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Let’s Make More Diverse Books

If you ask me, by far one of the coolest things to happen to publishing in the 21st century so far is We Need Diverse Books—a grassroots coalition of authors, bloggers, librarians, educators, and industry folks coming together to “advocate essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.”

The organization’s mission is to “put more books featuring diverse characters into the hands of all children” and its vision is “a world in which all children can see themselves in the pages of a book.”

Here at Chronicle Books we admire and love what We Need Diverse Books does, and we partnered with them last Giving Thursday to help get some of our own diverse children’s books into classrooms that need them.

Simply put: it’s a group that’s inspiring as heck. And you know what I wish? I wish the adult publishing world would get inspired by We Need Diverse Books and do something similar for grown-up books.

Because in the same way that that it’s essential for children to see kids like themselves reflected back to them in the books they read, it’s essential for adults to have books that reflect back their own experiences and those of their people.

We Must Have Diverse Books

And in the same way that diverse books help children learn the about the lives of people different from themselves, so too do adults also need a greater understanding of lives different from their own. Both children and adults need constant reminders that different isn’t wrong, that the true nature of our world is one of variety and multiplicity, that fear of otherness is our enemy and empathy our one true purpose.

We need diverse adult fiction. We need diverse art books (my own personal bailiwick). We need diverse history, and spirituality, and humor, and celebrity memoirs. We need diverse books about everything and everybody because books are for everybody.

Do diverse adult books already exist? Of course they do. But could we do better? Of course we could. Just go back to the statistics about who works in publishing—the industry is 79% white—and it’s clear it’s an imperfect system.

We must have diverse books

So consider this a rallying cry. If you work in adult publishing and are reading this; or if you’re an adult book author or librarian or blogger or anyone who feels inspired by what We Need Diverse Books is doing on the children’s side and, like me, wishes we had some equivalent thing on the adult side, get in touch!

As Toni Morrison said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” Maybe the same thing is true here. If there’s a grassroots organization you wish existed but has yet to be created, then you must create it. Who’s with me?

Bridget Watson Payne

Senior Editor, Art Publishing. You can follow her at @WatsonPayne and read about her latest projects at pippascabinet.com.

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2 Comments

  • Christina Amini August 24, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    Yes! I am with you. I would love to see a network of publishing professionals who are working together to increase diversity in publishing.

    Reply

  • Donna Hall September 10, 2017 at 11:29 am

    one year ago I self-published my highly acclaimed (4 Star +) children’s picture book, “Adventures With Andy & Susie – A Stormy Weekend. Besides all the wonderful reviews and praises, I have also received a few very good advice on how to improve the editing and font.

    I want to have the second edition made more into a coffee table book with the text in bigger font on the left hand side with omitting the text entirely from the right hand side. Since the full scale oil paintings are in a panoramic size, every page well require opening (unfolding) out. I THINK.

    I really would like to have profession help for this advice. . . or edit and publish completely under their control.

    As I stated, EVERYONE loves this story-line and the illustrations. I think what drew me to YOU was the fact that you want more DIVERSITY in the story books. I believe that was my sole purpose with the relationship between my characters of Katie and Andy.

    Thank you Ms. Watson for your opinion and request for more diversity. My book is available on all the ebook formats and in Hardcover for your convenience. But, I will love to send you a hardcover, pdf, or ebook upon your request.

    Donna Hall, Author Illustrator
    http://www.artistdonnahall.com
    noblepoint@yahoo.com

    Reply

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