In Zetta Elliott’s blog post “Something like an open letter to the children’s publishing industry”, I was most interested in a quote pulled from K. T. Horning. She is quoted as saying: “For publishers, it’s a business.” I have to say, if I were a publisher and did not think — whatever the reason may be — that a book would sell, I would not want to publish it either. As Elliott points out, “gatekeepers don’t always get it right”, but it’s simply a business. It is a publishers job to know what will probably do well and what will probably do poorly. What is hot today will not be hot in the future, just as what is hot today was not hot in the past. If I knew the reading demographic wanted stories about African Americans, I would seek to fill that need. If it seemed that vampires, wolverines, and heroines were all of the rage (sound familiar?) then so be it. Business is business.
Do I wish that this was not the case, and that big publishers would select more diverse books to be published? Absolutely. As rif.org brought up from Nancy Larrick’s article, “The All-White World of Children’s Books” “6,340,000 nonwhite children are learning to read and to understand the American way of life in books which either omit them entirely or scarcely mention them.” I realize that that is not fair. But I must defend a company’s right to publish what they see financially fit to publish.
The “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors” article made a great point that, “[w]hen children cannot find themselves reflected in the books they read, or when the images they see are distorted, negative, or laughable, they learn a powerful lesson about how they are devalued in the society of which they are a part.” In Elliott’s article, she also made an excellent point that “self-published books and those produced by small, independent publishers are often dismissed as illegitimate and/or unworthy of serious critical attention … so [they] reach only a very small audience.” But, I think that we must look at the positive side of it all: at least self-publishing is an option. It is not ideal, but at least it can get diverse books out in the world.