. Tickets are $5 on Eventbrite. Presented in partnership with Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Canada West.
Nadia Hohn is a dynamic “story lady” and author of award-winning picture books as well as an early reader about Harriet Tubman: Freedom Fighter. Nadia was one of six Black Canadian Writers to Watch in 2018 and the first SCBWI Canada East Rising Kite Diversity Scholarship recipient in 2018.
Raymond Nakamura is an educational consultant and avid science blogger who explored his Japanese heritage while spending time at a marine station and teaching ESL in Southern Japan. Raymond’s own spunky daughter inspired the character of Momoko in Peach Girl, his first book.
Mahtab Narsimhan was born in Mumbai and emigrated to Canada in 1997. After several attempts, her first middle grade novel The Third Eye was published in 2007 and won the Silver Birch Fiction Award. She is now the author of seven middle-grade novels.
Robin Stevenson is the author of 25 books, including the Stonewall Honor book Pride: Celebrating Diversity and Community. Her 2019 books include a board book (Pride Colors), a picture book (Ghost’s Journey: A Refugee Story), middle grade non-fiction (Kid Activists), and teen non-fiction (My Body My Choice: The Fight for Abortion Rights). She regularly speaks in schools about LGBTQ+ history, identities and rights, and is a 2019 YA mentor for We Need Diverse Books.