I unpacked a box of galleys for early 2016 titles from a children’s publisher yesterday and noted that quite a few titles feature POC characters or are written by POC — in all genres and reading levels. I hope this is not just a fad, not a trend, not a reactionary act to a current movement, but the sign of real change and the harbinger of the new norm!
I want to publicly say this to publishers, editors, marketing folks, sales reps, authors, agents, anyone working in the Children’s publishing world:
With recent disputes on many titles for young readers, it might seem extremely daunting to move forward, to have to tread so carefully, to have to hear so many conflicting and often angry voices, to have to defend or admit missteps — especially if and when you are all trying hard and working diligently and honestly to AVOID offenses or mistakes. Just know that mistakes will be made, the readers and critics will continue pointing things out and reminding all of us how to do it better the next time, and It will take a while and much learning before any equilibrium is even a possibility.
I know this must seem such a heavy burden and you might just want to put it down and forget about all that’s unpleasant or painful.
But, please keep up the good work. Actually, please do a lot more good work. Please do listen. Please listen for the message and do not stop listening simply because you do not like the tone the message is delivered in. Please continue to to evolve.
We are all lovers of literature. One thing I see literature lovers most capable of is the immense scope of our imagination in dealing with complex issues. Do we not always applaud great children’s literary works for their complexity, for their bravery, and for their visionary integrity?
Perhaps we need to remind ourselves of these much valued qualities in times of conflict?
Please tell each other and yourselves that, “No, this is NOT the time to put down the heavy pack of all the issues. It is NOT the time to turn away from the road leading to a better future. It is NOT the time to leave other travelers by the road side to struggle by themselves. And, it is NOT the time to seek each other’s defeat.”
I know that I need to consciously remind myself all of these on a daily basis and it is taking a toll on my own sense of balance. But then I think of all the good that this will accomplish and believe that the peace of mind will come and it will all be worth the burden.
We need to help each other understand and unpack superbly complicated and often painful issues. The ultimate goal shall be that we all succeed TOGETHER. Just know that it will take a lot of determination and courage — especially from those whose daily jobs are to produce children’s books.
We need you to continue the journey upward, especially when the going gets really really tough.
Let us walk and talk in each other’s company, help each other grasp difficult and emotional concepts. And let us find each other in the not too distant future on the summit of true equity, TOGETHER.