Day 25: Tami Charles

February 25, 2018

Tami Charles describes herself as a “former teacher. Wannabe chef. Debut author.” We here at the Brown Bookshelf just know her as awesome. She was also in a R&B group (and I really, really want to know which one), and has serious love for empanadas.

We’ve got love for empanadas too, but we’re really excited about her debut novel, LIKE VANESSA, that will be published next month (pre-order now!), and her picture book, FREEDOM SOUP, out in 2019. Tami is dynamic, talented, and so much fun — we’re so glad to welcome her to The Brown Bookshelf.

The Journey

I’ve been writing since I was a child. I was also an avid reader and devoured books by Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, and Lois Lowry. (Anastasia Krupnik was my friend in my head!) And while I loved these authors and their books, the truth was that none of the signature characters looked like me, nor did I find myself in their stories. It wasn’t until I became a teacher that I discovered the wonderful, diverse books of today. I would have begged for the books of Meg Medina, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Kwame Alexander as a child! As a teacher, I enjoyed sharing diverse books with my students, but as a woman whose childhood dreams never took flight, I was itching to reignite my passion.

The Backstory

My debut novel, LIKE VANESSA, is set in Newark, New Jersey, 1983. Though I was very young at the time, I clearly remember a moment in history that impacted my understanding of beauty and its representation in mainstream society. On September 17, 1983, Vanessa Williams was crowned Miss America. As in the most beautiful and talented girl in these great United States. And get this. . .her skin was brown. . .like mine and every other girl who watched Miss America faithfully, hoping and praying to see someone like them win.

Vanessa Williams’s victory wasn’t about some sparkly crown or a bad-to-the-bone dress. This was a win for all of us. A seat at the table. A moment that manifested into the reality that beauty is not, nor will it ever be, one-size-fits-all.

The Inspiration

The Process

For me, everything begins and ends with music. My tastes vary widely. I can go from Vivaldi to the Notorious B.I.G. and not bat an eyelash. The music drives my writing. My writing day begins early at 4:30 a.m. when the house is sleeping and no one is begging me for a snack. It’s my best time to spill out my thoughts.

First drafts are typically horrible. Seriously, every sentence begins with “I.” But I’m okay with that. I just need to keep going until I can type those two magical words: The end.

Then, I celebrate round one and gear up for round two. More music, better craft, and a little dancing in between.

I write from home while my son is at school. Once school dismisses, the writer hat comes off and I return to my favorite job of all: mom.

The Buzz

“Charles evades the clichés and imbues Vanessa with an inner life that’s so real and personal, it’s hard to deny the charm, heartbreak, and triumph of her story.”
— (Booklist, starred review)


“Like Vanessa is an emotionally potent, engaging young adult story with a heroine whom it is impossible not to root for.”
— (Foreword, starred review)

“This debut is a treasure: a gift to every middle school girl who ever felt unpretty, unloved, and trapped by her circumstances.”
–(Kirkus, starred review)

Online:
http://www.tamiwrites.com
Twitter: @TamiWritesStuff
Insta: @tamiwrites


Day 24: Patrice Lawrence

February 24, 2018

Patrice Lawrence was born in Brighton, Sussex, and raised in an Italian-Trinadadian family.  She has an MA in writing for film and TV.  Her novel Orangeboy won The Bookseller’s YA Book Prize in 2017, The Watrstons Children’s Book Prize for Older Children 2017, and was shortlisted for the 2016 Costa Children’s Book award.

I agree with Patrice that more English writers need opportunities to present their books in the United States.  Hogwarts school and Downtown Abbey should not define them.  Patrice has an amazing story to tell as she takes us on her path:

From a Brown Girl in a White School to an Orangeboy on a Bookshelf

It is with great honor that I present to you:

PATRICE LAWRENCE

The Journey
My brother recently discovered my teenage diary. It is cover to cover angst driven by hormones and an unrequited infatuation with a boy in my history class. (Or was it unrequited? There are many, many paragraphs dedicated to ‘did he know’?) In between protracted daydreaming about slow-dancing with my prospective loved one to Barbra Streisand’s Woman In Love (on a barren planet, for goodness sake!) and stressing over my best friend beating me in a Chemistry exam, I’ve kept letters responding to the poems that I had sent off in hope. And these are old school letters beaten out on an old school typewriter. Some are rejections, but one is from the local newspaper, the Brighton Evening Argus, paying me one pound to print my poem. It was my first paid gig.

I was thirteen.

I have been a writer for a long time. I was encouraged to read from an early age and always lived with people who loved books. In secondary school, English teachers encouraged me to write and, rather splendidly social media has done its thing and two of the most influential have recently contacted me to congratulate me on my success. I was so happy to be able to tell them how much their encouragement helped me, because as well as supporting my writing, they suggested I read widely. Early forays into Paul Zindel and S E Hinton certainly influenced my YA books!

Prior to the publication of my YA novels Orangeboy and Indigo Donut I wrote short stories for adults and children and two books for younger readers for educational publishers looking to diversify their range of authors and stories. Granny Ting Ting is set in Trinidad and Wild Papa Woods in Trinidad and Lamu, off the coast of Kenya. It was a joy to explore the mythical characters from my mother’s homeland, Trinidad.

The Back Story
Orangeboy was an accident. I had decided I wanted to write crime novels and booked on to a residential course to learn the ropes. We were all given individual prompts to hide, like clues, in a piece of prose. My prompt was: He woke up dreaming of yellow. My first thought was an apocalypse in Springfield. My second was mustard. Suddenly, I saw it clearly – a shy sixteen-year-old boy on a date with a girl way above his league. They’re at a fairground and she’s adding mustard to his hot dog. He hates mustard, but doesn’t want to ruin the vibe. They go on some rides together and he’s not always sure if she likes him. When the ghost train stops, she’s dead. It was very different from my planned work set in 1940s post-war Port of Spain, Trinidad.

Orangeboy was shortlisted for the prestigious Costa Children’s Book Award, as well as many other awards and won the Waterstones Prize for Older Children’s Fiction and the YA Bookseller Prize. It had been rejected by all but one publisher, but Emma Goldhawk, the editor whose desk the manuscript landed on, championed it within Hachette and beyond. It was contemporary YA told by an older young man of colour – not the most commercial of propositions. As a lifelong Londoner, Emma thought it was an important story. The fact that she recognized one of the bus routes in the book, clinched the deal.

I was offered a two-book deal. My second book, Indigo Donut, was published in the UK in July 2017. I only became a freelance writer at the end of last September. For the previous twenty years I have worked in the UK charity sector in a range of areas supporting justice and equality and this has fed into my writing. Indigo Donut was partly prompted by the deaths of Peaches Geldof and her mother, Paula Yates. In both cases, children had been in the house. No matter how much their families tried to protect them, the circumstances and speculation about their mothers’ deaths would always surround them. Their grief would always be public. Indigo is a young woman on the cusp of leaving the foster home she loved. She is still processing mother’s death at the hands of her father and the fact that anyone could find out one of the most tragic and important moments in her history. I also wondered, what would it be like to be in love with this girl and know even more than she did? Oh – and what if they both loved Blondie?

 

The Inspiration
My books are full of music. I recently wrote a blog post about my random trigger songs – the ones where you hear the first few notes on the radio and you are catapulted back to another place and time. Mine range from Lee Marvin singing ‘I Was Born Under A Wanderin’ Star’ to a calypso by the Trinidadian great, the late Lord Kitchener. I am a big Bruce Springsteen fan. Okay, in the 80s there was a sort of aesthetic admiration and my way into his music was via the very English Frankie Goes To Hollywood cover of ‘Born To Run’. I love the stories behind Springsteen’s songs and the fact they always felt like the soundtrack to S E Hinton books. I’ve always been a sucker for songs with stories from Elvis’s ‘In The Ghetto’ to Green Day’s ‘Basket Case’ to Kirsty McColl’s cover of Billy Bragg’s ‘New England’.

Films are fantastic for story inspiration. It’s a cliché but Pixar films can be something special. So much is crammed into the opening minutes of ‘Up’ – it’s a masterclass in storytelling. I will always stop everything to watch any of the ‘Toy Story’ films if they come on TV and even now, I catch jokes that I missed before. Studio Ghibli films are another joy because of the combination of strong female characters and beautifully realised backgrounds. I also often write to their soundtrack. Actually, I’m doing that right now.

And books? So many, but can I just say that I read A LOT of Stephen King at a formative time of my writing life.

The State of the Industry
Hmmm. Where do we start? I wrote a long article about being a writer with privilege and making it to publication. How did I get through when other ‘own voices’ didn’t? A friend, the blogger Miriam Khan, recently tried to pull together a list of YA books by writers of colour being published for the first time in the UK in 2018. I think she struggled to make it to double figures and that was including mainstream anthologies that may have a story or two by writers of colour.

There is ongoing discussion and many initiatives but still, the current situation does feel quite dire in mainstream publishing. One of the exceptions was Stripes Publishing who commissioned YA writers of colour to write short stories for an anthology called A Change Is Gonna Come. They also put out a call for unpublished writers to submit short stories and paid the four new writers whose stories were selected. Paid! That’s how it should be done. There were also paid opportunities to gain editorial experience and for the design of the book.
But, we can’t forget that young people are creative, innovative and clever. If the mainstream ignores them, they will find their own way to get their voices heard.
However, can I have a little gripe about the US? In the UK, we have been consuming US books and films from babyhood onwards. Be it Disney, Pixar, Twilight or the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, we have embraced it! I grew up having absolutely no idea what ‘sophomore’ or ‘freshman’ was, but I read on. A whole generation learnt about adolescent sex from Judy Blume. So come on – give something back, US!

Last year, I was lucky enough to be on a panel with Angie Thomas when she was touring the UK. As Harry Potter fans pointed out, it was like the Waterstones bookshop had found the room of requirement as the demand for tickets was so heavy, new space had to keep being found. Many bloggers, including many white bloggers who would not necessarily share many points of reference with Angie, have named THUG as one of their top books of 2017. UK readers are an open-minded and generous bunch.

So why can’t the US embrace versions of England that aren’t shaped by JK Rowling or Julian Fellowes, the writer behind Downtown Abbey? Why do publishers believe that contemporary multicultural London with all its flaws, complexities and stories is too difficult a concept for US readers? In our session together, Angie Thomas mentioned how little many US people of colour know about their peers in the UK. If we don’t exist in your popular culture, your film and TV programs, is it a surprise? I would love Orangeboy to be published in the US. I think readers would absolutely get it, because in the end it’s about a young man who makes difficult – and wrong – choices. For me that feels universal. So USA, how about demanding more books by UK writers of colour? Honestly, it would really help us!

Thank you, Patrice, for your hard work and amazing contributions to children’s literature!

You can contact Patrice through her Facebook page:  Facebook.com/Patricelawrence.author or her Twitter handle of @LawrencePatrice

 


Day 23: Deloris Jordan

February 23, 2018

Deloris Jordan, the mother of basketball star Michael Jordan and four other children, once worked as a bank teller, but is now known as an inspirational author and speaker. Jordan is regarded as an advocate for children and families with her work through the James Jordan Foundation in Chicago, Illinois, as well as the Jordan Institute for Families at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her book, Family First, highlights the seven principles of parenting and what it takes to raise an accomplished family in a challenging world.

Deloris Jordan has also devoted much of her time to being an acclaimed children’s author. Many of her children’s books are collaborations with her daughter, Roslyn, providing insights into motivated, driven attitude of the Jordan family. Her inspirational books encourage children to overcome obstacles, strive to achieve their goals and work hard! Dream Big is a picture book that follows the life of a young Michael Jordan as he turns his dreams of becoming a basketball star into reality.

True testaments of patience, hard work and determination from the perspective of the Jordan family make up Salt in His Shoes. It’s a heartwarming story about how any family that works together can help a child accomplish his or her goals. 

Michael’s Golden Rules teaches children the value of teamwork, doing your best and friendship while relaying to children that winning is not the only thing that makes a champion!

The power of a mother’s love is celebrated in Jordan’s reassuring book, Did I Tell You I Love You Today? Children are encouraged to remember that there are many ways to cherish those we love, whether they’re near or far.

Deloris Jordan’s books also reflect her faith and beliefs, as well as an openness to celebrate the faiths and beliefs of others. The touching story, Baby Blessings: A Prayer for the Day You Are Born, emphasizes the bonds of family and the blessings new parents wish for their children throughout their lives. A Child’s Book of Prayers and Blessings: From Faiths and Cultures Around the World motivates children to reflect on the larger world around them and to remember the joys of life.


Day 22: Junot Díaz

February 22, 2018

junotdiazBefore I read his moving words, I saw his actions. Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Junot Díaz was a keynote presenter at a state literary festival. In an article, he was asked to share some authors whose work he appreciated. Out of the more than 100 who were appearing, his mention included me. I’ve never met Junot. The festival roster included blockbuster names. His kind gesture told me everything I needed to know.

Junot believes in celebrating and empowering people of color. Co-founder of Voices of Our Nation Arts Foundation (VONA), an organization dedicated to supporting diverse voices, he champions those whose tales have been unsung. Born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey, Junot’s powerful stories center the experiences of Dominican immigrants.  What a blessing that he is now writing for the picture book audience.

From the moment I saw the cocoa cutie with the puff on the cover of his forthcoming book, Islandborn (illustrated by Leo Espinosa, published by Dial), I couldn’t wait to read it. I opened the book and was captivated by the beautiful story. When Lola, who left the Island as a baby, is asked to draw memoriesislandborn from home, she comes up empty. But as she walks around her loving neighborhood, she collects heartwarming and chilling recollections. Just as Junot uplifts writers of color around the world, he empowers his heroine Lola to draw her story and cherish the home that lives in her.

Islandborn will be released March 13 and a Spanish edition titled Lola will publish simultaneously. It has already earned three starred reviews.  A concern raised by Teaching for Change resulted in a new version of the first edition book being printed in time for the debut. I can’t wait to share it and hope many more stories for young readers will follow. Please join us in celebrating the important work of Junot Díaz on Day 22.

The Buzz About Islandborn:

“A sensitive and beautiful story of culture, identity and belonging–a superb picture book outing for Díaz and one to be shared broadly in a variety of settings.”

–  School Library Journal, starred review

“With his tenacious, curious heroine and a voice that’s chatty, passionate, wise and loving, Díaz entices readers to think about a fundamental human question: what does it mean to belong?”

– Publishers Weekly, starred review

Learn more about Junot Díaz here.


Day 21: Craig Robinson

February 21, 2018

Craig Robinson is a comedian, actor, and musician whose middle grade JAKE THE FAKE books are described as perfect for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Big Nate. Jake the Fake Keeps It Real, the first in the series, was written with #1 New York Times bestselling author Adam Mansbach, and NAACP History Maker recipient and cartoonist Keith Knight, draw on Robinson’s own life, including his “most hilarious moments and his experience attending Chicago’s first public magnet school.”

Robinson says that he wrote JAKE because “I wanted to write a book that was fun…inspirational…about finding a talent.” You can see Robinson talk about this and more with Jake himself, in conversation on Youtube:

Learn more about JAKE THE FAKE from Penguin Random House.


Day 20: Liara Tamani

February 20, 2018

When Liara Tamani says she follows her heart, she means it!

She follows her heart when her favorite “jam” comes on, and she’s not ashamed to sing it out loud in public.

She follows her heart by traveling the globe to places some only dream of visiting.

She followed her heart by leaving Harvard Law School, realizing the legal field was not her heart’s desire.

And lucky for us, she followed her heart to create an award-winning, outstanding young adult novel, Calling My Name.

But for those of us who’ve had the pleasure of meeting Liara, it is clear that her heart, and beautiful personality, are huge.

The children’s world of literature is better because of quality writing by this talented author. It is my honor to present:

 

LIARA TAMANI

 

The Journey

Even though I’ve always loved writing, I didn’t always realize becoming a writer was a possibility. Growing up, I was determined to become a lawyer, like my father. It was his dream for me and I adopted it as my own. And I made it all the way to Harvard Law School. But when I got there, the realness of being trapped in a life I didn’t want for myself set in and I was like, Get me out of here! I left after my first year.
Before finding my way back to writing, I went on a winding path through the sports and entertainment industry and the interior design field. And then one night, when I was living in Los Angeles running my own design company, I sat with my laptop at my drafting table and started writing. It felt like home. Soon after, I started taking writing classes at UCLA Extension and then went on to get my Masters in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, where I wrote Calling My Name.
I finished Calling My Name in 2010, but it took years to get it published. Years of sending it out to agents and getting rejected. Years of revising based on the feedback from agents. Years of doubt and frustration at not liking my revisions. Years when life took over and the book just sat on my computer. Then, in October of 2015, I started sending my original book, the book I loved, out again. This time, I signed with my agent, Jennifer Carlson, the same month. And within the first week of Jennifer sending out Calling My Name, I received a two-book deal from Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins. I don’t know what the difference was. Timing? Different eyes looking at it? Whatever the reason, I’m happy I kept pushing and that my book is now out in the world.

The Inspiration

I seek inspiration anywhere I can find it. I love so many children’s book authors for so many different reasons. It’s impossible to list them all here. But since lyricism gives me so much life, I will say the works of writers like Reneé Watson, Erika Sanchez, Rita Williams Garcia, Jason Reynolds, Elizabeth Acevedo, Jacqueline Woodson, Nicola Yoon, and Kwame Alexander are a big inspiration to me.
In terms of musicians, I’m from Houston so you already know Beyoncé and Solange are going to be at the top of my list. They’re fly and fierce, and their work brims with soul. But I also have to name Khalid, Kendrick Lamar, Rihanna, Chance the Rapper, Erykah Badu, N.E.R.D., Cardi B, and Kayne. Yes, Kayne. Even with all of the missteps on his journey, he is still a great artist.
In film and television, I’m a huge fan of Issa Rae. I love her realness. I love the way she brings the black experience to the screen. I also love Yara Shahidi, Tracee Ellis Ross, Mara Brock Akil (I was a PA on her hit show My Girlfriends), Zoë Kravitz, Joy Bryant, Gina Rodriguez, Ava Duvernay, and of course mama Oprah.

The Process:

I always start with something that has made an emotional impression on me, something that has touched me deeply. I recall these moments, how they made me feel, and begin constructing fiction around them. This construction process starts by filling Moleskin notebooks with a ton of handwritten notes. Bits of dialogue, maybe a whole scene, thoughts on setting and characterization—essentially anything that will help me dive into the world I want to create, into the minds and hearts of my characters. From there, the writing process can vary greatly.
With Calling My Name, I wrote the chapters out of order and rearranged them many times. The process wasn’t linear and I didn’t outline at all. But the book doesn’t have a traditional plot. Being more episodic, it lends itself to that type of process.
The second novel (also written in short chapters), has a traditional plot. So, the process is more orderly. I have a very rough, handwritten outline to keep me on track, and I’m writing the novel piece by piece in chronological order.
Overall, I’m a slow writer. It’s hard for me to move on from a paragraph until it’s just right. And every day, before I start writing new words, I go back and work on the previous days’ words a little more. I know it’s not the most efficient way to work, but it’s the only way my brain allows me to keep putting words on the page.
I work from home, usually on my sofa. Sitting in a chair too long kills my back.

The Buzz

2018 Golden Kite Honor Book

“An excellent portrayal of African American culture, gorgeous lyrical prose, strong characters, and societal critique make Tamani’s debut a must-read.” — Booklist (starred review)

“Taja deals with the insecurities that most young people feel regarding identity, love, and fitting in. Stylish prose brings home quiet depths.” — Kirkus Reviews

“This lush debut novel is written in distinct prose that reads like poetry. Young adults will connect with this protagonist and this dynamic new voice. Fans of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas will especially love this lyrical novel. A great selection in any library collection.”
— School Library Journal

“Tamani’s debut novel brims with heart and soul, following its African-American protagonist, Taja Brown, as she searches for spirituality, love, and a sense of self. Absorbing.” — Publishers Weekly

“While not quite stream of consciousness, this novel moves dreamily along wayward paths. …Readers willing to be swept along by Tamani’s poetic language and imagery will appreciate the journey. … This debut is reminiscent of Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming or Marilyn Hilton’s Full Cicada Moon.” — Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA)

“For Taja, the narrator of Liara Tamani’s luminous episodic debut, faith in God is as much a part of her as her long legs and brown skin…a complex portrait of a young woman trying to reconcile what she’s been taught, both in church and out in the world, with what she truly believes.” — Chicago Tribune

 

Thank you Liara for your contribution to children’s literature.

 

Please connect with Liara Tamani:  https://www.liaratamani.com/

Twitter handle:  @liaratamani

https://www.facebook.com/liara.tamani

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Day 19: Jay Coles

February 19, 2018

JayColes

JAY COLES is a young adult and middle grade writer, a composer with ASCAP, and a professional musician residing in Indianapolis, Indiana. He is a graduate of Vincennes University and Ball State University and holds degrees in English and Liberal Arts. When he’s not writing diverse books, he’s advocating for them, teaching middle school students, and composing music for various music publishers. Jay’s young adult novel TYLER JOHNSON WAS HERE is about a boy whose life is torn apart by police brutality when his twin brother goes missing, inspired by events from the author’s life and the Black Lives Matter movement.

THE JOURNEY and THE BACK STORY

I’d been querying and sending out manuscripts to agents since I was in high school. I was pretty ambitious (Ha ha). A lot of those manuscripts were really not good and thank God no agent signed me for them. Then, one day, I thought, “hey, what if I wrote a story inspired by events in my life?” I tried and tried but wasn’t really getting anywhere with that story. After Trayvon Martin lost his life, something inside me clicked. I was filled with rage and tears and anger and also lots and lots of words.  It reminded me of what I saw happening in neighborhoods like mine growing up. Innocent black and brown kids getting their lives taken by white folks and even police officers. Years before Trayvon, a cousin of mine was shot and killed by the police. Eventually, I started plotting a story based on actual events and felt like I had so much to say and wanted to get my feelings out there, make my voice heard, make so many kids’ voices in my neighborhood heard through what would become TYLER JOHNSON WAS HERE.

THE PROCESS:

As I mentioned above, I had many other manuscripts (finished and unfinished) before TYLER JOHNSON WAS HERE (TJWH). I didn’t outline for any of those, but I did for TJWH. Weird, right? For whatever reason, there were specific moments that I wanted to highlight as like “the most important scenes” and wanted to be really intentional about that as this is a story that’s super vulnerable, having been inspired by events in my own life. I’m currently finishing up outlining for my next couple books and am halfway done writing my next YA. Outlining has been super helpful and I never thought I would enjoy it as much as I have. I used to think about it as a very tedious, unnecessary thing. But it’s actually really important for me.

In case you were wondering about where I do my writing, you can find me writing in your local coffee shop or in a dark room with absolutely no light with my headphones in. It’s easy for me to get distracted, so I force myself into dark rooms sometimes when coffee shops get overwhelming. Also, after I outline a book, I create a playlist for it on Spotify—comprised of songs that highlight some of the important scenes and important themes of the story, and I listen to that playlist over and over again until the book is complete. I have one for TYLER JOHNSON WAS HERE that I plan to share closer to the release date! It may be on my website (jaycoleswriter.com).

 

TJWH cover

THE INSPIRATION

So, writing TYLER JOHNSON WAS HERE was sooooo hard and soooo emotionally taxing that I had to take lots of breaks and almost didn’t finish it. I almost put it on a shelf and started another book with a much lighter concept. But it was listening to people in my life—close friends and supportive author friends who continually reminded me that my story needed to be heard and deserves to be on a bookshelf someday. All of this in addition to feeling the urgency from Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole and even Tupac, who were (and are) addressing race relations and power structures in our society through their art of music, reminded me that books are also a powerful art that could tackle some of those themes as well. A year after I graduated High School, I signed with my  agent. We did a few rounds of edits together and when I saw THE HATE U GIVE sell and slay the industry, I got so encouraged and was even more excited to see how stories about black and brown kids were so wanted and needed by people all over, especially black and brown kids who desired to see themselves in YA for so long.

UNDER THE RADAR

I am absolutely pleased to see the push for diversity in our industry, particularly in YA. I think there are several sort of “rising stars” that I’ve been keeping my eye on this last year that have been absolutely slaying bestsellers lists and have gotten amazing awards and recognition for the work they’re doing to provide diverse literature. Some names that come to mind right now would be Samira Ahmed (LOVE, HATE AND OTHER FILTERS), Angie Thomas (THE HATE U GIVE & ON THE COME UP), ARVIN AHMADI (DOWN AND ACROSS), DHONIELLE CLAYTON (THE BELLES), S.K. ALI (SAINTS AND MISFITS), IBI ZOBOI (AMERICAN STREET), and L.L. MCKINNEY (A BLADE SO BLACK), among many, many others.

So excited to see them doing the dang thing and really thrilled to see what they’ll do next. Oh my gosh. Chills even thinking about all that representation and all those beautiful black and brown books that will be classics for years and years.

THE STATE OF THE INDUSTRY

On the other hand, I still think our industry has a long, long way to go. I believe that we are getting somewhere and there is progress, but I think the conversation quickly shifts to cater to the white gaze every time we start talking about diversity. I think with this push for diversity (a push started by POC, not white folks), white authors are trying to write diversely, as if it’s trendy and aren’t quite getting it right. We’ve seen this with E.E. Charlton Trujillo’s messy WHEN WE WAS FIERCE and also with even messier Keira Drake and THE CONTINENT. And of course there are several, several others.

I think every day, however, there is still pressure put on publishing from people of color, especially women of color, who are tirelessly putting in work behind the scenes, hoping for some change, hoping to shake the roots of a system deeply rooted in bias and racism so that there can be an actual movement of normalization of diverse stories. Recently, I saw that a WOC got her own imprint focusing on only diverse books from marginalized authors. I think this is good and there is a lot of good that will come out of it, obviously. However, this also reminds me of this kind of “separate but equal” mindset that white folks in publishing still have about diverse stories in the big 5 publishing houses. Again, this is an ideology deeply rooted in our industry.

2018 has been a great year for diverse books and I love that I see quite a few of them being talked about on Twitter, but I think percentage-wise compared to the books releasing in 2018 by white authors, the numbers are very disproportionate and that makes me quite sad. There is still a lot of work to be done, but again, I’m hopeful.