Marley Dias, 11, started collecting books with diverse protagonists in November
The sixth-grader was fed up with not seeing herself in the books she was reading
Her goal is to collect 1,000 books to give to schools and libraries by February 11
By fifth grade, Marley Dias decided she had grown tired of reading books about “white boys and their dogs.”
Nothing against “Where the Red Fern Grows,” she said, but surely there are books about black girls to which she could relate.
“My mom asked me, ‘What are you going to do about it?’ ” the 11-year-old recalled. “I told her I was going to start a book drive.”
After starting sixth grade in the fall of 2015, Marley decided the time had come to make her idea a reality. Marley launched #1000BlackGirlBooks in November to raise awareness of books featuring black girls and other people of color as protagonists.
“Whenever you see a character you identify with, you carry it with you and it inspires you,” Marley said. “I want to introduce girls like me to books that will inspire them.”
Through word of mouth, the campaign has grown into a global phenomenon. News outlets around the world have covered her effort to collect 1,000 books by February 11 – just in time for Black History Month in the United States. Some books will go to a library in Saint Mary Parish, Jamaica, her mother’s hometown; the rest will go to Marley’s former elementary school in West Orange, New Jersey.
The drive got off to a slow start, finally gaining momentum after an article appeared in PhillyVoice. Now, with one week to go, she is just 100 books short of her deadline but the overwhelming response has led her to continue collecting and donating books to schools and libraries.
“The lesson I’ve learned from this is that you can doubt yourself but don’t let your doubt take over,” she said. “At one point, I was like there’s no way we’re getting 1,000, there’s no way we’re getting 500, but now we’re almost there because we never gave up.”
Marley launched the campaign through GrassROOTS Community Foundation, a nonprofit founded by her mother, Janice Johnson Dias, and Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter of the Grammy Award-winning group The Roots.
“The interest and support has been incredible,” Janice Johnson Dias said. “As a parent, it’s been great to watch her step into the spotlight and articulate her goals.”
Before the campaign, Marley’s favorite book featuring a black main character was “Chains” by Laurie Halse Anderson, the story of a slave’s fight for freedom during the American Revolution. Now, she has hundreds of titles from which to choose.
Here’s a selection of some of those titles. Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments.
“A Chair For My Mother” by Vera Williams
“After Tupac and D Foster” by Jacqueline Woodson
“Amazing Grace” by Mary Hoffman and Caroline Binch
“Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
“Art from Her Heart” by Kathy Whitehead
“Ballerina Dreams: From Orphan to Dancer” by Michaela and Elaine DePrince
“Blue Tights” by Rita Williams-Garcia
“Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson
“Dyamonde Daniel” books by Nikki Grimes
“Download Drama (Kimani Tru)” by Celeste O. Norfleet
“Firebird” by Misty Copeland
“Full, Full, Full of Love” by Trish Cooke and Paul Howard
“Miami Jackson” books by Patricia and Fredrick McKissack
“Nikki and Deja” by Karen English
“Ninth Ward” by Jewell Parker Rhodes
“Ruby and the Booker Boys” books by Derrick Barnes and Vanessa Brantley Newton
“Thunder Rose” by Jerdine Nolen and Kadir Nelson