Rainbow Boxes Campaign Seeks to Deliver Diverse YA Reads to All 50 States

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Inspired by the We Need Diverse Books initiative, Young Adult authors Cori McCarthy and Amy Rose Capetta launched the Rainbow Boxes campaign last month to bring diverse titles to young readers in all 50 states.

With the help of Tirzah Price, the children’s specialist at Great Lakes Book & Supply in Big Rapids, Michigan, the authors are filling 100 boxes with books recognizing the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA) youth population. The boxes will be shipped to one community library and one LGBTQIA homeless shelter or gay-straight alliance in each state.

“Purchasing LGBTQIA books — and any inclusive literature, for that matter — has definitely been one of my top priorities when it comes to stocking the Children’s and YA section, and I think that [McCarthy and Capetta] did an amazing job at picking the books for the boxes,” said Price, who helped the authors hunt down potential picks to include. The books address a spectrum of experiences, she added, and were vetted to make sure they are well-written.

The aim of the campaign is to reach teenagers who have a critical need to see themselves mirrored in current literature. Among other books, the boxes will include Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (Balzer + Bray), Far From You by Tess Sharpe (Disney-Hyperion), and Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kristin Cronn-Mills (Flux).

The Rainbow Boxes Indiegogo campaign has raised nearly half of the $26,000 needed to produce the boxes, which will cost about $250 each to compile and ship.

The mix of hardcover and paperback titles will be purchased through Great Lakes Book & Supply at a 10 percent discount. “[McCarthy and Capetta] were very clear that they didn’t want to take a discount for their — very large — order because they wanted to support us as well, and they only took the 10 percent to pay for the shipping and keep the cost of a box at an even $250,” said Price, who has worked at the bookstore since 2011.

McCarthy, Capetta, and Price, who all currently live in Big Rapids, are graduates of the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

At the conclusion of the Indiegogo campaign, McCarthy and Capetta will identify and reach out to libraries and LGBTQIA organizations in each state to ensure that the books are needed and wanted before sending.

The authors hope that libraries receiving Rainbow Boxes will place the titles into general circulation rather than highlighting them as special reads to show that these books are also meant for readers beyond the LGBTQIA community.

What Price loves about this campaign is the commitment from McCarthy and Capetta to supporting not just teens in need of inclusive reads, but the authors and publishers of the chosen titles. “They’re sending a clear message that we need to monetarily support these books so that publishers will continue to publish them,” said Price. “And, of course, I love that they’re supporting independent bookstores.”

Learn more about the Rainbow Boxes initiative on Indiegogo and follow the campaign’s progress on Twitter.