The D Word – Diversity at the AAA

Well, the dust has well and truly settled on the The CBCA  Anticipate, Appreciate, Applaud (AAA) shortlist announcement in March this year, and in my mind, the gold has sifted to top to be extracted here in this post. The day started with Freya Blackwood speaking on ‘Escape to the everyday’ and the adventures that can be had in the seemingly ordinary moments of life – a theme many of her books pursue – before receiving the IBBY honour book for illustration award. The morning panelists spoke about their favourite books that were on (or even not on) the notable books selections this year and the afternoon was dedicated to publishers and authors speaking on diversity. And what a diverse bunch of people and ideas we heard!

Claire Christian

Claire Christian led the field by telling the audience how she hated the word ‘diversity.’ She doesn’t see herself writing diverse characters, but rather normalising the experiences of a variety of people. She says that her book Beautiful Mess (winner of the Text Prize and to be published in September) merely represents the world as it is. The stand-out quote from her talk for me was, “We all want to be told that we are OK – and stories tell us we are OK.”

Tamsin Janu spoke about the experiences that led to her books Figgy in the World and Figgy and the President published by Scholastic. Telling stories about children in a different part of the world became a passion for Tamsin who lived in Ghana for a few months on a volunteer programme working with children in an orphanage. Her stories take children into another culture so different from their own, yet also highlight universal themes.

 

Gabrielle Tozer

Gabrielle Tozer whose new book, Remind Me How This Ends published by HarperCollins, spoke about her experiences growing up as a ‘half Lebanese’ girl in regional Australia and said that people want to see themselves reflected on the page –  books are not a one-size-fits-all as we are all different.

Judith Rossell talked about her love of writing stories set in the Victorian era, which she described as having a similar explosion of technology as we experiencing today.  Judith is obsessed with Victorian history and presented a series of pictures of amazing inventions from the 1800’s – she used photos to inspire her work when writing Withering-By-Sea and Wormwood Mire.

Challenging gender stereotypes is an issue central to Nevo Zisin’s memoir Finding Nevo: How I confused Everyone, published by Walker Books. Nevo aims to ‘be the person I didn’t have when I was growing up’ and talked about the representation of transgender and how culturally determined and fluid gender standards are in society.

Mr Huff in the theatre
Knitted Mr Huff

Anna Walker talked about reflecting diverse ideas and celebrating individual voice in creativity. She showed photos of diverse art and style and translating characters in different mediums – Mr Huff has been knitted and been a theatre character. She says ‘The way everybody sees the world is to be celebrated.’

Felice Arena had three minutes to wrap up the segment and he spoke about his new novel The Boy and The Spy about a boy in Sicily during World War 2, inspired by his Italian heritage.

I loved everyone’s diverse take on diversity! But what stayed with me long after the day? The echo of Claire Christian: “We all want to be told that we are OK – and stories tell us we are OK.” I’m proud to belong to an industry that can do just that.

Thanks CBCA for another terrific and inspiring event. Here are a few more photos:

Felice Arena
Freya Blackwood receiving award
Nevo Zisin

 

 

For a storify of my tweets throughout the day, go here.

For my website, go here.

 

 

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