The CBC Diversity initiative was founded in 2012, as part of the Children’s Book Council’s commitment to promoting diverse voices in literature for young people. We believe that all children deserve to see their world reflected in the books they read. We recognize that diversity takes on many forms, including differences in race, religion, gender, geography, sexual orientation, class, and ability.
In addition to championing diverse authors and illustrators, CBC Diversity strives to open up the publishing industry to a wider range of employees. We’ve taken an active role in recruiting diverse candidates, participating in school career fairs and partnering with We Need Diverse Books on its summer internship program.
Writing THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD & EVIL series is like running
a fantasy corporation. Six years into writing, five books later, I wake up
every day and juggle over 150 characters, 40 plot lines, and a world so big it
feels like it’s outgrowing my own head. But it’s what I was born to do – write
big worlds and sophisticated stories that can keep up with a clever child’s
But there was something else I was born to do, only I never
thought I’d find an outlet to do it: tell my own story.
And my most personal story is about my grandmother, who
without sounding too crass, was a person far more significant in my life than
my own parents. We shared the same birthday. We both liked gourmet food and
fancy hotels, even if we couldn’t afford them. We both were highly suspicious
of my grandfather. And most of all, we were deeply, deeply unhappy.
But Nani didn’t want me to be. And something about my own
unhappiness made her intolerant of her own.
VP & Publisher of Crown Books for Young Readers, Random House
Senior Year. Second Semester. It started with a Children’s Literature class
I took with Jane Yolen. I admit, I
hadn’t read any children’s books…since middle school, seventh grade, back in my
day. And I had definitely never heard of
Natalie Babbitt and Steven Kellogg, part of the course reading. I read TUCK EVERLASTING and was profoundly
moved – and horrified that I had missed out on Natalie Babbitt because I was
“too old” when she started writing children’s books. (Then I binge read everything else by Natalie
Babbitt.) Same with Steven Kellogg, only
I was able to read all of Steven’s picture books in one day.
Fast forward. I’ve graduated from college. I’m in Taiwan, teaching English as a second
language and loathing it. Teaching is
not my avocation. For solace, I reread
and reread the three books I brought with me: RAMONA THE PEST, PIPPI
LONGSTOCKING (remember, second semester course reading) and THE JOURNALS OF
SYLVIA PLATH (Remember, I’m all of twenty one, full of recent college graduate
Upon my return to the States, I
have a new career plan. I’m from New
York City. That’s where most all the
publishers are: I should get a job in publishing, children’s publishing. My Chinese immigrant parents are aghast. Odd enough to choose publishing as a career
choice; why am I making it even harder by choosing a niche like children’s
books? I won’t be swayed. Even though I know nothing about the business
(Remember, this is the mid 80s.) out of my newly discovered passion for
children’s books, I’m determined to work in children’s publishing only. And since I’m an English major, a job in the
editorial department makes the most sense.
It doesn’t really occur to me that there are a myriad of jobs in the
publishing sector and I don’t have to limit myself to one department. (Today, I tell students and interns: Don’t do
it this way!)
1) Why do you think there’s such a dearth of diverse children’s books?
In a couple of words: white supremacy. The
fact that there are more books published about animals than about black kids
says a lot, not only about our
society, but about “Western” sensibilities and colonization on the whole. About
the perception of “race” and the role of literacy in the development of
societal hierarchies. The English staked their claim on land in various places
around the world and forced the people in those places to learn the English
language, but literature and the arts were reserved for members of the highest
social classes. Who were all white.
The fact that we’re almost two decades into
the 21st Century and just now
beginning to see books written in English that reflect the realities of the
English-speaking world says a lot about who, historically, has been expected—or
even allowed—to achieve English
literacy. When all the business-related rhetoric is stripped away (“Those types
of books statistically don’t sell well.” “The numbers don’t suggest that this
would be a good investment.”), the implications are that 1) certain groups of
people don’t read and 2) the people who do
read wouldn’t want to read about x-type of people. The marginalized wind up
doubting the validity of their very existence, and the privileged continue to
see themselves as the protagonists of the only stories that matter. I’m sure I
don’t have to explain why this is detrimental to everyone.