The “Hole” in KidLit

For years I worked as an anthology editor for McGraw-Hill and other educational publishing houses. My job was choosing literature for elementary schools, pairing fiction with nonfiction, commissioning new pieces to work with published works, and balancing a very long list of authors and illustrators to ensure that we had even numbers between sexes and ethnicities. Finding authors and illustrators of color was always a challenge as a result of a lack of diversity in the KidLit industry, but the one area that always remained a huge problem was finding science or technical texts written by authors of color.

For every educational publishing company I worked with as an in-house editor, or as a consultant/freelancer, this was a problem. It’s been a long time since I left school and library publishing, so I hadn’t thought about this problem in a while, but it all came back to me while having a conversation with Preeti Chhibber, who works for Scholastic on the Reading Club selections. When The Jumbies (my MG novel) was chosen as a Scholastic Reading Club book, it was featured in a We Need Diverse Books special edition flyer. As Pretti and I cooed over the pages of the flyer, she confessed that they had a very difficult time finding science books written by authors of color. There were plenty of biographies of scientists, but that’s not exactly what they were looking for. The writer they were able to feature was Neil deGrasse Tyson. A great choice, but surely he couldn’t be the only one.

I racked my brain trying to think of a nonwhite equivalent of someone like Seymour Simon, who was a go-to author for science nonfiction, and came up empty.

Hence, the hole in KidLit that authors of color need to fill. The school and library market is very interested in diversifying their offerings, and having a book selected for an anthology means kids all over the country will read your work. It’s a big deal. And I know there are authors of color who also like science topics. So, what are you waiting for? There’s a hole you need to plug.

3 thoughts on “The “Hole” in KidLit

  1. Hm. Science non-fiction books AND Science Fiction books are pretty thin on the ground for black and brown writers. We def need more books like TINY STITCHES.

    1. Finding biographies of scientists like Gwen’s Tiny Stitches is not as difficult as finding scientific books written by authors of color. But yes, we need both fiction and nonfiction.

  2. While reading this post, I instantly remembered being in the Gwinnett County Public Library in GA and not being able to find any Black authors in the Science and Geography area. The funny part about it is that I wasn’t surprised. Growing up, I couldn’t remember hearing or reading about any current Blacks within the Science field other than Neil deGrasses Tyson, as the post mentions. And since there’s the possibility of there not being many Blacks interested in writing Science literature, I wonder if people within different fields such as English, History, Social Studies, etc., feel as though they don’t qualify to write a book outside of a field of their own. For instance, my concentrations within the field of Education are Social Studies and Language Arts, so I wouldn’t think that I qualify to write a book on Science even if I believe I have some knowledge there. However, I believe it would be really cool and beneficial if there was an emergence of Black authors writing books about Science. This will show children of color who may be constantly exposed to Blacks being prevalent only in the Arts such as Music, Drama, Dance, and Art, that they are capable of mastering everything else as well, no matter how uncommon within a community, group of people, or society it may be.

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