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.
Please tell us about the
most recent diverse book you published.
still at the very early stages of building my list, but I was fortunate enough
to edit two books with diverse characters recently:
The Fantastic Body is a nonfiction,
illustrated guide to the human body for kids. Because the book would be so
heavily illustrated, we wanted the children depicted to be multifaceted and
diverse. The book is nonfiction and prescriptive, so the text doesn’t actually
address race in a direct way. It’s important to address serious issues of race,
culture, and identity in diverse books, but it’s also important to show that
children are children, no matter their background, and that there are more
things that unite them than divide them. I firmly believe in publishing books
featuring diverse characters without making race the main issue, so I’m proud
of that book.
was also the developmental editor for a middle grade series of novels called
Shred Girls. The first book, Lindsay’s
Joyride, is about young girls who befriend each other through their shared
love of BMX. What I loved about the book was how multifaceted every main
character was. Lindsay likes comic books, but she also, it turned out, loves
riding bikes. And she likes many other things: her new friends. Her Mexican
grandmother’s cooking. The cute boy who rides at the same park. Kombucha.
Mariana Pajón, Colombian cyclist and two-time Olympic gold medalist and BMX
World Champion. No one thing defined her, nor any other character. While
Lindsay is Latina and proud, her heritage informs the novel but isn’t its sole
first diversity question today is how do you self identify?
am a black American woman.
did your background influence your early reading and writing habits, if at all?
I grew up in a family
where education was of utmost importance. Reading, writing, and all things
academic were as normal and mandatory as breathing. I am thankful for how much
my parents valued education. They read to us each night and exposed us to different
texts ranging from poetry and children’s literature to newspapers and
encyclopedias. I still remember when my dad ordered a collection of
Encyclopedia Britannica that filled an entire bookshelf in our living room. I
do admit that I initially didn’t like reading for fun, but I thoroughly enjoyed
writing my own stories, poetry, and songs. Reading grew on me, and, to this day,
both reading and writing are integral parts of my life.
up, did you see and/or envision yourself in the stories you read?
I didn’t see myself in
many stories that I read, but two do come to mind: Vera B. Williams’s Cherries and Cherry Pits and John
Steptoe’s Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters.
I don’t remember loving those books, but they do stick out in my mind—possibly
because they had black girls in them. As a teenager I remember reading Mildred
D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry,
and while the protagonist was black, I didn’t feel like I connected to her that
much. I think I insulated myself from not being represented in books because I wrote
my own stories where I was the main
character. I wrote a bunch of stories starring Detective JaNay Brown where I’d
go on adventures and solve mysteries. I also remember writing stories with
black girls that were similar to me, even if they didn’t have my name. So
although I didn’t really feel myself connecting to published books, I
definitely connected to my own work since I was the one solving all the
When and where did
you start working in publishing, and what was your entry-level position and
My very first start was as an intern at Levine
Greenberg (Rostan) Literary Agency back in Fall 2010, but my first full-time
position was as an Agency Assistant at Scott Waxman Literary (now called Waxman
Leavell Literary Agency). I started there in March 2011.
How did you find
your first job in publishing?
After I graduated
from college, I was living in Brooklyn working as a bookkeeper for an army navy
store and finishing up my part-time job at the student center. A friend of mine
who worked in a totally separate industry (maybe tech or insurance or something
like that, I don’t actually remember!) happened to share a floor in the same
building as the Levine Greenberg Agency. He happened to hear about their
internships during an elevator ride and encouraged me to apply. After a few
months in, I started applying to full-time jobs (using publishersmarketplace.com,
bookjobs.com, mediabistro.com, etc), including one with Waxman Agency. One of
the LGLA agents was friendly with an agent at Waxman and put in a good word. I
started right away!
Tell us about your
most recent book and how you came to write/illustrate it.
My latest MG novel The
Haunting of Falcon House is set in the city I was born and raised in, St.
Petersburg, Russia. The story takes place at the closure of the 19th century
within a few years after Russian
slavery, or rather serfdom, was abolished in 1861. On the surface, the book has
all of the tropes of the classic, gothic ghost story, but below the surface,
the narrative—as in all of my MG novels—is about a personal choice one must make
on the issue of equality and freedom for all.