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Every little girl has a story.
Every little girl has a story.

January 2015

Book Publishers Don’t Care About Diversity In Children’s Literature. What Are You Going To Do About It?

Book publishing is a business like any other business. A business solves problems in exchange for a profit. If there is no business to solve your problem, then businesses must believe that there is no profit in solving your problem. For the problem of little to no diversity in children’s books to have existed for so long, it’s apparent that book publishers don’t think there is a profit in solving that particular problem. As African-American parents who spend a considerable amount of money on books each year, we found this disturbing. However, book publishers must be doing fine profit-wise, even though they are leaving millions of dollars and millions of customers on the table by not investing in creating content to cater to young ethnic readers and turn them into customers for life. Clearly, their resources are focused on other segments of the market that seem to be sustaining them. We cannot count the times we’ve stood in the aisles of book stores and said, “somebody should do something about this” regarding the lack of diverse children’s books. We could find no one to complain to, just other parents to commiserate with about the lack of diversity in children’s literature. As it turns out, this has been an on-going issue since Jack Ezra Keats penned The Snowy Day in 1962. Fast forward to 2015 and the issue, though well examined and discussed, is still prevalent. There are a few books here and there and we all know what happens every February for Black History Month or in September for Hispanic Heritage Month or in May for Asain-Pacific American Heritage Month. Those token gestures aren’t enough  and they are not representative of the large population of diverse young readers and their parents who support these book publishers year-round. This leaves us with two options, we can complain more and hope someone hears us or we can do something about it ourselves.

Seeing as how no one has done much about diversity in children’s publishing since 1962, we realized no one was coming to the rescue. So we sat down and wrote a story about our daughter getting her first pair of big girl shoes once she began walking. Then we contacted a family friend who is an amazing illustrator and the real work began. About a year after we sat down and wrote that story we now have a finished product we can proudly show the world. The story is relevant and universal and the protagonist just happens to be an AfricanAmerican girl.  It wasn’t easy. But standing by doing nothing would have been harder. Walking the aisles in book stores where the shelves overflowed with every sort of character-except one that looked like our daughter-and doing nothing would have been harder. If parents of diverse children want things to be different, then parents of diverse children have to BE different. That means raising our expectations and taking action. We’re not sure if those actions should come in the form of more diverse authors to tell their own children’s stories or an outright boycott of the companies that refuse acknowledge that these stories even exist. What we do know is that the marginalization of our children in literature has no place in our modern society.

Apple iTunes by clicking Comora’s New Shoes
Amazon by clicking Comora’s New Shoes (Comora’s Stories Book 1)

Comora’s New Shoes is a success. Next month, under the Comora’s Stories brand, we will release a new book. Soon after that we hope to release another and another and encourage others to do the same until there are no such things as “diverse books.” Parents will simply have many more books to choose from and be empowered by choices instead of frustrated by the lack of them. In the meantime, large book publishers should consider themselves on notice. The parents of diverse children are a formidable market. The companies that ignore that market may soon find themselves too far behind the curve to recover from their hubris.

 

Comora’s Parents

Every Little Girl Has A Story. Are We Brave Enough To Tell It?

Necessity is the mother of invention, as the saying goes. So you could say that Comora’s Stories was created out of necessity. To instill a love of reading in our daughter as early as possible, we read to her anything with pastels on the pages between two covers. We quickly exhausted the popular picture books by Mo Willems, Dr. Suess’ deep catalogue, and of course, everything and anything Sesame, along with various other authors along the way. Moving onto Disney and its characters, my daughter, like millions of girls before her, became enamored with princesses, and bonded with one particular princess in particular. So much so, that we made a special pilgrimage to Disneyland and waited two hours in line to have our picture taken with that particular princess- Princess Tiana.

It was no secret why our daughter identified with Tiana so much. It was the first princess that looked like her. Sure Dora The Explorer was amazing and Doc McStuffins was the theme of her 5th birthday party, but beyond that we were hard pressed to find many other protagonist that looked like our kinky haired, almond eyed, coffee-colored skin daughter-either in print or in HD. Didn’t little black girls have tea parties? Go for walks with their parents? Have sleep overs? Get into all sorts of mischief with their siblings and assorted pets? Aspire to be fashionistas? Didn’t they just be…kids? One question loomed; Don’t Little Black Girls Have Stories?

The world we live in is visual. Images are used across every medium available to enforce, enchant, and indoctrinate. As parents, it’s our  job to act as curators and put what our daughter sees into the proper perspective during her formative years.

Apple iTunes by clicking Comora’s New Shoes
Amazon by clicking Comora’s New Shoes (Comora’s Stories Book 1)

Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie once gave TED talk. It was about the danger of a single story. After listening to that TED talk we realized that every night we were inadvertently spoon feeding our little girl a single story. We became worried that our daughter would grow up with a misunderstanding of herself and possibly the world. If EVERY story about a little girl featured a character that didn’t look like her, whom she could not at least visually identify with, would the morals of the stories be lost on her? Would our daughter grow up thinking that the things in those books that happened to those girls couldn’t happen to her? Sooner or later she would figure out she wasn’t a princess-at least when we weren’t around 🙂 and it didn’t take her long to figure out her toys were talking back to her. It became apparent we couldn’t shield her from story time inequities by focusing on pigeons, pigs, sponges and other assorted seemingly neutral characters.

Right now our daughter is too young to understand the significance of Lupita Nyong’o winning an Oscar, or grasp the concept of Oprah Winfrey’s success and unless the Williams’ sisters take up competitive hop-scotch, our daughter simply isn’t interested-yet. What she does care about is story time. She looks forward to it every night. We aren’t sure if it’s a love of reading or just a ploy to stay in the land of the awake a few more minutes and frankly we don’t care. She is like every little girl on the planet. She just wants a story. She deserves a story, and she’s going to get one. Every little girl has a story. We just have to be brave enough to tell it.

-Comora’s Parents.

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Comora's Stories

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