I had been dreading this week! Six days, non-stop. Not easy.

I’m still processing it.

On Monday I visited a small town outside Toronto. No Muslims in the school that I could see, only one or two brown kids! Part of me wondered if they’d cancel, considering the devastating attacks in Paris the Friday before. The world was still reeling from them. But no, they didn’t cancel, and I resisted the urge to apologize for anything because why should I? They have nothing to do with me, just like the brutalities of Abu Ghraib have nothing to do with average white people and they don’t feel the need to apologize! So why should I?

Yeah, yeah, it’s a sensitive subject and I dealt with it in my little book published by Pearson Educational called Not Guilty.

Anyway, it was while in the staff room, having a cup of coffee that one of the teachers started talking about the Paris attacks, and how the students were scheduled to go on a trip to Paris in April some time and it should be okay by then, and then she glanced over at me, like she was acknowledging the presence of ‘one of the enemy’ and I felt SO uncomfortable. Then she looked away, and continued talking and that was it. I’m sure the other people didn’t even notice. And there was nothing for me to say. She didn’t SAY anything. And with all the attacks on Muslims happening, I thought hey, if this is the worse I get, I’ll count myself lucky.

And I thought of it from her perspective, and I couldn’t even blame her that much. Why wouldn’t she be scared of me? And then I found it depressing.

Because this is the kind of crap I have to face every single day.

And then on Wednesday night I went to the Canadian Children’s Book Centre TD Awards gala, and it was the usual, crowded space filled with authors and illustrators and bankers funding the award, schmoozing and drinking wine and beer and other nonsense but the food was good and I hadn’t been for a LONG time! I was wondering how the scene had changed. It was great seeing old acquaintances, and yet unnerving too because everyone looked so much older! (Which shouldn’t have surprised me and yet it did.)

I ended up meeting a LOT of people! One teacher I’d met at one of my favorite schools Wilkinson P.S. even sought me out and we had a lovely conversation! In fact it seemed a lot of people sought me out, touching me on the arm to get my attention and we’d chat about how we were doing!

When the awards part of the evening began I ended up sitting beside an old white guy. What it is it with these old white men that they feel they can just spread themselves out into the next seat, and me trying to avoid physical contact, so I had to scrunch myself up and lean away from him all night? He ended up falling asleep during the ceremonies and his wife or whatever nudged him a couple of times. At least he didn’t snore.

So I was looking at the program and as the faces of all the jurors came up on the screen as each award was being announced, lo and behold I started to notice that ALL the jurors were white! Whitey white white!

Every single one of them!

And then I looked at all the entries, and I could find only three books with non-white characters on the covers, one was a native book and two had black faces and the two black ones were written by white authors!

Only the native book was written by natives, I think. Or I assume.

And I probably would never have noticed this before but this time I did because of the movement #weneeddiversebooks . Guess all the stuff I’ve been reading has sensitized myself to it.

And I thought wow, Canada really needs to get its act together!

And then I started thinking of all the people at the awards. There was diversity! At least fifty people who were non-white in a room full of 600, that’s something! But I mean go into the majority of schools in the big cities and they’re mostly diverse!

But again, it was depressing.

Came home feeling like a loser. And started imagining all the reasons why my agent will reject my newest project.


By the way, the native book didn’t win.

Only white authors did.

And yet, on Thursday afternoon I did my last workshop for the tween public speaking and the little boy who’s been coming regularly asked me to continue to the end of the residency. He said that this workshop was so much fun and he wanted to keep coming! And I told him that I’d already taught him everything I could, it was just down to him practicing. But it did feel good to have a boy tell me how much he enjoyed working with me!

So I guess that’s something.