Ci6: Angie Thomas on the Work of Booksellers

At Children's Institute 6 in New Orleans, La., last week, author Angie Thomas (The Hate U Give and the forthcoming On the Come Up, Harper) delivered a charming and passionate final keynote. "I'm here," Thomas said, "to beg you to change our world." Acknowledging that this was a big ask, Thomas went on to explain how important gatekeepers had been in her life and in her journey to being an author. She told the story of her first-grade teacher ("Mrs. First"), whom Thomas overheard complaining to a coworker that educating black youth was a waste of time. In contrast, her third-grade teacher ("Mrs. Third") saw Thomas's love of writing and nurtured it. Both teachers were white, both teachers saw her blackness and both teachers made her want to be her best self, except one galvanized and one encouraged. What kind of gatekeeper, she asked the crowd, are you? What kind of gatekeeper do you want to be? "Do you know who you're providing books to?"

This, she said, is how booksellers can change the world. This work develops minds, hearts and souls: "I foolishly believe that through books and through these children that we serve we can change the world. I have to--I absolutely have to believe that if some of our current political leaders read about black people as children, we wouldn't have to say 'black lives matter.' If they read about Latino children, we wouldn't have these kids being thrown in cages--they wouldn't want to build walls but bridges. If they read about GLBTQIA youth, we wouldn't have to fight for rights. And if they read books about Muslim children, we wouldn't have to fight bans. So, booksellers, do you see how important your work is?" --Siân Gaetano

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