Inclusion For All: Author Kody Keplinger On Why Diversity In Kid Lit Must Include People With Disabilities

The author of 'That's Not What Happened' and 'The Duff' caught up with editor Rachael to talk about representation, how geek girls find their way, and how audiobooks aid accessibility.

What has been apparent to me since I listened to Kody Keplinger's first novel The DUFF (which she wrote when she was just 17, by the way!), is that representation matters. It mattered that I wasn't hearing another story about the most popular kid in school, or that the highlight of the book wasn't the main character removing her glasses to instantly transform into a bombshell, a la countless teen movies. I instantly related to the protagonist's plight. After all, I am the DUFF; we are all the DUFF.

While Kody's writing has evolved since her debut, the sentiment that you should be kind and true to yourself remains. Her latest book, That's Not What Happened, follows the victims of a school shooting as they come to terms with the fallout of tragedy. What really sets this YA novel apart is that the characters aren't your typical, popular-kids-turned-traumatized crew--they're just like the kids that we all went to high school with. They each have issues that stem from who they are and the way they're treated because of it, and along with dealing with outside pressures, they're each working towards a better understanding of themselves.

Kody confidently and comfortably shares that she's visually impaired, queer, and--something that I can definitely relate to--a total geek who loves audiobooks. Not only does she appreciate the accessibility of audio entertainment, she also credits Audible with helping her to become an avid bookworm and jumpstarting her career as an author. She writes characters that exist in our world, in the voices that exist in our world. With the help of talented narrators, kids who are members of different races, abilities, and sexualities are handed the mic. And through Kody's work with the Disability in Kid Lit organization, she hopes that other authors will follow suit.

I hope that you'll enjoy watching and listening to Kody answer my questions as much as I did.


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