It’s sometimes hard for anyone to raise the issue of cultural and racial diversity in children’s publishing without being accused of being misguided or misinformed, of over-reacting or being too politically correct – or even of having a chip on their shoulder.
This post is therefore something of a cop-out. It is simply a list of things I have read or heard over the past year related to black authors and/or children’s and young adult books with black characters.
I ask you to make your own mind up about whether they are statements of fact or fiction and what, if anything, needs to change – and invite responses about how we might go about it.
- There is no bias, discrimination or racism in children’s publishing.
- There is a limited demand for books by and/or about black people.
- There are more children’s books about black people than by black people.
- Even the most positive reviews of black authors often compare them either to other writers of the same racial background and/or to white writers.
- If publishers already have one or two black authors they are less motivated to find others.
- If publishers already have one or two successful, high-selling, prize-winning black authors, they are looking for others in exactly the same mould.
- Books with black people on the cover do not sell well.
- White readers do not relate to books about black characters.
- Very few manuscripts by black writers are submitted to editors and agents.
- Many of the manuscripts submitted by black writers are not of publishable quality.
- Most of what children read in books is controlled and written by white people.
- The qualities of a good story are universal.
- Books about black characters are mainly aimed at black readers and do not have the same broad appeal as books about white characters.
- The ‘crossover’ appeal of black writers is limited.
- The number of black senior commissioning editors reflects the overall population.
- All writers have a responsibility to create stories that reflect the lives of all children.
- Books with black characters always focus on the issue of other.
- There is no such thing as a children's/YA writer who just happens to be black.
- There is no such thing as a children's/YA writer who just happens to be white.
My next book, Spike and Ali Enson in Space – which is about green people – will be published on 30 August 2012.