In the early days of 2018, children's author/illustrator Grace Lin sat with a group of women colleagues and had a "conversation fueled by passion, anger, and heartbreak, but most of all by injustice." The concern was about the industry itself: "our children's literature community, a community that preaches to children about kindness and fairness, is egregiously not fair," she said in an open letter. Lin's letter asks, "Have you treated a male author as a 'rock star?' Have you declined a 'girl' book for your son or ignored an older woman? Have you minimized the concerns of a woman of color? What have you done or encouraged or defended that you feel uncomfortable about?" These questions, she hopes, will encourage conversation. And to help this discussion along, she and author Karen Blumenthal launched the #kidlitwomen initiative on March 1, to coincide with Women's History Month.
The intent is to use social media as a public forum to call "attention to the gender inequities of the children's literature community, uplifting those who have not received their due, and finding solutions to reach equality for all." With more than 3,000 followers on their Facebook page, the project consists of a series of pieces by women in the children's literature industry, all posted either directly on the #kidlitwomen Facebook page or to the author and/or illustrator's own website and compiled on the Facebook page. Shannon Hale kicked off the month with a story about presenting the third Princess Academy book to an assembly of kids grades 3-8 and the gender bias already present in the youngest of students. Other featured authors and illustrators include Young People's Poet Laureate Margarita Engle, Joyce M. Wan, Meg Medina and Diana Rodriguez Wallach. Check out the Facebook page or search #kidlitwomen on Twitter to join in the conversation. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor