Two-plus years after the #WeNeedDiverseBooks Twitter campaign made it very clear that demands for equity in access and representation in children’s books sprang from a broad and, well, diverse base, it’s interesting and heartening to see how many creators of color and from ethnic minorities are represented in this year’s fall-preview lists, particularly those who are new to the field.
This inclusion is perhaps most obvious in the category of books for teens, still a hot market, where debut authors Traci Chee (The Reader), Sungju Lee (Every Falling Star, written with Susan McClelland), and Sonia Patel (Rani Patel in Full Effect) join such relative newcomers as Ibtisam Barakat (Balcony on the Moon), Kendare Blake (Three Dark Crowns), Guadalupe Garcia McCall (Shame the Stars),Anna-Marie McLemore (When the Moon Was Ours), Sabaa Tahir (A Torch Against the Night), and Nicola Yoon (The Sun Is Also a Star). Spanning genres from fantasy to historical fiction to contemporary fiction to memoir, these writers’ voices enrich the literature immeasurably.
Stepping down in age to middle-grade books, debut authors Christine Kendall (Riding Chance) and Booki Vivat (Frazzled) join up-and-comers Leanne Hall (Iris and the Tiger), Nadia Hashimi (One Half from the East, her debut for young readers), Juana Medina (Juana and Lucas),Dorinda Makanaonalani Nicholson (The School the Aztec Eagles Built), and Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich (Two Naomis, in collaboration with Audrey Vernick). Together they contribute mystery, nonfiction, contemporary fiction, and humor to the shelves.
The picture-book category shows the least effect of any efforts at inclusion, probably at least in part due to the longer production schedules exacted by the format. There are just two debut creators of color or from ethnic minorities among our fall-preview picks: author Jenny Kay Dupuis (I Am Not a Number, with co-author Kathy Kacer and illustrator Gillian Newland) and author-illustrator A.N. Kang (The Very Fluffy Kitty, Papillon). Other rising stars include Jabari Asim (Preaching to the Chickens, illustrated by E.B. Lewis), illustrator Eda Kaban (Even Superheroes Have Bad Days, written by Shelly Becker), and Qin Leng (A Family Is a Family Is a Family, written by Sara O’Leary).
It’s great to see these exciting, new, world-expanding creators, who join such veterans as Julia Alvarez, Ashley Bryan, Lauren Castillo, Nikki Grimes, Uma Krishnaswami, Yuyi Morales, Jerry Pinkney, Rena Singh, Shaun Tan, Duncan Tonatiuh, and Michele Wood to increase the windows and mirrors available to today’s young readers.Vicky Smith is children’s & teen editor.