Dhonielle Clayton: The Art of Inclusion

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Photograph of Dhonielle Clayton and Melissa Keil

Melissa Keil and Dhonielle Clayton at the Wheeler Centre

In a response to a reader’s letter, YA author Malinda Lo once wrote, ‘Diversity is not important. Diversity is reality. Human beings are not all the same.’ If books function as tools of empathy, what happens when we never see ourselves in them, let alone at the centre of a story? How can we support and encourage real representation in our literature, especially for younger readers?

Dhonielle Clayton is a bestselling author of YA fiction, including The Belles and The Everlasting Rose. She’s a former teacher and librarian. And she’s the COO of We Need Diverse Books, the US-based campaign for a more inclusive and representative literary milieu. The movement began as a hashtag, went viral, then formalised into a non-profit in order to methodically press for progress.

Clayton joins host Melissa Keil to talk about her writing, as well as the importance of Own Voices stories, and some of the problems with traditional publishing models. She highlights ways these models can shift while still retaining the crucial ability to connect with readers, and considers how we can create a more equitable and exciting literary culture.

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