In 1944, 982 refugees from 18 European countries were brought to the United States as guests of President Franklin Roosevelt. FDR agreed to admit this small token group in lieu of a much larger plan to create many safe havens all over the country and bring in possibly hundreds of thousands of refugees. The camp was Fort Ontario Army Camp in Oswego, NY. Through interviews with former refugees and archival footage, Safe Haven, tells the story of America’s only refugee shelter for Holocaust victims. Robert Clary, a former refugee, hosts.
In October of 1998, Matthew Shepard was beaten, tortured, and left to die. Twenty years later his legacy is remembered in a unique production that uses music, poetry and interviews and to explore a pivotal time in our history. When a hate crime is committed, what does it mean to be a victim, a parent, a community member, a perpetrator? How do we learn to be compassionate and find hope in hopeless situations? As a response to this hate crime, Matthew’s story is placed into the context of a passion story presented as a three-part oratorio, bringing new depth to a harrowing story of loss and highlighting the role of art and how we react to tragedy. At the heart of this production is the renowned composer Craig Hella Johnson and the Grammy Award-winning choral group Conspirare. We follow the creative process as their art is used to explore how music can be a healing force and lift up voices that are rarely heard.
June 1st marked the start of Pride month, and a central theme around the NYLA-SSL conference fit the bill perfectly: “How can we represent a diversity of people in our school library collections?” Students come in all shapes, colors, sizes, sexes, genders, religions, ideals, backgrounds, thoughts, emotions, you-name-its. In 1990 Dr. Rudine Simms Bishop coined the phrase “Windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors” to refer to how children need to not only see themselves in books, but also learn about people who may be different than them. Developing a diverse collection that speaks to students in this way is an important part of our work.
Keynote speakers Dhonielle Clayton, author and COO of We Need Diverse Books; Newbery award winning author Matt de la Peña, and Knickerbocker award winning fantasy author Tamora Pierce, all spoke to this theme in their keynote speeches.
Out of all of them, Dhonielle Clayton gave us the most practical knowledge. She gives 5 main pieces of advice for diversifying your collection:
Don’t rely only on big review outlets. Read the titles that they don’t highlight, and decide for yourself if the books are worth buying.
Read widely. Read everything. Not just the titles that are pushed out to you.
Seek balance! In displays don’t highlight just one story (and she didn’t mention this, but if you’ve never seen it, check out this amazing Ted talk “The danger of a single story” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie).
To help us in our selection process, We Need Diverse Books has developed an app called OurStory (www.diversebooks.org/our-programs/ourstory). The app lists “diverse” books that have been reviewed and tagged by librarians.
Finally, Dhonielle stressed one of the most important point in this discussion: when highlighting diverse books, don’t highlight them for their diversity. Putting together a collection of books to highlight diversity, only segregates them further. Focus on their themes and storylines. For example, at Valentines Day when you’re putting together a display of books on love, just make sure you include books about all kinds of love. If highlighting fantasy books, display books by all kinds of authors with all kinds of characters.
We Need Diverse Books will be brought to the Rochester area on September 24th (1pm-4pm) by RRLC and if you haven’t already registered, please do so. This event is filling up quickly.