Librarians care about diversity in children’s books — quite a lot, it turns out. But they’re not the only ones. Many publishers, authors, readers, and librarians are equally impassioned about the idea of promoting a more diverse body of literature for children and young adults.
I wrote a post in December on whitewashed, obscured, and ambiguous representations of race on young adult book covers, “It Matters If You’re Black or White: The Racism of YA Book Covers,” and a follow-up piece on “Showing Our True Colors: YA Covers That Got It Right in 2012.” The response was stunning. The posts garnered dozens of thought-provoking comments from authors, readers, librarians, and publishers. What I took away from reading these responses is that the issue is a complex one, rife with frustration and misunderstandings. The first step forward is honest and collaborative communication between those who care about the issue.
A group of publishing professionals came together just over a year ago to start this process among themselves. CBC Diversity — an initiative of the national, nonprofit trade association of children’s book publishers, the Children’s Book Council — had representatives speak at the ALA Midwinter conference in Seattle in January about their mission to promote diversity at every level of the publishing industry. They shared with me that the Hub posts in December sparked discussion around their committee table, and they agreed to keep the conversation going by letting me interview them.
CBC Diversity is excited to start talking with librarians about these tough diversity issues, and their interview, posted verbatim below, covers topics ranging from their perspective on the challenges of publishing a more diverse body of children’s literature, how to prevent stereotyping, and how characters are depicted on book covers. Hopefully this can be the start of many productive conversations to come between librarians, readers, and publishers.