The #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag has been trending on Twitter for three days now and just went viral, pointing to a much-needed conversation. We’re so proud of LoveinshAllah.com contributor Aisha Saeed for spearheading the campaign with a team of other folks, including publishers, agents, bookstores, & writers. Join the movement!
Recently, there’s been a groundswell of discontent over the lack of diversity in children’s literature. The issue is being picked up by news outlets like these two pieces in the NYT, CNN, EW, and many more. But while we individually care about diversity, there is still a disconnect. BEA’s Bookcon recently announced an all-white-male panel of “luminaries of children’s literature,” and when we pointed out the lack of diversity, nothing changed.
Now is the time to raise our voices into a roar that can’t be ignored. Here’s how:
Read more about this critical & strategic campaign at story & chai!
When K turned on the new show Cosmos, I was hesitant. A show about the infinite universe? With cartoons? And the opening sequence. Something about it took me back to middle school when my science teacher, too busy grading to bother with teaching, stuck in a Bill Nye video. I picked up my moleskine and pen, prepared for boredom, except the show wasn’t boring at all. Neil deGrasse Tyson delved into time, the nature of the universe, and our place within it. And it was fascinating. If we look at time as one calendar year, he said, we as known humanity comprise one second.
It made me feel small. Very small.
Of course I always knew that. I’m one among billions alive today, and one among unknowable bajillions to have ever walked the earth. When it comes to time, when it comes to the size of the Universe [or multiverse!] what am I beyond an atom, if that, in the context of it all?
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My son loves running around in circles. I mean that literally. He’ll grab a favorite hat or bear and sing and dance while running in circles through the house. As great as he finds it, I personally do not like running around in circles. And yet this is exactly what I’ve been doing for the past three months with my insurance company. Due to an error on their end, my son’s claim did not get processed properly, leaving us to foot the bill. They acknowledge their error, advise us to do XYZ, and then weeks later, say whoops! We were supposed to actually do ABC, and then we run in circles again once more.
It’s not the end of the world. Sure, I’d rather spend the money on a nice outfit and some shoes. Or a lavish meal at a fufu steakhouse. Or fifteen orders of Vietnamese Pho. But at the end of the day, worst case scenario, if we have to pay it, the sky will not collapse upon our heads. It’s just frustrating. Unfairness is frustrating. Being on the phone with a squirmy baby, a hollering toddler belting out twinkle twinkle little star with the intensity paralleled only by a Metallica concert, while getting transferred from department to department until I’m back where I started – I might as well have had a conversation with my bathroom mirror for all the good this did me. Not a fun way to start off my morning.
I know some people are naturally centered and calm in the face of stresses both big and small, but I remain a work-in-progress as my natural inclination is to feel a hard knot of frustration building in my chest that even twenty-five koala bears doing incredibly cute things like chewing bamboo shoots while batting their eyes could not properly diffuse. And the problem with the frustration isn’t the frustrating thing itself, but the domino effect it can have on a day.
Before I became a parent when mothers shared stories about their children’s first day of nursery school, their eyes glistening, their voices catching as they described walking away from the school building and leaving their children behind, I tried to empathize, but truly, all the emotion over what is essentially, a part of life, befuddled me. Until, of course, as with most things parenting related, I had children of my own.
Though my eldest was signed up for nursery school just twice a week- and half days at that- seeing him drive away with his father to school for the first time felt like an emotional sucker punch to the gut. Yes, I wanted this for him. I wanted him to have consistent playmates and to learn some school routines before official school began. I trusted his teachers, the school’s philosophy, and the parents and kids I met were wonderful. And yet- watching him leave, taking in the quieter house and wondering how he was, what he was doing created a strange free-floating feeling that rattled me.
It was the feeling of vulnerability.
It’s 6 o’clock in the morning and though the house is still and dark, I am awake. It is the way it is these days. As much as I want to hibernate like a bear storing up my unconscious hours like an extra padding of fat for the coming months ahead when a little one will be waking me up every few hours, I can’t. I treasure my sleep. I adore my sleep. I could sing odes, sonnets, and serenade sleep– and yet it is the very thing that eludes me these days.
Still, in some ways, the silence in this early hour, though entirely unwanted, is beautiful in its own way. I felt reminded of this yesterday at my now weekly checkups at the doctor’s office when they strapped me to a heart monitor and left me to my own devices for twenty minutes. Or rather, they left me without my own devices as my kindle and my brand new iPhone were tucked away in a purse just beyond reach. I lay in the quiet fluorescent room with nothing to do but lie back and feel my son do the samba inside me.
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You’ve got to meet my brother, my friend Mina tells me as we wander the streets of San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter while our husbands attend a conference nearby. He’s a drummer. His band’s toured quite a bit, some of their songs are used as television theme songs, and one of their tracks is in Django Unchained! Next time he’s in town we’ll all get together. You’ll like him. He’s an artist, like you.
I wanted to protest this comparison. Yes, I write. I’ve written for several print publications and at my site for almost a decade. I’m a contributing author to the Love Inshallah anthology and a monthly columnist for this website. And I’ve poured my heart and soul into two completed YA novels. I have an agent who believes in my writing and I have edits I’m working on when I have a moment to breathe and yet, when Mina referred to me as a writer- an artist like her brother- I had to do a double take because an artist?
An artist is whimsical and freewheeling. An artist wears faded jeans and grows a butterfly garden with wind chimes in the front yard of their lovely Tudor brick home. An artist has a villa off the coast of Italy to ruminate properly, or sips coffee while scribbling in a black notebook overlooking the river Seine.
An artist is not running after children while coated in flour from a cookie dough experiment gone awry, or propping up weary feet at day’s end when dishes are loaded and kids are asleep to do some online, off-season boots shopping. An artist gets paid handsomely for their art.
Always show your love. Even when you are upset. Especially if you are upset. No one under four [or any age for that matter] reacts as well to disapproval as they do to the promise of unconditional love despite their mistakes. It’s important to remind them that despite the partial egg and toast remnants stuffed up their younger brother’s left nostril and the time-out inevitably in his future, you do in fact, still love him.
Be one with the television, or at least, be forgiving when you cave. I cringe at the vision I had of myself pre-parenting. I walked in the land of absolutes and one of them was absolutely no television. I was fairly strict until he turned two, but then, with the cautious approval of the American Pediatric Academy to nudge me on, I dipped my toes into youtube videos. It began virtuously enough with Sim Sim Hamara, Pakistan’s version of Sesame Street. And then I discovered he could learn an Urdu song while I sipped a cup of chai without worrying about second degree burns. Wow. It was a slippery slope then, this TV thing, as we then escalated from the two minute videos to a 12 minute episode of Curious George, throwing in the occasional one-hour Sesame Street episode where I could gather the laundry and my thoughts without a child using my leg like it was his own personal hockey stick. Is it good to use the television as your baby sitter? No. But three days a week, it sure feels good. Most of us let our kids watch television from time to time. Most of us feel guilt about doing so. Don’t. Embrace it. Accept it. Drink chai.