UPDATE AS OF JULY 18, 2016:
Thank you to everyone who donated YA novels and children’s books, comic books, and DVDs featuring positive LGBTQIA+ characters and themes for the Orlando Youth Alliance. I received a beautiful letter from their president, Michael Slaymaker, thanking us.
He wrote the following:
“Roberto, a longtime member of the Orlando Youth Alliance, left Pulse Night Club 30 minutes before the shootings. He spent Sunday morning frantically texting and calling to see if his friends were alive or dead.
“The Orlando Youth Alliance has been providing support groups for LGBTQ teenagers and young adults for over 25 years. The issues we discuss in our groups are bullying, coming out to family and friends, increasing self-esteem and overcoming adversity. The discussion will change over the months ahead. We are bringing in mental health professionals to help our youth cope with the loss of there friends, brothers and sisters. The grieving will take a long time, but we at OYA are dedicated to providing a safe space for our youth in good times and bad.
“In our 25 year history we have provided services to over 1,500 Central Florida youth. We work to make sure they never feel so alone and think that suicide is an option. No OYA youth has committed suicide.
“Your in-kind donation of books and DVDs means the road to our all-volunteer, non-profit organization. The words in these books will help our youth go someplace else for a while which will be great for their healing process. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts and minds.”
Thank you again to everyone who helped donate books to my donation drive. I strongly urge you to do the same for your own local LGBTQIA+ youth centers in your communities to prevent future tragedies from happening. I am overwhelmed and humbled by everyone’s compassion and generosity.
Original Blog from June 16, 2016:
Hi. Thank you for reading my blog. I was devastated by the tragic mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida on Sunday June 12, 2016. I wanted to do something immediately that day to help. I searched for suggestions on where to donate money and found out about the ORLANDO YOUTH ALLIANCE. This is an all-volunteer non-profit organization that has provided a safe space, support groups and services for LGBTQ teens and young adults for the past 25 years. They have served over 1,500 Central Florida youth. (Website: http://www.orlandoyouthalliance.org)
I donated money to help this organization, which is currently providing emergency mental health professionals to help their youth cope with the loss of their friends and family members from the shooting. But I wanted to do more. So I also started a donation drive for people and authors to donate Young Adult novels and children’s books either written by LGTBQIA+ & QPOC authors and/or featuring diverse LGBTQIA+ characters/themes/storylines to these wonderful teens and young people. I spoke with Tom Jacobson at the OYA who said their center would love to receive these books.
I am sending a package of diverse LGBTQIA+ and QPOC-themed children’s books and comic books to this organization, including my own picture book about activist movie star Anna May Wong who later became a positive pop culture icon for the LGBTQ community.
I started this book donation drive because I realized – I can’t change our country’s gun laws overnight. I can’t fix our mental health system overnight.
BUT… I CAN donate diverse LGBTQIA+ & QPOC children’s books and encourage others to donate books with positive and three-dimensional images as a way to provide comfort, solace and hope for our LGBTQIA+ & QPOC youth. I want to stop the hate. And hopefully these books can open the eyes and hearts of family members and other people who may have closed LGBTQ youth from their lives. Maybe these books can help stop the hate and inspire love. Books can change all our lives. I strongly believe in this. It’s why I write… and why I write books for children and teens.
In fact, even science has proven books can change lives. Recent neuroscience studies have proven that reading fiction causes our brains to experience these stories and characters at a neurobiological level. According to this article, “Can Reading a Fictional Story Make You More Empathetic?” by Christopher Bergland of The Guardian (December 1, 2014): “Neuroscientists mapping the brain have discovered that reading fiction taps into the same brain networks as real life experience. When you are engaged in reading a fictional story your brain is literally living vicariously through the characters at a neurobiological level. …your brain automatically puts yourself in the character’s shoes. Throughout the process of reading narrative fiction, the reader learns life lessons from how he or she personally experiences the journey of the protagonist and other characters in the story.”
So I hope the power of books and the written word can stop the hate and help our LGBTQ youth and their families find peace, especially our local youth in Orlando directly affected by this tragedy.
NOTE: I also encourage everyone to help those in your local community as well. If you have a local LGBTQIA+ youth center in your town, why not stop by and volunteer your services or offer to donate books that could comfort these kids? Everyone is scared. Let’s let all our LGBTQIA+ and QPOC youth know that we are here for them… that we love them. That we’re sorry this happened… and that this should never have happened in the first place. We want our youth to know that we are joining forces to stop the hate.
Let’s DO SOMETHING to prevent future tragedies like this from ever happening again. End the hate. Bring the love.
If you are an LGBTQIA+ QPOC YA novelist/children’s book author and/or wrote a book featuring diverse LGBTQIA+ characters/themes/storylines, please donate your books to the ORLANDO YOUTH ALLIANCE. You are also welcome to autograph your book and dedicate it to this amazing volunteer center, too!
(NOTE: If you are a non-author but want to help, you are more than welcome to send your favorite LGBTQ children’s books as well to the OYA! You can also donate money here: http://www.orlandoyouthalliance.org/index.cfm?n=7&c=green)
HOW TO DONATE YOUR BOOKS:
Please mail your books to this address:
Orlando Youth Alliance
P.O. Box 536944
Orlando, FLA 32853-6944
Please write “RE: BOOK DONATION” on the front of the envelope or box package.
OYA Voicemail: (407) 244-1222
OYA Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
OYA DONATIONS: If you are interested in also donating money to the all-volunteer non-profit Orlando Youth Alliance, please visit this link: http://www.orlandoyouthalliance.org/index.cfm?n=7&c=green
Please follow me on Twitter @paulayoo where I will post updates as well. Spread the word! Please use the hashtags #SpreadTheLGBTQLove and #PrideToThePage
If you have any other questions, please email me at paula at paulayoo dot com.
OTHER WONDERFUL DIVERSE BOOK RESOURCES:
I am also grateful for the generosity of children’s book author/activist/filmmaker e.E. Charlton-Trujillo for offering to help with her at-risk-youth non-profit group Never Counted Out, which provides access to books for at-risk youth. For more information, check out her websites here: http://bigdreamswrite.com and http://nevercountedout.com
I highly recommend children’s book author and social media expert Lee Wind, who has a wonderful resource website listing information about young adult literature and children’s books written by LGBTQ authors and/or featuring LGBTQIA+ characters/themes/stories. You can find out more here: http://www.leewind.org (Lee’s latest blog has more LGBTQ-related YA novels listed here: http://www.leewind.org/2016/06/spread-love.html)
Finally, I also recommend the organization WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS which provides information about diverse books featuring diverse characters and storylines. Their website is here: http://weneeddiversebooks.org
Thank you for helping me donate books to the Orlando Youth Alliance. Love Is Love.