Where is all the uplifting literature for People of Color?
(First posted May 2013)
What kind of books do you turn to when you want to take a break, be inspired, or get a solid dose of joy? Do the sheroes and heroes of these books share your heritage, your ancestry, your world view? In place of uplifting literature, do you find people you identify with depicted as caricatures and stereotypes, or living exclusively in hardship and oppression? When was the last time you found a book that reflected, reaffirmed, inspired, uplifted, and truly recognized you and yours in a way that makes you smile with love, strength, and hope?
As communities, the threads of our lives can be communicated through words on a page and the careful crafting of illustrations that recognize who we are and who we hope to be. The gift of books that document our stories and the stories of those who came before us are treasure chests of knowledge and ideas to share with young ones and celebrate with elders. Books shape and expand our worldview while informing the ways we see, interact and build with each other.
Yet for decades (well, centuries) positive depictions by, for and about people of color have been relatively absent in the world of publishing. Even today representations of people of color tend to fall within four major categories: Individuals of color are typically portrayed as (1) stereotypes, (2) tokens (think two-dimensional cardboard cut-outs), (3) trapped in oppression, and/or (4) invisible (vanished into thin air, overlooked, ignored, and denied altogether – hyper visible in our invisibility). Unfortunately, these are the books and stories that big publishers think sell, and so these are the books that are printed and marketed to people of all races and ethnicities across the country – and these are the books that people buy. It’s a costly cycle, and damaging to everyone.
Blood Orange Press is different. We are an independent publisher committed to filling literary gaps, not broadening them; filling them with stories that counteract stereotypes and limitation.
It’s not just about “fixing” what’s wrong in the world, it’s also about lifting up a vision for the better place we want to create. We are not about denying injustice; we are not about masking oppression with rainbows. We are about acknowledging lived experience, and fueling a movement with inspiration, imagination, and love. We spread solutions and reaffirm positive growth and development. We are about joy. We are about sustaining people, and sustaining positive change.
Which is why we publish books and materials for all ages – from babies to elders – that recognize the power and beauty within communities of color. Blood Orange Press strives to remind readers of our dignity, strength, and promise – not tear down our sense of opportunity or limit our potential.
But we can’t do it alone. Small publishers like us can’t stay in business if our positive and diversity-affirming books don’t sell. And big publishers won’t change their ways until the bottom line demands they do so. So keep buying books that stem from your values. Keep sharing resources and information with your loved ones. And when you can’t find the books you want, keep looking, keep requesting, and keep creating.
Let’s make stereotypes and invisibility a liability.
We hope that here at Blood Orange Press you will find materials that ring true to your vision of the world – books and art that affirm your commitment to diversity and dignity. But even more than that, our greatest hope is that you will not give up your vision. We hope you will continue to actively seek positive affirmations of you and your story, whatever its nuances may be. You deserve to be recognized, honored and celebrated.
Welcome to our site – and happy exploring! If our work resonates with you, please share it with your community of family and friends.
(Posted May 2013)