Nicola Yoon is the bestselling author of the young adult novels "Everything, Everything" and "The Sun Is Also a Star." Additionally, she is an active voice for We Need Diverse Books, a movement to inspire publishers to expand their range of authors — and get a broader spectrum of stories into the hands of kids and teens everywhere.
"My daughter is half Korean and half Jamaican," she says, recallling that she made the heroine of "Everything, Everything" Asian-American and African-American because "I wanted my daughter to be able to see herself in a book when she grows up. When I was growing up, I didn't see myself in books a lot. I didn't know I could be the hero of a story. Maddie looks the way she does because my daughter looks the way she does." But thanks to the new movie version of the book starring Amandla Stenberg, Yoon didn't have to wait for her daughter to reach adulthood see herself in a brave protagonist. She remembers taking her now five year-old to the film set to meet Stenberg, and "The first thing she said was, 'Oh my gosh, she looks just like me!'"
And while Yoon notes that issue-oriented books quite literally save lives, she also says that the magic that happens when there's greater representation in books goes even deeper. "Everyone deserves to see themselves as the hero of a story," she says. "Everyone gets to slay the dragon. We live in a diverse world. It's big; it's beautiful; it's diverse. It's more beautiful because of its diversity."