Author Sharon Draper Closes the Conference on Day 5
"I didn't know the value of my grandmother at the time," she shared of her childhood summers spent visiting her father's mother. "She was remarkable. When she was forced to drop out of school in the 5th grade, she kept a journal for the rest of her life."
That same journal influenced the story line of Stella by Starlight.
"The art of storytelling, especially black storytelling, is something we are losing," she said. "It's so important because storytelling is what pulls us all together."
In that same line, Draper shared her own longing for diverse characters in the books she read as a child.
"We've been talking all week about diversity in books. When I was a kid, there was none because children of color were not considered," she shared. "And it's not that we weren't considered important, we just weren't considered at all. We were invisible."
Still she found ways to discover the diversity she craved, citing a book about a Chinese empress as her first eye opening experience into a world and character that wasn't strictly white.
"There needs to be more books like this, so there are no more little girls like me who say there isn't a book in this whole library that reflects me," she said. "We also need diverse experiences. And most of all, we need diversity of new writers to write those diverse books."
Draper reiterated that diversity went far beyond merely more black characters and stories in circulation.
"My dream is to have diversity be put out there, but I want it to be done so well and to have so much of it that we don't even notice it anymore. The idea of a black or asian character should no longer be remarkable or novel. We aren't there yet, but it's the direction we are heading. We aren't yet to the point where we can assume that there is a book out there for everyone to see themselves in. I want children to have a vision of the world in which they are included regardless of what they look like or where they live. I want everyone to be able to dream in color."
For more info on Draper's work, click here.
Follow Draper on Twitter at @sharonmdraper.