Marley Dias is the super talented, 12 year-old social activist behind the #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign, an international movement to collect and donate children’s books that feature Black girls as the lead character. Marley launched her #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign in November of 2015, leveraging the power of social media to reach a large audience. The goal was to collect 1,000 books featuring Black female protagonists by February 2016. The story went viral and was picked up by media outlets around the world as well as bloggers, schools, youth-focused organizations and thousands of individuals who wanted to participate in the project. Marley has since gone on to collect over 9,000 books from across the world, exceeding her expectations and shining a needed spotlight over diversity in children’s literature.
We’re extremely privileged to kick off our first Author to Author interview with Marley. Throughout the interview we will get to know more about Marley, learning about her passion for books and her forthcoming publication, ‘Marley Gets It Done’, due out January 18th, 2018.
ML: Firstly, I would like to thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to speak with us. You must be very busy at the moment? Please introduce yourself to our readers?
MD: My name is Marley Dias and I am the founder of the #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign. In November of 2015, I became very frustrated that all the books assigned in school featured white boys and their dogs. The campaign's goal is to collect 1000 books where black girls are the main character. In the past year, I have collected 9000 books with 1500 different titles.
ML: As an author who writes picture books featuring diverse children’s characters, I am in full support for what you’re trying to achieve, highlighting the lack of diversity in mainstream children’s literature. Can you explain what made you want to start your 1000 Black Girl Books campaign across America?
MD: What really motivated me to start the campaign was that I knew that the access to diverse stories was a reality that all kids needed to have. Most kids only get books from school. Which means the books need to be diverse because the reality is that may be the only books kids like me are seeing.
ML: Why do you think there is still a lack of books for black children in the mainstream? Or is this now starting to change?
MD: I think that there is a lack of diversity because lots of people who are in control of what is offered in schools and mainstream publishing are not black; therefore the stories that they publish may reflect their lives and not others.
ML: You must have discovered some fantastic new books throughout your campaign. Do you have any stand out titles that you would like to share with our readers?
MD: I think that books like “Lola at the Library”, “I’m a Pretty Little Black Girl”, and “Confidentially Yours #1: Brooke’s Not-So Perfect Plan” are some hidden gems in the collection of books. The best way to really see all of the amazing books is to go to the resource guide on www.grassrootscommunityfoundation.org
ML: What has been the most fun about promoting the campaign?
MD: The most fun thing about promoting the campaign is getting to meet all of the kids and adults who feel more encouraged to read and to promote diversity after we meet. I want to make reading fun and I want to make sure that schools change the curriculum so that diversity is a high priority.
ML: Who has been the most inspirational person you have met during your journey?
MD: The most inspirational person I have met during my journey is Anita Hill. Even though she isn’t maybe your typical celebrity, she shows persistence, bravery, and intelligence through all of her struggles. To me she will always be a model of how to fight through doubt. I got to meet her at the National Women's’ Law Center.
ML: How old were you when you first started to enjoy reading books?
MD: I first started to enjoy reading when I was about 2 years old. I had been reading with my parents since I was 9 months, but at 2 I developed a love for independent reading choices. It allowed for me to learn outside of what my parents told me.
ML: Can you remember the first book you read?
MD: The first book I read independently was actually a book about a white boy. It was called “Crock on a Rock” It is still on my bookshelf today.
ML: What is your favourite book?
MD: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
ML: What advice would you give to a young person looking to become an author?
MD: I would tell them that in order to be a young author, practice and push yourself. One good example is to read books of all different genres. This will allow for you to learn about what styles you most enjoy as a reader, so that you can tweak your writing to fit better to your goals. After this, write and write and post it wherever you can.
ML: Congratulations on your forthcoming publication with Scholastic books. How did it come about you working with Scholastic?
a. I thought it was time to add to my resource guide. If I want to increase the number of black girl books then I needed to create my own.
b. I also want to make sure things are different for kids like me and who better than scholastic. It's the biggest publishing house and they reach the most kids. It's a great partnership.
ML: How have you found the process of writing your very own book?
● Hard and good. Lots of editing and editing and editing.
● I get input from my mom and editors but in the end each word has to reflect what I mean and want to say.
ML: What is the concept behind your book?
MD: I want kids and adults to know that what I have done is possible for everyone. I want to give people strategies to make changes on a local and global scale.
ML: Were you nervous when interviewing Hillary Clinton? This must have been a great experience.
MD: No, I wasn’t very nervous about Hillary Clinton. This really came from my work at the GrassROOTS Community Foundation Super Camp. There we learn about the principle of truth and how to live in what you believe. My truth was set, so my nerves were calm as well.
ML: And finally, do you have any projects coming up that you would like to tell our readers about in the UK?
MD: Yes. I would like for everyone to know about my book; Marley DIas Gets It Done: And So Can You. It is available for preorder on Barnes and Noble and Amazon right now. Thank you so much.