Embracing Diversity in YA Lit | School Library Journal
SLJ spoke to industry professionals who are raising awareness on the need for different perspectives in young adult books, and compiled a list of resources to find these titles.
A comprehensive, helpful article and list of resources for librarians on increasing diversity in YA lit. (And I was interviewed for it, too!)
DiYA is in it too! And yes very good resources at the end.
Fabulous article! Three of CBC Diversity’s founders are interviewed. What a great resources section at the bottom. Way to go, Shelley!
Back in April, Riky Stock, director of the German Book Office in New York reached out to me with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity—to join a group of children’s book editors on a trip to Frankfurt and Hamburg to meet with German publishers and agents. The German Book Office hosts this annual trip for editors to experience the wonders of beer, brats, and books in hopes of building a bridge between our two countries, for both American books that could succeed in Germany and vice versa.
My fellow editors for this year’s trip included Stacey Barney from Putnam/Penguin (and one of the founders of CBC Diversity!), Sheila Barry from Groundwood Books in Canada, Grace Maccarone from Holiday House, Ben Rosenthal from Enslow, and Reka Simonsen from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Our group had a great vibe, and by the end of the trip, we had our fair share of inside jokes and insightful discussion about books and, in particular, why foreign translations are so difficult for the North American market.
The CBC Diversity Initiative is committed to bringing diverse experiences to our book market, and this includes stories told from a non-American point of view. After learning some eye-opening numbers about the German book market, it’s evident that while the American perspective is pervasive worldwide, we in turn are reluctant to embrace stories from other cultures.
Here’s the breakdown:
- 24.8% of all new fiction titles in Germany are translations—and more than 70% of those are books from the US and the UK. Meanwhile, in the US, only 3% of all new titles are translations.
- The biggest bestselling series in Germany mirror the American market:
- Harry Potter
- Hunger Games
- YA and children’s translations into German have almost doubled in the last five years.
- In 2011, a total of 46 German translations were published in the U.S.
Senior Editor at Penguin Random House
I began my professional life as a teacher and have taught the gamut: from preschool to high school. What I found most frustrating was the lack of compelling outside reading available, especially for my students of color. While teaching in Boston, I was also pursuing my MFA at Emerson College. It was there that I discovered Book Publishing as a career option. On a lark I took my first publishing class as a way to build-up the pre-requisite credits I needed in order to take my fiction workshops. I never expected to find myself so taken and invested in the material and the industry. In fact, before my book publishing courses at Emerson, I thought books were a gift from some mythical book fairy that I conveniently picked up at my local bookstore on a weekly basis. I never gave much thought to the industry behind the books I consumed so compulsively. But I caught the publishing bug quickly and left the teaching profession soon thereafter with my sights set on publishing those books that felt missing to me and to my former students.
My first job in publishing was a lucky and invaluable internship at Lee & Low, an independent multicultural children’s book publisher in New York. I learned a great deal about editing, acquisitions as well as marketing and publicity from this experience. While working at Lee & Low, I contacted quite a few publishing professionals requesting informational interviews. I knocked on a lot of doors and was told the same thing over and again: you seem great, but I don’t have a job for you. I was starting to feel a little hopeless, though the truth is I’d spent only a summer looking for a permanent position and that wasn’t very long at all.
After working with Kristin Levine on her first novel, The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had, I knew that Kristin had a true gift for bringing history alive and making it feel both current and relevant. Her stories are vibrant and suspenseful; her writing reverberates with warmth and deep emotion; her characters feel like trusted friends telling you something true, something you know you need to hear, even if hearing it is a hard thing. So I knew when she shared with me the very first pages of her second novel, The Lions of Little Rock, that Kristin was poised to make a very special literary contribution, she was readying remarkable characters to become our friends—ones who would tell us a very important truth about who we were and who we are. I knew these characters and this book would be beloved, but I had no idea just how strong a chord it would strike. Lilly Ghahremani wrote on her blog yesterday,
The Lions of Little Rock is a powerful book for so many reasons. On the surface it is a sweet, thoughtful tale, and one might mistakenly file it away as historical fiction and believe that the lessons end there. But the point is that the story is important to us today, and will be every day until we properly square away our racial issues. One can only hope that a unique book like this contributes to a gentler younger generation, one that approaches each and every member of their classroom with more interest and understanding. Not just the black children- all children who look a little bit different than them, or act a little bit different. It is a tale of acceptance that I guess I wish more adults would read and learn from.
Lilly had an affecting personal connection to the story and she wrote about that connection poignantly and with grace. It was an emotional experience to read her words. Hers is just the kind of connection I’d hoped readers would make and a testament to why books that show us all of who we are as a society is a must like air or water. Read Lilly’s words, be affected and just a little bit changed.