A few months ago I had the pleasure of meeting Summer Edward; she kindly agreed to review Wish, and then opened my eyes to the challenges facing members of the children’s publishing industry in the Caribbean. We’ll spend the next couple of days getting to know this blogger/scholar and her views on Caribbean children’s literature…
Introduce us to Summer Edward—who are you, and how/why did you start blogging?
For the purposes of this interview, I’m a writer, blogger, Caribbean children’s literature scholar/activist, and aspiring children’s writer from Trinidad and Tobago. I’m also a Masters student in the Reading, Writing, Literacy program at the University of Pennsylvania where I’ve studied international children’s literature and illustration under Dr. Laurence Sipe.
I started blogging to bring awareness to the existence of Caribbean children’s literature, its history and highlights, but also its deficiencies and dilemmas. So many people want to know more about Caribbean children’s literature (Who writes it? What does it look like? Where can I buy books? Why isn’t there more of it? What is a Caribbean children’s book anyway?) but don’t know where to turn to find out or simply haven’t been able to because there isn’t much information out there, scholarly or otherwise. I also started blogging because I think we Caribbean people should ask, and have a right to ask ourselves why it is, at this stage in our history and development, we still cannot walk into a bookstore (whether it is in the Caribbean or elsewhere in the world) and find quality children’s literature by Caribbean people about Caribbean experiences well-represented on the shelves.
I understand that there are people out there (like myself) who want to see Caribbean children’s literature become more mainstream, respected, dynamic, relevant, bona fide, affordable, accessible, functional and yes, lucrative. No one writer, illustrator or publisher can make this happen; we need to come together as an interest group and network and support each other, and I thought that a blog was one way to do that. Finally, I started blogging to advocate for the importance of reading throughout childhood and of culturally-relevant, personally meaningful literacy experiences for children and young people.
Tell us about your online magazine, Anansesem, and describe your “dream submission.”
Anansesem is a first-of-its-kind online magazine of Caribbean and related writing and illustration for children by adults and children. Along with myself, the Editorial Board consists of June South-Robinson, Carol Mitchell, Anouska Kock, Sandra Sealy. We are currently accepting material for our inaugural issue, due in September (See our Submission Guidelines.)
Our “dream submission” would be a couple of things. First, we hope that people will pay attention to and closely follow the instructions outlined in the Submission Guidelines. Aside from that, we’re hoping that we will get submissions from Caribbean (and some non-Caribbean) individuals with serious aspirations of writing and illustrating for children. In terms of submissions from kids, we’d honestly love to see anything Caribbean children have written, drawn, painted or made. On our Facebook page, I recently posted a link to the winning pieces from last year’s UNESCO International children’s painting competition. Although we’d love to see that kind of highly artistic kids’ work in our magazine, we understand that not all children paint or draw like that, so of course we want a range of work.
Most of all, we want age-appropriate writing and illustration that authentically reflects the values and attitudes of Caribbean people. Writing that considers Caribbean children (and their parents and teachers) as the primary audience, yet is accessible to “cultural outsiders.” We’re looking for illustrations that daringly interpret the Caribbean picture book aesthetic, showing awareness of traditional Caribbean artistic expressions, but also innovative integration of styles of children’s illustration drawn from other cultures. We’re looking for Caribbean children’s literature that builds upon the past while speaking to the present and the future, that critiques and informs, and that avoids stereotypical presentations. Send us some stories about real-life Caribbean children living in actual social and historical circumstances. Words and plots that evoke childhood in the Caribbean. Ultimately, we are looking for pictures and narratives that Caribbean children will love and see themselves in.