Please tell us about the most recent diverse book you published.
I recently published Jumped In by Patrick Flores-Scott. This novel is about Sam, a teen who’s in a depressed state due to the breakdown of his family. He’s pretty much getting by in life by being a slacker, always remaining under the radar so he can fade into the background. But then he’s paired in English class with the much feared Luis, a Latino who is said to be in a hardcore gang. Together the two team up in a poetry slam contest and emerge, after much introspection and hard work, as very capable, talented students. It’s a book about breaking boundaries and stereotypes, as well as friendship, tragedy, and the power of words.
What is one factor holding you back from publishing more diverse books?
Nothing is holding me back from publishing diverse books – it’s very much something that I feel passionate about doing. I don’t feel I see enough submissions about diverse characters just living in the world and experiencing life through strong storytelling. In other words, submissions where the story is the story and the characters just happen to be Latino or African American rather than their diversity driving the storyline. I tend to see more agenda-oriented books on the topic and these can be harder to position and market, and are often less appealing to young readers.
US and International Organizations Protest Singapore National Library Board’s Decision to Pulp Children’s Books Over LGBT Contentcbcbooks.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEW YORK, NY — The National Coalition Against Censorship (USA) has been joined by freeDimensional and PEN International in issuing a statement (read online) opposing the decision of the Singapore National Library Board to remove and pulp three children’s books:And Tango Makes Three, The White Swan Express: A Story About Adoption, and Who’s In My Family: All About Our Families, reportedly over their portrayal of families with same-sex parents and calling for the immediate reversal of the ban and reinstatement of the books to the National Library Board.
Full disclosure up front: this is a post that asks more questions than it has answers.
I was speaking with a librarian the other day who told me that one of her challenges was handling the myriad restrictions parents put on their kids’ reading. In one specific case a mom complained about a middle grade novel that discussed how to tell the gender of one of the character’s pets. The parent felt this type of discussion was inappropriate. Of course it is important to be sensitive to a parent’s wishes when it comes to their children, and it brought into stark relief the difficult task that both teachers and children’s librarians have in recommending books to their students and patrons.
But my immediate reaction upon hearing that story was disbelief: surely, biology was not an off-limits topic in middle school? And the immediacy of my reaction forced me to face my own prejudices.
Although I was raised in a conservative Muslim family, there was one thing that was never policed in my household, and that was books. Maybe this was partly self-preservation on the part of my parents. As one of five kids, there was no way they would be able to keep up with helicoptering all of us. And maybe it was also a function of how we were being educated. My parents sent us to a Catholic school because they wanted remembrance of God to part of our daily life, and taught us our own faith through active discussions of the differences and similarities between what we were learning in school, and what we believed at home. I got used to learning all things comparatively, comfortable in the gray areas, and my knee-jerk assumption is that this is the best way to teach kids.
La Casa Azul Book Drive to Help Unaccompanied Minorscbcbooks.org
La Casa Azul, a NYC bookstore, is holding a summer book drive for children who are currently in deportation proceedings in the area. The bookstore is working with the Unaccompanied Latin-American Minor Project (U-LAMP) and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice/Safe Passage Project on this initiative.
Books for the drive will be accepted from Thursday July 10th - Sunday August 10, 2014.
“I do think that things have gotten better. Of course, as has been widely reported, if you look at the numbers of main characters of color in children’s books, the stats have stayed stagnant. But I do think that the quality of books featuring characters of color has improved (fewer stereotypical depictions, more variety), and also, if you look at the total number of diverse characters in books, I believe the numbers would be vastly improved. When I was a kid, I could probably count the number of Asian characters in the books I read on one hand. Now I see them everywhere.”—–Alvina Ling, founding member of the CBC Diversity Committee, in an interview with Goodreads on how she found her way into publishing, why diversity in publishing is complicated (but improving), and her newest multicultural project. Check out the whole interview here.
“Within just a few hours of learning of your decision, I received an email from a teen reader going into her sophomore year of high school. Which means that, if we’re doing the math, she was in exactly the age group that you’ve deemed “not yet prepared” for my novel when she read it. This student told me a little about the difficulties she’s having getting her parents to accept her sexuality, adding: “…the way you describe Cameron and her challenges, made me fall completely in love with her as well as see parts of myself in her…Your writing completely captivated me, and I hope I will be able to do that someday.”
I think it’s incredibly unfortunate that your decision to remove my book from your summer reading list may well keep a student just like this one—a student who might be too embarrassed or unsure to, on their own, pick up a novel with subject matter like mine—from choosing my book “safely” as part of a larger class assignment.”—Author emily m. danforth, writing to the Cape Henlopen School Board, about their decision to remove her novel The Miseducation of Cameron Post from their summer reading list (via diversityinya)
Ellen Oh: Diverse Books are Not ‘Special Interest’cbcbooks.org
Ellen Oh, YA author of the Prophecy series, recently weighed in on the inappropriate and unfair treatment of diverse books; specifically the way that they are handled like ‘special interest’ books instead of being promoted as much as other titles.
“Diverse books shouldn’t be considered “special interest” and shelved in a separate area. If books containing minority characters are special interest, then any book with a talking animal should be separated into a ‘non-human category.’"
“TODAY I am a writer, but I also see myself as something of a landscape artist. I paint pictures of scenes for inner-city youth that are familiar, and I people the scenes with brothers and aunts and friends they all have met.”—
Walter Dean Myers, “Where are the People of Color in Children’s Books?” Worth rereading. (via nationalbook)
“Wherever your heart rests
There I will live and be blessed
I’ve tried to line up the things I
Needed to say but now my feelings just
Tumble from me. I am half foolish,
Half drunk with wanting you
With wanting to take your hand
And leap into the darkness of whatever
Life will bring. Love makes me
Brave and without love I’m made
Nothing.”—Walter Dean Myers, Street Love (via quotebookshelf)
Walter Dean Myers, Prolific and Beloved Author of Award-Winning Children’s Books, Dies At Age 76cbcbooks.org
Truly devastating is the loss of National Ambassador Emeritus, Walter Dean Myers.
Walter Dean Myers, beloved and deeply respected children’s book author, died on July 1, 2014, following a brief illness. He was 76 years old.
In a career spanning over 45 years, Walter Dean Myers wrote more than 100 books for children of all ages. His impressive body of work includes two Newbery Honor Books, three National Book Award Finalists, and six Coretta Scott King Award/Honor-winning books. He was the winner of the first-ever Michael L. Printz Award, the first recipient of the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement, and a recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults. In 2010, Walter was the United States nominee for the Hans Christian Andersen Award, and in 2012 he was appointed the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, serving a two-year tenure in the position. Also in 2012, Walter was recognized as an inaugural NYC Literary Honoree, an honor given by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, for his substantial lifetime accomplishments and contribution to children’s literature.
“We are deeply saddened by the passing of erudite and beloved author Walter Dean Myers. Walter’s many award-winning books do not shy away from the sometimes gritty truth of growing up. He wrote books for the reader he once was, books he wanted to read when he was a teen. He wrote with heart and he spoke to teens in a language they understood. For these reasons, and more, his work will live on for a long, long time,” said Susan Katz, President and Publisher of HarperCollins Children’s Books.