Windows, Mirrors and Glasses: Grace Lin on Seeing the World Through Diverse Books – Publishers Weekly

Grace Lin is the Newbery, Caldecott, and Geisel Honor-winning author-illustrator of numerous picture books and novels for young readers. These remarks, slightly adapted, were given during the Walter Dean Myers Awards for Outstanding Literature on June 23, 2022 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library Auditorium in Washington, D.C.

Diverse books have always been under attack but, recently, the attacks have felt more vitriolic, more extreme and, frankly, much more scary. It’s a hard time to make these books and it’s a hard time to share these books. Sometimes, it’s tempting just to not make waves, to “let these books go.” So, I wanted to talk to you a bit about why we need to keep pushing and supporting diverse books—why they are so important—especially during these hard times.

And to do that, I’d like to begin with sort of a metaphor. A metaphor that starts with when I was 13 years old, when I first got eyeglasses.

Now, I did not want glasses. Very few teen girls do, of course, but I think I had a special aversion. I was already socially awkward and bookish and wearing glasses meant that I would be solidifying that “nerd” label as well as reinforcing all those other non-complimentary images of Asian kids.

But glasses were my destiny. The school nurse told me that I had failed the eye exam quite badly and notified my parents who immediately scheduled an appointment with an eye doctor, and within a couple of weeks, I found myself fitted with a new pair of glasses.

But even while sulking, as I left the doctor’s office, I found myself staring at the world around me. With my glasses on, everything was so crisp. I could see every leaf on the trees, I could see that the green ground in front of me was made of ribbons of grass. Lightbulbs had delicate wires in them. It was like a harsh light was spotlighting everything I saw. I remember feeling a sense of shock. Was this what the world really looked like?

Well, I kind of feel what is going on in the world right now is like our country just got forced to put on a pair of glasses.

Because a lot of things have been happening these last few years—Covid, the racial and social unrest with the responding rise of Black Lives Matter and anti-Asian hate, the great resignation of people leaving their jobs. And, of course, book banning.

Why? Because people are finally starting to see the world clearly.

When I first got my glasses at age 13, in the beginning it truly felt like it was too much. At first, I felt like I couldn’t take seeing it all. I would take my glasses off just to feel that comfort of the familiar blurriness, the comfort of not having to see everything with such clarity.

But even if we choose not to see things, that does not mean they are not there. I got my glasses and I suddenly saw all the leaves on the trees, I suddenly saw the legs on the spider—but, of course, the leaves had always been there. The spider had always had legs. It was just now I finally saw them. Just like now how so many are starting to see …….


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