If you've been putting off donating to the We Need Diverse Books IndieGoGo campaign, now is the best chance to show your support. After the backlash against National Book Awards host Daniel Handler, the author has apologized publicly and has pledged to match any contributions to the #SupportWNDB campaign up to $100,000. That's putting your money where your mouth is.
During the awards ceremony after Jacqueline Woodson took home the 2014 National Book Award for Young People's Literature for her verse novel Brown Girl Dreaming, centering on her experience growing up African American in the 1960s, Handler cracked a racist "joke" about how Woodson, a black woman, is allergic to watermelon.
Jackie Woodson is allergic to watermelon. Just let that sink in your mind. And I said, you have to put that in a book. She said, YOU put it in a book. And I said, I’m only writing a book about a black girl that’s allergic to watermelon if I get a blurb from you, Cornell West, Toni Morrison and Barack Obama saying “This guy’s okay, this guy’s fine."
People rightfully lashed out at Handler for his racist remarks that many felt overshadowed Woodson's remarkable accomplishments. He apologized via Twitter the next day:
Many people, myself included, felt his remarks showed an undercurrent of issues in the publishing industry, where still, voices from all different walks of life and perspectives are overshadowed and underrepresented. So Friday, Hander took his apologies a step further, aiming to help give rise to these underrepresented voices, like Woodson's:
The We Need Diverse Books organization is committed to increasing the availability of diverse, non-majority narratives in children's literature. Just like Brown Girl Dreaming. The diversity should be on all levels of the publishing industry, from the content of the books, to the authors behind the story, to the faces in the publishing houses themselves. By contributing to the IndieGoGo campaign, supporters are helping a variety of missions — bringing diverse authors into classrooms, financing grants for diverse authors, hosting diversity festivals in children's literature, developing educational kits, and so much more.
It couldn't be more of a win-win situation. If you donate to the We Need Diverse Books IndieGoGo campaign, you can receive all sorts of book swag, from T-shirts and totes, to dinners with authors, manuscript critiques for writers, note cards, books, posters — and I could go on.
And for the next 24 hours, Handler will match your contribution. Win-win-win. And he's right, you see: By focusing entirely on Handler's actions, we are contributing to overshadowing Woodson's major feat. We can accept his apology and move forward without accepting his actions. But hopefully some good can come out of it, and by donating, we are making a great step forward. And from now on, when we think of the 2014 National Book Awards, lets think of not only Woodson, but other winners, Iraq War veteran Phil Klay, incredible poet Louise Glück, and Evan Osnos for his amazing look into China — and not the host Handler.