As part of CBC Diversity’s ongoing effort, we’re pleased to present the second dialogue in the “It’s Complicated!” blog series starting Sept. 3rd, this time addressing book covers.
The following voices in the industry will each contribute one blog post to the series over the week, addressing challenges they’ve faced and successes they’ve had in selling/designing/writing books portraying diverse characters on the cover, and participating in the open dialogue in the comments section of the site:
Coe Booth, Author
Laurent Linn, Art Director at Simon & Schuster Children’s
Felicia Frazier, Senior VP and Director of Sales at Penguin Young Readers Group
Elizabeth Bluemle, Owner of Flying Pig Bookstore
Joseph Monti, Agent at Barry Goldblatt Literary - don’t miss reading his recent post about his entry into publishing
Our first “It’s Complicated!” blog dialogue in May addressed a topic that has arisen frequently at the Diversity table — the concept of responsibility and authenticity when writing about diverse characters and how authors, editors, and agents can choose/write stories that reflect the diverse nature of our society. Review that conversation!
As always, we urge everyone to participate in what we hope will be an informative and insightful conversation. We really appreciate hearing from you, our readers, through the comments section of the posts about the parts of the discussion that you feel are most important and want to talk further about.
For 6 years, I worked as a librarian in a high school in Indiana that struggled to help students achieve academic success. I truly enjoyed being their librarian. Don’t let anyone tell you that “these students” don’t read. By the numbers “these students” were 96% Black and 85% low income. By my memory, they were sponges who soaked in knowledge at every opportunity. They were amazing people who were full of wonder, possibilities and potential. For each of the 6 years I worked with them, I checked out at least twice as many books as students in the 1100 student school, one year even four times as much. My students were readers and sophisticated readers at that. They knew exactly what they would enjoy reading. While they sometimes requested popular YA titles, they would most consistently ask for urban lit. I found it for them in YA form and they inhaled it.
I grew up thinking that no one in publishing ever came from where I grew up, Yonkers, NY. I had the kind of high school experience that smothered dreams, said you weren’t smart enough to have what you wanted. I grew up with a limited perspective and a small idea of what the world of publishing was like, that it was elite. And it is an elite environment because it is a intimate field, not because:
You need an ivy league degree.
You need to be financially well off.
You need to have an upper middle class background, minimum, and the worldliness that life presumed.
I was a lower middle class kid from a mixed-race immigrant background, whose guidance counselor recommended I abandon my goals of either becoming an editor or a professor of English and take a look at a solid trade like sanitation management. Fortunately I have a personality that is a combination of old fashioned romanticism, which came from reading, and a deep sense of practicality, that comes from the way I grew up, being sickly, and poor enough to know I could not have everything I wanted. Then something wonderful happened: I stayed home one Saturday afternoon and watched T.V.
PBS on channel 13 was playing a marathon of The Power of Myth interview series by Bill Moyers with Joseph Campbell. It changed my life. It fulfilled my romantic idealism with a plan: Follow your bliss. So I thought about a way to get what I wanted, a life in words. I was working already, part-time, at a local B. Dalton Bookseller (#321), so that was my back-up plan: Be a full-time bookseller; rise in rank, and run a store. Then I lied.