Children’s Publishing and Diverse Books: An Intern’s Perspective (Part I)

For the next few posts, I want to write about the publishing industry’s responsibility to make literature a more inclusive space for young readers who have not been historically represented in children’s/YA books in the United States – that is, minority characters, characters who identify as LGBTQ+, and characters with disabilities. Catch up on why diverse books are important here.

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I’ve been simmering on these thoughts for quite some time. Last May, I received a generous internship grant from the We Need Diverse Books foundation that changed my life. The grant lends support and an invaluable, empowering network to people of marginalized backgrounds who aspire to work in children’s publishing, with the hopes of being advocates for diversity in books. I interned at LEE & LOW Books, the largest multicultural children’s book publisher in the country. My colleagues taught me a critical awareness of a book’s impact on young readers, and how publishing can support more authentic, equitable representation for every reader.

Over the summer, I met with a number of children’s publishing professionals, almost all women of color, and asked them: How has the conversation about diversity changed? How can we make sure that the traction we’re making with We Need Diverse Books doesn’t fade?

My experience as a young woman of color in the publishing industry propelled me to do the work that I do with this blog, highlighting and generating discussion about marginalized stories. The discussion about diversity in publishing continues here.

Across the next few posts, I’ll be reflecting on what I learned throughout my summer in publishing – it was a short time, but the question of diversity and inclusivity was at the center of all of my learning. Namely, I want to discuss the actors in publishing (publishing professionals) and publishing as a business.

Taking action to publish and promote diverse books on an industry-level is important work. I believe that there are few social problems that cannot be solved by providing avenues to foster empathy in young people. We grow up loving books because, somehow, we have been changed by them. We are, in the span of a book, entrusted with the consideration of humanities other than our own. By books, we are made kinder.

The past summer ingrained a critical lens on how the publishing industry can operate to disempower young readers, and how publishers can realize change. And we need positive change, now more than ever.

So it’s with this goal in mind that I draw from my personal learning within publishing. But if you are involved in the publishing industry, I invite you to comment with your insights, suggestions, and steps for the future.

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5 thoughts on “Children’s Publishing and Diverse Books: An Intern’s Perspective (Part I)

  1. I’m not directly involved in the publishing industry at the moment but I’m glad that the We Need Diverse Books conversation in the US has also had some effect in other countries too. I live in Australia and I’m hopeful about a initiative called Voices from the Intersection, which supports ventures between Own Voices writers and the bigger publishers through pitching events and mentorships will cause some positive changes in our current publishing landscape: https://www.facebook.com/Voices-from-the-Intersection-546805492180217/

    I’m glad multicultural publishers like Lee and Low exist but I wish more of the other big publishers would actively make their staff more diverse and listen to their thoughts more too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for letting me know about Voices from the Intersection! I’m excited to see what can be learned from more countries’ efforts to make reading (particularly children’s lit) a more inclusive space.

      And I completely agree with your point about big publishers. Lee & Low can’t do it alone – meaningful diversity needs grassroots AND top-down intention. Editors like Joanna Cardenas and Kendra Levin at Penguin Random House are initiating great work though! I have a lot of hope for their Representation Matters mentorship program to catalyze change from within larger houses: http://representationmattersmentors.tumblr.com/

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Children’s Publishing and Diverse Books: An Intern’s Perspective (Part II) | Intrepid YA

  3. Pingback: Children’s Publishing and Diverse Books: An Intern’s Perspective (Part III) | Intrepid YA

  4. Pingback: Children’s Publishing and Diverse Books: An Intern’s Perspective (Part IV) | Intrepid YA

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