Interview conducted by Autumn Hyatt (She/Her), our wonderful OurShelves intern
We're always so impressed by the wonderful ways our OurShelves community shares diverse books in your community. Today, we're highlighting the students of the Crofton Middle School Gender and Sexuality Alliance, who sold pronoun pins as a fundraiser to gift diverse children's books to a local elementary school library! We shared some questions with their president, Aevyn L. (He/Xe), and vice president, Khloe W. (They/It), about their project, their thoughts on representation in kids' books, and more. You can read the whole interview below!
How did you come to the idea of selling pronoun pins to raise money for purchasing book boxes? And how did your pronoun fundraiser go?
AL: Last year (year of 21-21) we were looking for a fundraiser to earn some money for our club that also engages the members of the club. At first, we were pretty unsure if we would get any money or progress on the pins. After getting them out, they were super successful and we ended up making over $200 to support both our club and another fundraiser. We sold about 60 pins, teaching us that even in doubt, people buy pins.
KW: In the GSA club, when attempting to think of a fundraiser, we were torn between bracelets and pronoun pins. The fundraiser of donating books had already been settled on, and we ended up choosing pins due to the fact that they would be more engaging to make and Aevyn’s mother had a laser cutter. This allowed us to let people customize pins for themselves and friends and many people bought pins!!
Example of pronoun pin sold by GSA
What was your experience in seeing yourself represented in kids' books when you were a young child? Did you see yourself or not? How did it make you feel when you were represented and when you aren't?
AL: When I was a little kid, I never saw myself represented in books. I am native, hispanic and white, and I never saw light skinned people like me. I rarely saw kids like me unless they were villainized (poor hispanic kids, dirty “indians”, rude immigrant family that doesn’t speak english, etc) Now that I’m older, I feel sort of sad that I didn’t get to experience that as a little kid but also glad that people like my younger brother get that representation.
KW: Well, people like me were not exactly shown often. Until I was 11 I had never even seen any media that had trans or any queer people really. I felt that if it wasn't in any books or lessons in school, I was the problem. Of course now I know that I am now. I don't wish that upon the younger generations and books last for several dozens of years a lot of the time.
Why is representation in children’s books important to you and your GSA?
KW: Showing diversity among school children at a young age will teach them innately before their implicit bias becomes much harder to change. If they see people with all different characteristics they will never learn to see them as alien.
How do you feel about the efforts around the country to ban books about and by BIPOC and LGBTQ+ folks?
AL: It makes me so livid. I love writing and reading things by people in my communities and seeing and hearing officials say that we aren't allowed to do that anymore just makes me so angry. It also makes me scared because we’re going back to a time where “bad” things were hidden. It’s creating a sort of genocide to the idea of “its okay to be gay, brown, disabled, etc”
KW: If only I could express. The sheer anger it makes me feel is absolutely absurd, the logic they think they have is easy to knock down with basic rhetoric and science. They let what the feel is morally right (which morals are completely subjective anyways and shouldnt be integrated into facts taught in school) get in the way of teaching kids that everyone is human.
What activities does your GSA do? Why are GSA's important?
AL: Normally, we make bracelets and talk and eat donuts. Right now we are in a productive crunch, so we are making bracelets, painting a ceiling tile for our principal's office, and painting rocks for the courtyard. GSA’s are important to help with advocacy, especially with all the laws that are being passed right now.
The beautiful finished ceiling tile!
If you were to write your ideal children’s book, what would it be about? Whose story would it tell, and how would it tell it?
AL: If I were to write a children’s book, it would probably be about something from my experience as a trans, BIPOC, neurodivergent person. It would probably be about a kid with divorced parents living in the intercity and showing that even if things aren’t great, there is always community.
KW: In the event of writing a children's book, assuming it is for children ages 6-12, I would write about a young neurodivergent person that is confused on why their actions upset or confuse people. Maybe take a trip through their diagnosis process and the frustration of feeling “other” than everyone else.
Thank you to Aevyn, Khloe, and the rest of the GSA for their advocacy, community-making, and change-making! We also want to send a special thank you to their GSA sponsor and Lead Family and Consumer Sciences Teacher, Sarah G., for helping us coordinate this special interview, and OurShelves member, Sherlin, for connecting us with this wonderful group of inspiring young leaders.
Is there someone, or a group of people, who are sharing diverse books in your community? We'd love to know and possibly feature them in a Community Spotlight. Send us an email at support@OurShelves.com!