Yesterday, I attended Pullitzer prize-winning author Junot Díaz's event in Toronto. In the past, I have read Junot's essays and listened to his talks online. Yesterday's talk and signing were in celebration of his first and new picture book called "Islandborn." I appreciate the media attention that this book received and hope it will bring more attention to the impact of immigration on children and the need for more #ownvoices #diversekidslit picture books. Junot is a gifted storyteller and actively engaged the children that were present. As a #diverse children's book author also of Caribbean descent, I had so many questions to ask him. The well-attended talk was hosted by Denise Balkisoon of the Globe and Mail newspaper. It was too bad that there was no time left for the audience to ask questions but, thankfully, Junot said to allow at least two questions by people of colour. I went to the front quickly and asked two of my questions but I didn't get to ask him the question about the illustration of the "big black bat" that caused the #kidlit contoversy weeks ago (it got changed to a more greenish bat in the final printed version, read more about it here https://socialjusticebooks.org/diaz-islandborn-before-and-after/) and wished the host did.
Nevertheless, I appreciated Junot's mix of activism, politics, storytelling, and children's books. Overall, the event was well done however I do have some challenges with "the talk" portion which I hope to share with the respective parties. I hope that this will not be the last time a bestselling award-winning children's book author includes Toronto on their book tour. We also need more immigration stories for kids.
In my imagination, Lola and Malaika are friends and they meet at a summer camp for Caribbean immigrant kids. Hey, I think this might make an amazing picture book. What do you say Junot Diaz, Namrata Tripathi, and Summer Edward?