Meet Sarah Kamya, the Trailblazer Behind the Little Free Diverse Libraries Project

John Green has said, “Great books help you understand, and they help you feel understood.”

Truly, the power of books is transformative. They are powerful, not only for helping us better see the world around us, but also inside ourselves. At a time when so many of us are learning (and un-learning), amplifying the voices of Black authors — and getting those books into the hands of people — is more important than ever.

Sarah Kamya heard that call — and answered it in a big way.

As the force behind the Little Free Diverse Libraries project, Sarah is filling Little Free Libraries across the country with more diverse books, in a heroic effort to create conversation, make change, and help people (especially children) feel understood.

Today, Sarah explains the mission behind the LFDL project, her reaction to the massive response, and how people can help the movement continue to grow.

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Sarah Kamya. I am 25 years old and I am a School Counselor at a K-8 school in Manhattan.

How did LFDL get started?

The mission for this project started when I was on one of my daily walks through my town of Arlington, Massachusetts. There is a Little Free Library right by my house which I pass every day where you can take a book or leave a book. I always stop to check out the books and I was thinking how great it would be to fill these libraries in my community with more diverse books.

My town is made up of 83.6% white people and 2.63% African-Americans, and while it is not my job to educate the white folk in this community, I believe in the power of books and I believe that books have the power to start conversations and create change. It is also my hope that through this project that if little black and brown children stumble across one of these Little Free Libraries they will finally be able to see themselves represented and celebrated in literature. 

What makes you passionate about it?

I am passionate about this project because when I was growing up I did not see myself represented in literature. This at time made me feel alone, and unworthy of things that white friends could do. I am excited for black and brown children to get their hands on these books, and I am also excited for white children to educate themselves and experience different cultures and backgrounds through Black characters. I believe strongly in the power of books, and the conversations they create, and the long-lasting effects of a good book.  

How do you feel about the response to the LFDL project?

The response to LFDL has been quite overwhelming, as I just planned to fill the 20 or so little free libraries in my community. Now I have sent books to 28 different states. It is amazing to see people want to share these books and get these books into their community. My house is totally covered in books and it is so fun flipping through a new book each day. 

Why is the LFDL project so important, especially for children and youth?

Having conversations regarding race with children and youth is extremely important to me. The LFDL project has been especially powerful to see it through my student’s eyes. I am an Elementary School Counselor and the majority of my students are black and brown. This project has allowed me to show them that no idea is too big, or too small and that they deserve to have themselves represented, celebrated, and portrayed in literature.

How do you hope to grow the initiative in the future?

I hope that LFDL continues to expand to more communities and that Black authors continue to get recognition for their work and that these books do not find their way to the back of the shelves. 

What can people do to help LFDL grow?

People can create their own Little Free Library and commit to filling it with books by Black authors. People can also find local Black-owned bookshops and purchase books through them. People can donate to me @Sarah-Kamya or purchase books through my Amazon wishlist

The book you can’t stop recommending to people?

For children’s books, Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO by Dr. Tamara Pizzoli is absolutely incredible. For adults, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett.

Follow @littlefreediverselibraries on Instagram and donate books directly through Amazon to the LFDL project.

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