Hundreds of KidLit authors are calling out the SCBWI for its Gaza silence. ‹ Literary Hub

Literature

Dan Sheehan

March 4, 2024, 2:00pm

Over 500 members of the KidLit community—including Sabaa Tahir, Angie Thomas, and Jason Reynolds—have signed an open letter to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, calling for the organization to break its silence on the ongoing genocide in Gaza, which has so far claimed the lives of over 13,000 children.

The SCBWI has more than 22,000 members worldwide, in over 80 regional chapters, making it the largest children’s writing organization in the world, but it has yet to establish a Palestinian chapter or make a statement about what the UN has described as the deadliest conflict for children in modern history.

As the authors of the letter detail:

…over a million children are being actively starved while the Israeli government refuses to permit aid into the Gaza strip. Children are being carpet bombed and sniper-attacked in the Israeli government designated safe zone, Rafah, with nowhere to escape. Thousands of children have been orphaned, wounded, undergone surgeries and amputations without anesthesia, and disabled. Palestinian libraries, schools, universities, and publishing houses have been decimated.

Additionally, rising discrimination, hate crimes, and Islamophobia have added to the already difficult barriers to publication for Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim creatives. Many Palestinian kidlit authors report having had events and speaking engagements canceled, and many feel more intimidated and isolated than ever in our industry.

As well as a request for the establishment of a Palestine chapter of the SCBWI (Palestinian creatives who have sought membership have, incredibly, been told to join Israel’s chapter) the letter implores the SCBWI to condemn the Gazan genocide and to stand in solidarity with the children of Gaza in the way it did with the children of Ukraine in 2022:

SCBWI rightfully has spoken about the Ukraine war, reaffirming its commitment to children’s welfare, yet it remains silent amidst the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, described by various international organizations, including the UN, as a war against children in the deadliest conflict in modern history. As a community dedicated to fostering an inclusive and compassionate world through children’s literature, we urge SCBWI to stand in solidarity with all children and storytellers. We cannot maintain affiliation with an organization who does not speak out for all children.

 

Here is the letter in full:

 

Dear Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators,

Our community of kids’ book creators and readers is calling out for solidarity and transparency.

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is the deadliest for children in modern history. UNICEF, among other leading human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, recognized that “there is no safe place for children in Gaza” and that this is a war against children.

As the preeminent global community for children’s book creators whose mission is to, in part, “establish a more imaginative and inclusive world through the power of children’s literature,” many active, past, and prospective members of the community are struggling to feel a sense of inclusion and belonging when SCBWI remains silent.

Currently, over a million children are being actively starved while the Israeli government refuses to permit aid into the Gaza strip. Children are being carpet bombed and sniper-attacked in the Israeli government designated safe zone, Rafah, with nowhere to escape. Thousands of children have been orphaned, wounded, undergone surgeries and amputations without anesthesia, and disabled. Palestinian libraries, schools, universities, and publishing houses have been decimated.

Additionally, rising discrimination, hate crimes, and Islamophobia have added to the already difficult barriers to publication for Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim creatives. Many Palestinian kidlit authors report having had events and speaking engagements canceled, and many feel more intimidated and isolated than ever in our industry. I lend my voice in asking SCBWI to stand in solidarity with Palestinian children and all storytellers by speaking out. We call on the organization to commit to the following actions:

– A collective statement in opposition to the massive and incomprehensible violence against children taking place in Palestine, Gaza, and the ongoing genocide in Gaza, with a call for ceasefire.

– The establishment of a Palestine SCBWI, as creatives who have sought membership have been told to join Israel’s chapter. Due to Israel’s apartheid regime, this is impossible for Palestinian creatives.

– Scholarships and free membership opportunities for Palestinian writers and artists.

– Programming to uplift and support Palestinian perspectives and shared histories.

SCBWI’s membership is composed of Palestinian writers and their many allies. Last month, thousands of publishing professionals signed the KidLit4Ceasefire letter to Biden (https://www.kidlit4ceasefire.com), urging him to call for an immediate ceasefire.

This is an issue that we care deeply about, as do many others in the children’s book industry. We are asking you, as an organization that many of us have been proud to be part of, to take a stand with us and thousands of other children’s creatives. SCBWI rightfully has spoken about the Ukraine war, reaffirming its commitment to children’s welfare, yet it remains silent amidst the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, described by various international organizations, including the UN, as a war against children in the deadliest conflict in modern history. As a community dedicated to fostering an inclusive and compassionate world through children’s literature, we urge SCBWI to stand in solidarity with all children and storytellers.

We cannot maintain affiliation with an organization who does not speak out for all children.

Signed,

 

You can see a full list of signatories, and add your own name to the letter, here.

View original source here

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