I remember being 7 and loving children’s books. I wasn’t so much a voracious reader as I was a child who absorbed and consumed the experience of storytelling, the experience of holding a book in my hands, smelling it, turning its pages.
And I remember being 7, and experiencing the heartbreak of feeling like I could never fulfill my dream to create books. The observations I made told me that people of my skin tone and heritage just don’t do that sort of thing. I scoured children’s books for authors, illustrators, even characters I could identify with; some kind of green light that this world of children’s publishing was an option for my future. That there was a place for me in this world. A brown sounding name… anything.
After many unsuccessful visits to the school library, I gave up my dream to make children’s books, even though my classmates kept telling me (with certainty) that this was what I was going to do. I didn’t have the words or heart to explain to them why writing and illustrating children’s books wasn’t an option for me, or for any of us for that matter. Instead I tried to convince them and myself that I wanted to be … something else when I grew up.
For years now, I’ve been stealing away evenings and weekends to fight the war for visibility of our communities – from our children to our elders – in children’s publishing. Many of us are waging battles for diversity in children’s books – we’re spread out, and many times working solo, happy to connect and see each other when we can.
I express my deepest gratitude to Walter Dean Myers and his son Christopher Myers, acclaimed and award winning children’s book creators, for expressing so clearly the complexities and nuances of invisibility. (Click on their names to read their March 2014 New York Times articles.)
Recognition of our humanity, individuality, and value – this is what Blood Orange Press is spreading. Just and responsible representation is our light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you Mr. Myers and Christopher for letting us know we’re not alone.