Well, this puts most adults to shame. While we’ve been sitting here bemoaning the whitewashed state of the publishing industry, an 11-year-old girl has got up and done something about it: launching the #1000BlackGirlBooks book drive. New Jersey tween Marley Dias was getting pretty fed up of English class, telling her mom she was sick of reading about nothing but “white boys and dogs.” It’s a complaint we’ve heard over and over, and it’s a very real problem; how are we supposed to change our culture when it’s taken for granted that POCs are only ever background characters in the main narrative? But unlike the majority of us, when Marley’s mom asked her, “What are you going to do about it?”, Marley had a pretty good answer:
I told her I was going to start a book drive, and a specific book drive, where black girls are the main characters and not background characters or minor characters.
Marley has an impressive history for social action. Let’s just remember that she’s barely been alive more than one decade — and then look at the fact she’s already volunteered in a Ghanaian orphanage and won a Disney Friends for Change grant. This is no ordinary 11-year-old. And her latest project is every bit as inspiring.
Marley’s aim is to collect 1,000 books with black girls as the main characters, and donate them to the Retreat Primary and Junior School and Library in St. Mary, Jamaica, where her mother was raised. So far, she’s halfway to her goal. If you want to help her out, you can send books or donations here:
GrassROOTS Community Foundation59 Main Street, Suite 323, West Orange, NJ 07052
Not only will this project be fantastically beneficial for the low-resources school and library, it’s also a great way of inspiring conversation around those books that do include characters of color (only a miserable 11 per cent of children’s books). Using the hashtag #1000BlackGirlBooks, Marley is encouraging people to share their favorite books on social media; recommendations so far have included The Hills of the Black Cockatoo, Five Birds on a Wire, and Plum Fantastic. Let’s keep this conversation going until white boys and dogs stop dominating our classrooms (not that Shiloh isn’t lovely, of course) — and until every young girl has 1,000 Black Girl Books to choose from.
Image: Jessica Lia/Stocksy