"…A Place For People Like Us”

Bijal Vachharajani sent us an email with a link to this beautiful speech by author Matt de la Peña. He talks about readers, diversity in children’s books, the loneliness of writing and more.
Via The Horn Book

Back then I never would’ve described myself as a reader, but Mrs. Frank knew better. And the truth is, I wasn’t reading those magazines for stats or standings, I was reading to find out what certain players had to overcome to get where they were. I was in it for the narrative. And what I found in some of the better articles wasn’t that inferior to what I would later discover when I readWar and Peace for real.
Over the past ten years I’ve visited hundreds of schools and met tens of thousands of young people. And so many of them are just like that old version of me. Self-defined nonreaders who spend all day reading the world. My mission as an author is to help a few of them translate those skills to the written word. It didn’t happen for me until college, when I was introduced to books like The Color Purple, Their Eyes Were Watching God, One Hundred Years of Solitude, and Junot Díaz’s Drown. When I finally fell for literature, I fell hard.
But what if I can nudge a few of these kids toward the magic of books at a younger age? What if I can write a story that offers that tough, hoodied kid in the back of the auditorium a secret place to feel?
“I had never known, never even imagined for a heartbeat, that there might be a place for people like us.”
* * *
Unfortunately, we don’t always get that far. Sometimes we have to back up and address something much more basic and urgent. “Hey, mister,” I’ve heard time and time again, always from kids at the poorer schools. “Why would you come here?”
The subtext is obvious.
This school is not worthy of your time.
We are not worthy of your time.

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