What’s with that race and religion stuff in the NESCBWI eval?

First, I want to thank Anindita Sempere ( ) and Greg Fishbone for an amazing conference. The expertise of faculty was fabulous, the keynoters engaging and informative and the company… well I absolutely thrive and am inspired by all the wonderful NESCBWI members.

Over the weekend, I had no responsibilities so I was happy to meet people (whom I could remember since I wasn’t in Director-land) and listen to some concerns in my brandie new position as Northern New England RA. One that I heard more than once was about the demographics questions on the evaluation sheets. I inserted those into the eval last year so I thought I could explain the thinking behind that.

The theme of last year’s conference, if you remember, was "Many Voices." I chose that theme because it is important to me that every child recognize themselves (or someone like themselves) in books that we write, illustrate and publish. To that end, many of the workshops had to do with sensitive portrayals of various cultures, issues and concerns in "mulitcultural" publishing, etc. I made a sincere effort to recruit and hire well-qualified authors and illustrators of color onto the faculty in the hopes that this would ultimately draw new minority voices to the membership of NE SCBWI.

But how would we measure that?

I designed the demographic questions to be short and to the point so that we could collect data and establish a baseline from which we could see how the membership trended. We hope to collect this data for the next 5 or so years.

But what about that religion question? Why do you need to know that?

Well, I am Jewish. And I always feel that when I fill out those questionnaires that just saying that I’m "Caucasian" leaves my cultural identity uncounted. I’m sure there are others from various cultures who feel that way too.

Of course it is your choice to respond to the demographic questions at all, but now you know why they are there.

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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