“In truth, everything in my life in 1951 that was personal and had value was white,” Walter Dean Myers later wrote in his memoir “Bad Boy.” It wasn’t until he reached adulthood and read “Sonny’s Blues,” by James Baldwin, a fellow Harlemite, that he felt he had permission to offer the world a narrative with blackness at its core. By then, after a stint in the Army, he was writing seriously. In 1968, his picture-book manuscript for “Where Does the Day Go” won a contest for black writers by the Council on Interracial Books for Children. It was published the following year. Eventually he would write more than a hundred books for young people: lyrical picture books and gritty novels, poetry and short stories, history, biography, memoir, books that earned him nearly every major award children’s publishing had to offer.
Read the full New York Times article here and learn about the other amazing individuals we lost this year.
Some months ago, I heard this question a few times while participating in a career fair with youth members of Leave Out Violence (LOVE), a nonprofit after-school program serving at-risk youth dedicated to reducing violence in the lives of young people and their communities.
Other questions followed. “Yes, I read a lot,” I said. “No, I don’t have to always correct grammar. Magnificent copy editors do that because I miss so many mistakes.”
I talked more about collaborating with authors, the editorial process of making a book, and all the creative work I get to do with a lot of brilliant people.
Teens participating in the career fair, For the LOVE of Our Future, were members of the organization’s media arts program. Sitting in an intimate circle, along with professionals in a variety of fields, we spent three thirty-minute sessions with a different group of diverse young people—diverse not only in age, gender, and ethnicity but also in educational pursuits and career interests.
These marvelous teens readily asked honest, engaging, and intelligent questions. LOVE has created a comfortable and open atmosphere, making it easy for thought-provoking dialogue to flourish. I was overwhelmed by the interest in publishing, although more of the group was interested in the writing of books, including one young woman who planned to write for Korean television shows and a sixteen-year-old guy who had written a manuscript inspired by The Catcher in the Rye. Unfortunately, many of the teens had a distant view of publishing—one in which somewhere the gatekeepers make the books. In addition to questions about college majors and SATs, they wanted to know how to get into publishing.
January 27 Designated Multicultural Children's Book Daypublishersweekly.com
The push from various directions to raise awareness concerning the importance of embracing diversity in children’s books continues with two bloggers, Valarie Budayr of Jump Into a Book and Mia Wenjen of Pragmatic Mom announcing that Multicultural Children’s Book Day will take place on January 27, 2015, with a full schedule of online promotions and activities. Plus, for each of the 25 days leading up to January 27, in collaboration with the Children’s Book Council, authors and illustrators from diverse backgrounds will be interviewed and the interviews will be posted on the MCCBD website.
We’re so excited to read and share all of the wonderful interviews in January!
Steps Towards Improving Diversity in Book Publishingcbcbooks.org
A sample of book publishing professionals have responded to the glaring lack of diversity within the workforce, and put forth possible solutions. Awareness has expanded following the release of Publishers Weekly’s annual Salary Survey and Diversity Panel, the continued efforts of the We Need Diverse Books campaign, and current events taking shape across the nation.
Ayanna Coleman, associate manager of events and programs at the Children’s Book Council and CBC Diversity Committee Liaison, was among the PW Diversity Panel attendees and, along with eight other responders, offered her professional insight on the matter. The discussion generated six concrete action points or “hacks” to improve diversity, which range from emulating other industries’ strategies to harnessing social media and technology.
At one of our recent CBC [Diversity] committee meetings, we discussed the huge challenge of discoverability [of titles], especially with diverse content. Mark von Bargen, senior director of trade sales for children’s books at Macmillan, came up with the idea of updating BISAC codes [standardized headings used to categorize books]. Providing a book with the proper BISAC codes (you usually can only use three out of the hundreds available) is huge, as it determines where a book is shelved and how it comes up in a bookstore or library search by consumers…[the] committee brainstormed nine new, more specific BISAC codes, like “Juvenile Fiction/Family/Immigration and Assimilation,” for consideration to add to the 2015 industry-standard subject list.
Nominees Revealed for the 46th NAACP Image Awardscbcbooks.org
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has announced the complete list of nominees for this year’s NAACP Image Awards. The award, now in its 46th year, celebrates “the outstanding achievements and performances of people of color in the arts,” specifically in the fields of music, television, film, and literature.
About the NAACP The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination.
So, this is a little awkward. Turns out…I’m a bigot. Oh, and you probably are too.
This is a shocking statement to make, right? My point is that it shouldn’t be.
Most people assume that prejudice, bias and bigotry spring from ideology–from a conscious hatred of other people. But for the vast majority, it inhabits us without our even being aware of it. Look at this post on the movie business, and how film students, even film students who were not male, not able-bodied, and not white found themselves caught up in responding to headshots of potential actors according to racial, ableist, and gender stereotypes.
I myself identify within a number of minority groups. I’m disabled. I come from a mixed race family. I’m part of the QUILTBAG community (the ‘A’, in case you were interested). Yet I’m just as stuffed with prejudice as everyone else.
Unconscious or unexamined biases lurk in the back of everyone’s minds, pretending that they’re ‘instinct’ or 'common-sense’ or 'realism’. But what’s the usual reaction among your friends and family if you hint that something they have said or done or assumed could stem from unconscious prejudice? I bet it’s, “I’m not a racist/sexist/ableist/homophobe! How can you say such a terrible thing about me?”
Nominate Your Favorite Books of 2014 for the Teen Choice Book of the Year Awardcbcbooks.org
In association with the Children’s Book Council (CBC) and Every Child a Reader (ECAR), Teenreads.com is giving you a very special opportunity to let your voices be heard by asking you to share your five favorite books of 2014. The five titles that receive the most votes will serve as the finalists for the CBC’s 2014 Teen Choice Book of the Year.
The selection is vast with well over 200 books to choose from! To encourage consideration of all the fabulous books published in the past year, you can vote for titles that are on the provided list or write in your favorites if they aren’t listed.
Nominate your favorite YA titles of 2014 by noon (EST) on February 2 at Teenreads.com!
I wanted to interview Tanya McKinnon for this blog for a number of reasons– she’s such an inspiring and generous member of the publishing community; she’s an agent, and the co-author of the acclaimed middle grade novel Zora and Me; she’s both eloquent and realistic on the topic of diversity; and and I wanted to hear more about her course at CCNY where she teaches Writing for Children within the publishing program.
Wendy Lamb: Tanya, you’re an agent, an author, a college instructor, and you have a masters in cultural anthropology. There so much we could talk about. Let’s start with agenting–what kind of books are you looking to represent?
Tanya McKinnon: As an African-American agent with a diverse client list in both children’s and adult books, I am always on the lookout for books that push the envelope of human understanding. Books that honor our multicultural world, regardless of who writes them, are my passion.
Jacqueline Woodson, Watermelon Allergies, and Making Space for Historically Absent Storiesnytimes.com
In a few short words, the audience and I were asked to take a step back from everything I’ve ever written, a step back from the power and meaning of the National Book Award, lest we forget, lest I forget, where I came from. By making light of that deep and troubled history, he showed that he believed we were at a point where we could laugh about it all. His historical context, unlike my own, came from a place of ignorance.
In her New York Times opinion piece The Pain of the Watermelon Joke, Jacqueline Woodson puts her National Book Award win into perspective and reinforces that, through the creation of mirrors and windows, stereotypes can be beaten and ignorance can be left behind.
The world of publishing has been getting shaken like a pecan tree and called to the floor because of its lack of diversity in the workplace. At this year’s National Book Awards, many of the books featured nonwhite protagonists, and three of the 20 finalists were people of color. One of those brown finalists (me!), in the very first category, Young People’s Literature, had just won.