A few weeks ago I went to the second A place at the Table event run by Inclusive Minds, these events bring together publishers, authors, agents, all who are passionate and active in promoting and creating inclusive children’s books. That is books that are reflect every child and their family, regardless of race, ethnic minority, same sex parenting, gender fluidity, disability etc. So much was discussed with some incredible people from across the publishing industry.
The key points that came away with was ‘It is all about story ‘ good children’s books need to have a good story
Intersectionality– The importance of intersectionality, that is the we can not be pigeon hole, some one can be a member of the LGBT community and an ethic minority for example or disabled and gender fluid etc.
Main stream publishers want diverse books, as I sat around the table it was clear that big main stream publishers are crying out for good quality diverse book with a good story. This was actual quite an eye opener for me as I have always assumed anything slightly alternative would only be published by a small indie publisher or self published. Some main stream publishers are beginning to open lists specifically for example to BAME writers in order to attract interest. As this was something which was discussed a lot, it is hoped that many more will follow suit.
Being visible but not pigeon holed
There was continuous discussion about if inclusive books are commercially viable and we touched on the issue of how to make sure bookshops and readers know where to find inclusive books, while making sure that the books don’t end up being seem as issue books and put in a special section. Tagging and indexing books gives a possible way into this and I believe Ferma tagging is one to investigate.
It has been repeatedly mentioned that we need a gay Harry Potter, or similar block buster character to really break down the fears of inclusive books and being commercially viable.
So what can we do as writers, storytellers, publishers and others in the publishing industry.
Inclusive Minds Charter
Follow Inclusive Minds, they have set up a charter for publishers to show their commitment to inclusive books. This is being looked at again but I believe the more of us that sign up to this, the will be a way of showing a very real commitment to the cause.
It’s all about the story
It’s all about the story, I’ve said it before but we are so past the issue’s book, we need inclusive books with diverse characters but it does not need to actually be about the diversity. Yes it will effect the story but it is not for example a story about a person who is gender fluid, but an adventure story with a character who is transgender etc etc
We don’t know
Say I don’t know but I am prepared to learn. Something that came across loud and clear is many of us don’t really know enough, but there are people out there who do. Beth and Alex have brought together a panel of young people and their parents to advise on books, there are also other resources out there.
Over all this is a really exciting time for inclusive children’s books. What I saw at the conference was passionate people in the industry who want see this as part and parcel of the publishing industry. I think that we are getting to a time where the young people who did not grow up with books that reflected their own background are taking a stand and saying we need these books. We are not going to let another generation, perhaps our children, nieces and nephews or children in our lives fail to see themselves in the pages of their favourite books. And what is exciting is that the people who can make this happen, the editors, publishers, agents etc are now in the driving seat.
As for myself I am going to make inclusive storytelling even more central to my work, as I truly believe that children need stories that reflect themselves and the wonderful diverse world we live in.
Book sellers call for more diverse books: http://www.thebookseller.com/news/booksellers-call-more-diverse-kids-books-335556