Black excellence

Schoolgirl Marley Dias, 12, who collected over 1000 books with black lead characters to improve diversity in her school lands book deal

BOOK DEAL: Marley Dias

BOOK DEAL: Marley Dias

A 12-YEAR-OLD schoolgirl who collected over 1000 books with black girls as lead characters to improve literary diversity in her school has landed a book deal.

Marley Dias “grew sick” of books focusing solely on white lead characters and decided to something about it with her #1000BlackBooks campaign.

The schoolgirl, from New Jersey, began her drive in November after she told her mother she was tired of the books that she was being given at school.

Her mother, Janice Johnson Dias, asked her what she was going to do about it, and Marley decided to launch her drive with the help of her mother, who is the co-founder of the social action organisation GrassROOTS Community Foundation.

But now Marley won’t have to collect books by other authors and she has been charged with writing her own.

She will publish a book about activism and social justice, it was announced yesterday (Feb 2).

In a statement from the publisher Scholastic, she said that she was excited to work with such an established institution.

“All my friends can probably only name one publishing house and that is Scholastic; they are everywhere. Scholastic is the perfect partner for spreading my message of diversity, inclusion and social action.”

Her campaign for more books about girls like her led Ebony magazine to call her one of the country’s “coolest black kids” and has brought her admirers ranging from Michelle Obama to author Jacqueline Woodson.

Her Marley Mag, a publication sponsored by Elle magazine, has featured interviews with filmmaker Ava DuVernay and dancer Misty Copeland.

Now that she has exceeded her aims for #1000blackgirlbooks, Marley hopes she will continue to receive donations, so she can pass them on “to other schools where students are experiencing the same frustration”.

“We are having a book festival and donating them to the parish of St Mary in Jamaica where my mother is from,” she said. “I also plan on donating to schools in Newark, Philadelphia and West Orange. The Lee school in Philadelphia, Speedway elementary school in Newark, and in West Orange my elementary school … where my frustration began.”

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