BookCon is a readers' convention organized by Book Expo America for this month in New York. When BookCon organizers announced an all-star line up of children's writers-- including Jeff Kinney, James Patterson, Rick Riordan and Lemony Snicket -- they inadvertently provoked an uproar. All 30 writers (and the one cat invited) were white.
"There are more cats than people of color scheduled" for BookCon, Jeff O'Neal, the founder of the website BookRiot, wrote soon afterward.
In response, a group of 22 authors, publishers and bloggers launched a We Need Diverse Books campaign. "Now is the time to raise our voices into a roar that can't be ignored," the group's manifesto declares. "We need to spread the word far and wide… So that the organizers of BEA and every big conference and festival out there gets the message that diversity is important to everyone."
The campaign launched on Thursday and in less than 24 hours had already gone viral, Publishers Weekly reports.
"Even before the official launch time, the hashtag, #WeNeedDiverseBooks, had gone 'viral,' with 27,796 Tweets from 8,988 contributors recorded at 10:45 a.m." Publisher's Weekly wrote. "By 5:00 p.m., there were 46,672 tweets from 13,459 unique contributors, with 82,272,930 timeline deliveries…"
On Friday morning, there were hundreds of new tweets being added each hour.
"It's kind of lit a spark in people," the YA author Ellen Oh told Publishers Weekly. "All of these voices are coming together."
The author Jodi Picoult wrote "#WeNeedDiverseBooks because fiction reflects the world, and thankfully, wonderfully! -- the world is not monochromatic or uniform."
Hundreds of supporters on Twitter and Tumblr answered the campaign's call to post pictures in support of literary diversity in children's literature. The Oakland Public Library posted a group picture of its students holding a sign with the WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag.
In New York, the children's art center Hannah's Studio posted a photograph of a collection of children's books featuring African Americans on their covers. And the children's author Miranda Paul tweeted a sign that proclaimed: "Kids might not judge a book by its cover, but they will judge themselves by a book's cover."