This library of more than 1500 books has been developed to serve as a collection of books celebrating racial and ethnic diversity. There are two main criteria: (1) the main character(s) of the book must be a person of color and (2) the story, while it might include themes of identity, is not primarily driven by issues surrounding race and ethnicity. The original intent of this database, when I started keeping it back in 2009, was to help parents, teachers, librarians, and readers find books featuring kids of color as the main characters, as the point-of-view heroes of stories, rather than serving as token sidekicks or as figures who somehow lived only in the past. My African-American friends were particularly tired of their kids only seeing themselves in books about slavery and Civil Rights struggles, often portrayed as victims rather than protagonists. My Asian-American friends were frustrated by their invisibility in children's books, period. As a former teacher and librarian, and as a bookseller serving ALL of the children in my community, I was desperate to find books that reflected the beautiful diversity of our nation's communities.
The wheels of publishing have at very long last begun to squeak and roll toward inclusion, and while representation is still vastly lopsided, it isn't quite as hard to find mainstream books featuring main characters of color. Given the prominence of discussions about race and identity in our culture, and the importance of celebrating and acknowledging those struggles and triumphs, it now feels as though the original purpose and need for this database is shifting. Now that there are so many more #OwnVoices books beginning to be available to young readers everywhere, it feels like time to relax the stricture requiring books in this database to NOT be driven by issues surrounding race. We needed that criterion in the beginning, because it was so hard to find a range of experiences beyond the publishers' limited definitions of stories featuring main characters of color. But this is no longer the case. The original criteria would exclude so many AMAZING books from the database, and I have a hard time tolerating this exclusion. So I am considering different ways of handling this, from opening it up to all books featuring main characters of color regardless of storyline, to creating an #OwnVoices database inclusive of all stories by and about people of color that are published for children and teens. I'm open to feedback about this update to the database.
With the exception of a few resource books, all titles in this collection are in print and available from independent bookstores and from publishers. I add to this database constantly and am always delighted to hear from readers about books that belong here and haven't yet been added. This is a labor of love, and is welcome to be freely shared with readers everywhere.