Publishers! Send Us Your (Non-Race-Driven) Multicultural Titles

Elizabeth Bluemle -- May 10th, 2011

It’s been a while since I’ve brought up the topic of race in children’s books, and I’m eager to hear how you publishers are coming along with your efforts to publish increasingly inclusive lists of books that feature kids of color as main characters in general-interest stories that aren’t primarily driven by issues of race.

Stories and nonfiction about racially charged eras and issues of racial identity in our culture are critical, of course. But equally important are mainstream stories—in every genre—that feature kids of color as main characters in a setting that, like most of America, is culturally and racially diverse. Stories about friendship, family, pets, love, character, self-reliance, etcetera, in mysteries, adventures, science fiction and fantasy, for every age child and every type of book, including chapter books, board books, easy readers. We need all of these books, now. Need them deeply and importantly, as my mother would have said.

The good news is that we are seeing more new titles fitting this description in catalogs and rep meetings, and arriving at the Flying Pig in new-release cartons.

For more than a year now, I’ve maintained a multicultural online bibliography on LibraryThing.com, of as many titles fitting the above description (books that feature kids of color as main characters in general-interest stories that aren’t primarily driven by issues of race; kids of color must be depicted on the front cover of the books if there are any characters depicted in the art). These books are sortable by age range, genre, and format, and there are more than 600 titles in the collection so far.

I would LOVE for publishers to send me lists of any 2011 titles that meet the criteria. Kids of color must be featured on the book covers. You can use my email: ebluemle AT publishersweekly.com or mention titles here (just bibliographic info in the comments here; no promo, please). I’ll add them to the list and celebrate you to the skies!

P.S. A heads-up. Soon, I’ll be inviting you to share success stories about increasing diversity within publishing houses. I really, really hope to hear some great news.

27 thoughts on “Publishers! Send Us Your (Non-Race-Driven) Multicultural Titles

  1. majura

    Great idea!!!!! My next book is actually about a boy who just happens to be of color. My forth coming book due out June 20th 2012 is inspiring, enlightening and about a little girl who questions the color of her skin. In as much as we do not want to admit it, some kids are still confused about the color of their skin especially at age 3 and 4 when they are learning more about colors and trying to identify with their friends. I was inspired by my 4 year old daughter to write this amazing book that celebrateS kids of all color in a unique way. It is not about race, but more about color as seen through the eyes of a child.

  2. Marion

    Hello
    I found this site by googling “multicultural literature” and was excited to find it. But after reading more about it, I feel it might be more appropriately titled “Multi-Racial” books as your criteria seems to focus on race than culture. There are so many cultures that would be excluded from your list such as eastern european, middle eastern, high arctic and all the religious cultures. Any thoughts?

  3. Edi

    I would suggest you look at this list of MG/YA titles written by authors of color. Particularly in YA books, race driven books aren’t being published. Teens of color want to read about everyday teens living lives just like them.
    May release:

    We’ll always have summer by Jenny Han; Simon and Schuster, 3 May
    Amigas: A formal affair by Veronica Chambers; Disney, May
    New Miss India by Bharati Mukherjee; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 17 May
    If I could fly by Judith Oritz Cofer; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 24 May
    Chain Reaction by Simone Elkeles, Walker Books for Young Readers, May 24, 2011
    The Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Uma Krishnaswami; Athenium, 24 May MG
    So, so hood (Drama High) by L. Divine; Dafina, 31 May

  4. betty tisel

    Yes, Yes, Yes, and then send us your Non Gay-Driven books that include characters with diverse family formations (where Gay Isn’t The Issue Or A PROBLEM) – for example Arthur A. Levine’s adorable new picture book!!!!!

  5. Susan

    From Frances Foster Books/Farrar Straus Giroux:

    We’ve recently published Hiddden by Helen Frost (http://us.macmillan.com/hidden-1).

    Coming up this fall is Spunky Tells All by Ann Cameron, which is the newest book in the popular Julian and Huey series–although this one’s told from the dog’s point of view, so the human main characters don’t appear in any of the pictures.

    And Janet McDonald’s Spellbound is going into the Square Fish paperback line this fall, too.

  6. Michelle Cavalier

    I actually just read and reviewed an early chapter book from Penguin called “EllRAy Jakes is Not a Chicken.” I wasn’t surprised to find a kid’s book about a black kid but I was surprised to find that it didn’t center on racism as so many books with multicultural audiences in mind are. It touches on the issue, which is totally valid, but does not revolve around it.

    I’m glad to see other booksellers are actively looking for this kind of book and I definitely appreciate you keeping up the LibraryThing page as a resource. I will surely be referencing it, especially when it comes to orders for school book fairs!

    EllRay Jakes is Not a Chicken by Sally Warner 9780670062430

  7. Ms. Yingling

    Sherri Winston’s President of the Whole Fifth Grade fits this description. PLUS, it has cupcakes on the cover, which always makes the book appealing to middle grade readers!

  8. Doret

    There should be more kids of color on book covers. It’s a matter of a better world view for all and reflection for many. At the same time I love seeing more books with diverse cast coming out regradless of cover. (expect whitewashed ones)

    I get a special thrill out of picking up a book I was going to read anyway and discovery unexpected diversity.

    Thanks to a PW review I learned that one of the beauty contenstants in Libba Bray’s Beauty Queen’s is Black and another one is trans. Beauty Queens was already on my TBR list. I was really looking forward to reading it when I assumed it was an all White cast and but its diverse. (BONUS) I squealed with so much it was ridiculous.

    One YA book I am really looking forward to reading is Wildcat Firelies by Kizer, the sequel to Meridan which had a very diverse cast (loved it)

    I recently finished Wildefire by Karsten Knight which comes out in July. Very Good, it also features a diverse cast.

    Bray’s novel features the MC on the cover. Kizer and Knight’s don’t.

    None of these stories should be discounted because of the covers. Though I would take issue if a cover depicted all the main characters but the kid of color.

    Also there simply aren’t enough non race driven multiculural titles coming out to exclude any.

  9. Malinda Lo

    This description gave me pause: “kids of color must be depicted on the front cover of the books if there are any characters depicted in the art”

    Although I do not support misrepresenting the race of characters on book covers (who does?), I have to say this restriction eliminates some books that are about main characters of color. Many book covers do not depict those main characters on the cover, or publishers have chosen to use ethnically ambiguous stock art — and none of these marketing decisions have much to do with the story that is actually being told. Let’s not forget that the authors of these stories rarely are able to control these types of decisions.

    For example, Sarah Rees Brennan’s upcoming THE DEMON’S SURRENDER (an urban fantasy in which the story isn’t primarily driven by race) has a biracial girl main character, but the US cover depicts an entirely different (white) character. And there are other titles, like EONA by Alison Goodman, that is about an “Asian” character (I use quotes because it is a fantasy, in which “Asia” does not technically exist), but the cover features an ethnically ambiguous girl.

    So, perhaps you might rethink that restriction? I think the list is a great idea, though.

    1. Elizabeth Bluemle Post author

      Hi, Malinda. Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

      I have a real problem with covers featuring secondary characters who are white or ethnically ambiguous (when the ethnicity in the book is clear), so designed because marketing has determined they’ll sell better.

      The problem with that kind of thinking is that it’s circular; if the only books with kids of color on the cover are primarily about race and racial issues, readers will learn to avoid them if they’re not in the mood for that kind of story. The more normalized diverse covers are, the more accepted they’ll be and the better they’ll sell.

      I certainly don’t want to penalize authors, who almost never have a say in the covers, as you say. However, I don’t want to encourage that kind of cynical cover design. Maybe a separate list of these would be a middle ground….

    2. Miss Concerned

      It definitely doesn’t help that Sarah Rees Brennan’s The Demon’s Surrender is a colonialist narrative, full stop, so it’s probably good that it’s not going to be promoted on this list.

      I will say that I adore the idea behind this list, and I hope that we get more and more books with kids of color both as the main characters and on the covers. Thanks so much!

  10. Allia Zobel Nolan

    My book, THANK YOU, GOD, From Kids Around the World, is scheduled for pubbing
    in August of 2011…just a few months away. It’s a multi-cultural book that focuses on diversity and the things kids can be grateful for in various different lands.

    It’s from Zondervan, and here’s the trailer that goes along with it.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwM2Wq3XdZI.

    It’s perfect to celebrate National Diversity Month in October.

    Thanks so much.

    allia zobel nolan, author THANK YOU, GOD From Kids Around the World

  11. Selena James

    Hi Elizabeth,

    I’m glad you’re continuing to bring attention to multicultural children’s and teen novels. Here’s a list of the 2011 YA titles from Dafina/KTeen.

    All the Wrong Moves, A Fab Life Novel by Nikki Carter
    Drama High: The Meltdown by L. Divine
    Upgrade U by Ni-Ni Simone
    The Break-Up Diaries by Ni-Ni Simone and Kelli London
    Drama High: So, So Hood by L. Divine
    Doing My Own Thing, A Fab Life Novel by Nikki Carter
    Boyfriend Season by Kelli London
    My Own Worst Frenemy, A Chanti on the Case Novel by Kimberly Reid
    The Break-Up Diaries 2 by Nikki Carter and Kevin Elliott
    On the Come Up by Travis Hunter
    Uptown Dreams by Kelli London

    You can also get more info about these books on our website, http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/KTeen.

  12. Pingback: non-race-driven multicultural titles « Fledgling

  13. Jean Feiwel

    Hey Elizabeth,

    Last year we published a book called LITTLE DIVA by LaChanze and Brian Pinkney to strong reviews that is a girly, warm story about a little girl wanting to be just like her Stage star Mom. It was right in the Fancy Nancy zone. We’ve sold under 8,000 copies, which was disappointing and discouraging.
    We kept getting told the book was going onto African American interest shelves if it was taken at all…?(Like next to Harriet Tubman). Huh?
    It’s a tough retail world out there. I’d really like to continue to publish books like Little Diva. But I can’t –it if there’s no support at retail…

    1. Ellen Scott

      Keep up the good work– we have Little Diva on the “pink & princessy” shelf but there is a lot more competition now than a few years ago. A local tv station just interviewed me for a story that ran last week about whether there’s been an anti-princess movement!! Who can keep up?

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