Posts Tagged ‘equity’

For Children’s Book Week (May 12-18) The Brown Bookshelf is featuring different Black authors as they talk about just what the publishing industry needs right now: INNOVATION. I’m honored to be the guest author of today’s Making Our Own Market post. Here’s some of what I had to say:

Like most lovers of literature, I bought into the popular perception that people who self-publish are devoid of talent and lack the commitment it takes to win a legitimate shipofsoulspublishing contract. I was certain that my storytelling skills were so extraordinary that eventually I would be recognized by the very best agent who would then introduce me to the most discerning editors. I never imagined I would become an award-winning author and still be left with more than twenty unpublished manuscripts. If publishers were so desperate for multicultural material, why weren’t they knocking down my door? What did I do wrong?

Well, I naively believed that an industry dominated by women would welcome a The-Deepfeminist writer with a commitment to social justice. I wrongly assumed that the people who work in publishing care about children of color as much as I do. I made the mistake of thinking that publishers would be eager to woo African American consumers who have a collective buying power of over one trillion dollars. I met with white female editors who spoke passionately in public about their commitment to diversity but then manufactured reasons to reject my work. As my eyes opened to the ugly reality of racism in children’s publishing, I let go of my illusions and spoke out. I rocked the boat and, no doubt, burned some bridges. I also began to reassess my priorities and search for alternatives.

At this point in my career, self-publishing is probably the only way I can put my books Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000046_00049]in the hands of the urban kids I serve. I published four chapter books this month and plan to publish four more books in the fall. That will still leave me with fifteen unpublished manuscripts, but at least eight more books will exist that reflect the realities—and fantasies—of kids and teens of color. The publishing industry has barred me from entry and the bias against self-published authors ensures that my books won’t compete for any major awards; they won’t be reviewed in any of the major outlets and bookstores probably won’t stock any of my titles. But some child somewhere may open one of my books and find a mesmerizing mirror that makes him or her want to read more.

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image.w174h200f3I haven’t said much publicly about the #weneeddiversebooks campaign but I took a moment last week to write a piece for The Huffington Post and it just went up this afternoon. Here’s a taste:

The recent #weneeddiversebooks social media campaign has raised awareness of the need for greater diversity in children’s literature, and I am happy to see this important issue garner the attention it deserves. Activism around diversity isn’t new, of course, but repeated calls for change over the past few decades have largely fallen on deaf ears. Those of us who have been advocating for greater diversity and equity in children’s publishing are watching to see what will happen next. Will the overwhelmingly white publishing industry simply add a few more authors of color and call it a day? Will those who are new to the struggle be satisfied with superficial rather than structural change?

Missing from the diversity conversation is any mention of equity–equal opportunities for all. Right now the vast majority of children’s books are written by white authors. If more of those white authors start to write about people of color (and/or LGBT people, people with disabilities, people from different socio-economic classes), that will increase diversity; more books for young readers will begin to reflect the range of different people in our society. But such a move would do nothing to ensure equity within the industry. Equity insists that everyone has an equal opportunity to participate and right now less than 5% of the books published annually in the US are written by African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans.

I’ve been discussing the barriers faced by writers of color and my colleagues had several ideas, including a collective of indie authors. I think the big review outlets—Kirkus, School Library Journal, Horn Book—ought to devote a column to indie authors so that they can shine a spotlight on the very best self-published books instead of using blanket policies to shut out those truly talented writers who have already been turned away by publishers. But if members of the children’s literature community refuse to change and instead opt to wait on the publishers themselves to do better, nothing will ever change…

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DebriefI had a surreal experience today: I went to WNBC’s studio and saw the newscasters I watch every day in action! I was nervous—TV isn’t made for introverts!—but everyone in the studio was very kind and I relaxed after a while. Last fall I sent my books and some diversity articles to several media personalities, hoping they’d be willing to start a public conversation about the need for change. Basir Mchawi at WBAI and David Ushery at WNBC are the only two who responded, and I’m very grateful that they let me share my views on race and publishing. The Debrief with David Ushery airs on Sunday mornings at 5:30 am but if you’re not a morning person, you can watch my segment on “the diversity gap” here.


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It’s that time of year again! Edi Campbell kindly gave me her list of 2013 books by PoC (people of color) and I pulled out the fiction books by Black authors (middle grade and young adult). As always, if you see that we’ve missed a title, please let us know. I have not added titles from Saddleback Educational Publishing, a press devoted to hi-lo fiction for teens. You can find Saddelback’s Black authors on our 2011 and 2012 lists. Two of the titles are reprints. Walter Dean Myers, outgoing National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, had a good year with 3 titles; Amar’e Stoudemire and Kelli London had 2 titles each, as did Ni-Ni Simone and Amir Abrams. How many of the remaining authors made their debut in 2013? Less than ten, by my count. According to a recent article in New York Magazine, there were over 10,000 young adult novels available in 2012. A YALSA source suggests 3,000 YA novels are published annually in the US. You can find our 2014 list here.index         index

MG=middle grade (8-12) YA=young adult (12-18)

  1. Bereft by Craig Laurance Gidney (Tiny Satchell Press; January) YA
  2. STAT #3: Slam Dunk by Amar’e Stoudemire (Scholastic Paperbacks; January) MG
  3. Sweet 16 to Life: A Langdon Prep Novel by Kimberly Reid (KTeen; January) YA
  4. Reality Check: Charly’s Epic Fiasco by Kelli London (KTeen; February) YA
  5. Drifting by Lisa R. Nelson (Tiny Satchel Press; February) YA
  6. Flowers in the Sky by Lynn Joseph (Harper Teen; March) YA
  7. Orleans by Sherri L. Smith (Putnam Juvenile; March) YA
  8. The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson (Arthur A. Levine Books; March) YA
  9. Twelve Days of New York by Tonya Bolden and Gilbert Ford (Abrams; March) MG
  10. Hollywood High: Get Ready for War by Ni-Ni Simone and Amir Abrams (Kensington; March) YA
  11. Panic by Sharon Draper (Atheneum; March) YA
  12. Revenge of a Not-So-Pretty Girl by Carolita Blythe (Delacorte; April) YA
  13. The Laura Line by Crystal Allen (Balzer + Bray; April) MG
  14. Darius and Twig by Walter Dean Myers (Harper; April) YA
  15. P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams Garcia (Amistad; May) MG
  16. Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; May) MG
  17. Get Over It by Nikki Carter (Dafina Press; May) YA
  18. The Girl of His Dreams by Amir Abrams (K-Teen/Dafina; June) YA
  19. Paparazzi Princesses by Bria Williams, Reginae Carter, and Karyn Folan (Cash Money Content; June) YA
  20. Dork Diaries 6: Tales from a Not-So-Happy-Heartbreaker by Rachel Renee Russell (Aladdin; June) MG
  21. Charm and Strangeby Stephanie Kuehn (St. Martin Press; June) YA
  22. Star Power (Charly’s Epic Fiasco)by Kelli London (Kensington; July) YA
  23. Way Too Much Drama by Earl Sewell (Kimani Tru; July) YA
  24. Sunday You Learn How to Box by Bil Wright (Scribner; August—reprint) YA
  25. The Cruisers: Oh, Snap! by Walter Dean Myers (Scholastic; August) MG
  26. STAT #4: Schooled by Amar’e Stoudemire (Scholastic Paperbacks; August) MG
  27. Goal Line by Tiki & Ronde Barber, with Paul Mantell (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books; August—reprint) MG
  28. Zero Fadeby Chris Terry (Curbside Splendor; September) YA
  29. You Don’t Know Me Like That by Reshonda Tate Billingsly (K-Teen/Dafina; September) YA
  30. Streetball Crew Book One: Sasquatch in the Paint by Kareem Abdul Jabar (Disney-Hyperion; September) MG
  31. Invasion by Walter Dean Myers (Scholastic; October) YA
  32. The Case of the Time Capsule Bandit by Octavia Spencer (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; October) MG
  33. True Story by Ni-Ni Simone (KTeen/Dafina; November) YA
  34. Jump Shot by Tiki & Ronde Barber, with Paul Mantell (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books; November) MG
  35. He Said, She Said by Kwame Alexander (Amistad; November) YA
  36. Cy in Chains by David L. Dudley (Clarion Books; December) YA

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