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.

I, Too by Langston Hughes

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.

Besides,
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.


I’m sharing one of my favorite poems because there are no better words to reflect the problematic, fractious nature of an American history we are called upon to challenge today; and yet, there are no better words to muster pride.

It is from a place of intention and reflection (on what America is, on how I want to recognize the dignity of my fellow Americans) that I say I am celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day today. I hope you and your loved ones are having a wonderful weekend as well.

6 Things I’m Thinking About

The 6 things that intrigued me from this past week. Read on for diversity in literature news and how schools can support immigrant/first-gen children!

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  1. October is Filipino American History Month! Celebrate with these books by Filipino authors. Look out for Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz on this blog soon.
  2. Diverse books meets Netflix:  Publishers Weekly reports the We Need Diverse Books organization will soon be launching OurStory, an app that curates #ownvoices stories written from traditionally marginalized perspectives. One of my favorite picture books, Juna’s Jar, is in the database!
  3. If you’re looking for new ways to visualize “mirrors” and the need for diversity in children’s books, ReadingSpark has a thought-provoking  infographic. The illustrations underscore the fact that kids do take notice. So let’s do better!

  4. A Nashville middle school that specializes in nurturing the needs of recent immigrant students is the topic of this story from Chalkbeat. How do they do it? “Creative teaching,” article explains, so that teachers “aren’t just relying on English to help students master grade-level material.” But isn’t it so that creative, adaptive teaching methods benefit all students?
  5. I encourage readers from California to consider Proposition 58, which would give schools more freedom to expand bilingual programs for some of the most linguistically diverse kids in the country. So proud of my multilingual home state.
  6. The latest episode of the This American Life podcast follows a Somali refugee who wins a lottery that could make his dreams of living in the United States come true. Gripping, honest, and told with journalistic integrity above all, “Abdi and the Golden Ticket” invites reflection on the privilege of citizenship, and what it takes to become a naturalized citizen.
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A corgi walks onto campus and suddenly life is filled with new meaning. Have a happy Indigenous Peoples Day weekend!