“You had me at hello!” That’s what I said to Paula on 9.19.07 when she sent me an e-mail asking me to consider an invitation to join The Brown Bookshelf. Honestly, there was never anything to consider. I knew from conversations with Paula that she would not be a part of anything that would be done halfway nor would she work with anyone who would not give tons of energy, effort, and ideas to see the project all the way through. I essentially had yes in my mind from the moment I started reading the e-mail. The more I read, the more excited I became for I saw the potential that could come to pass as a result of The Brown Bookshelf merely existing.
So why The Brown Bookshelf? Why now? Because it’s time. It’s time for a change. As Mahatma Ghandi once said, “Be the change you are trying to create.” The Brown Bookshelf wants to be that change. We’re committed to being the squeaky wheels in the literary community. The Brown Bookshelf team is passionate about children’s literature as readers, writers, and illustrators.
In Don’s blog from Monday, he stated that as an African American writer and illustrator, he sometimes feels that although he’s been invited to the party, he’s standing in the corner with the other African American writers and illustrators. Well, as a self-published writer, I feel like I am standing outside of the building where the party is being held peeking in the windows looking at my traditionally published counterparts enjoy the fruits of their publishing journey.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not knocking them, hating or whatever the euphemism might be. On the contrary, I am happy for my counterparts because I see them as my peers and mentors. I’m motivated by their success and learn from them. However, I have decided to stop standing outside of the party. I walked inside with my own chair, sat down, and began taking notes.
I’m a triple minority within the literary community – a Black and self-published author who writes young adult fiction. I travel within three circles trying to find my way and my comfort zone when my primary goal is to write a good story that connects with readers, young and old. When I was a teen, you could often find me reading Sweet Valley High and Babysitters Club books, but where were the books with characters that resembled my friends and me? Maya Angelou once said, “The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind.”
When I received Paula’s invitation, I saw The Brown Bookshelf as a bulldozer coming down the road filled with books by and about African Americans. The bulldozer is overflowing with books about our past, our present and our future. I saw Sharon Draper’s books on the bulldozer next to books by Tia Williams, Angela Johnson, Jerry Pinkney, Brenda Woods, Kadir Nelson, and Jacqueline Woodson. We have books by Nikki Grimes, Charles Smith, Jr. and Mildred Taylor sharing space with Paula Chase, Varian Johnson, Kelly Starling Lyons, Don Tate, and my own. We are The Brown Bookshelf.