Last week we discovered that for some white teens, it takes "push" from a gatekeeper to read a book featuring a main character who isn't white. No surprise there, right?
Does that mean we sit back and wait a few decades until young North Americans move beyond the primacy of racial self-identification?
Not if we believe that good stories are for all readers.
Not if we notice that with a bit of push, white teens are buying books about teens who aren't white.
Why put the push onus on parents, educators, and librarians? Isn't "push" another word for marketing? That's a vocation people study in graduate school so they can do it well and hopefully earn six-figure salaries working for successful companies.
Colleen Mondor makes the point that other products of youth culture (music, movies, television shows) cross racial boundaries better than books. Not surprisingly, the buzz for these products begins with a great marketing/sales plan within the companies. We've even noticed that books receiving marketing intentionality DO sell.
While most houses these days can point to published books featuring protagonists of different shades and races, bloggers Ari, Laura, and Doret are on the hunt to showcase those publishers who put marketing talent and dollars behind such books. I've worked with a few myself.
We writers are curious about their discoveries. We want to know which houses are going to spend some time and talent and money getting books about kids of color into the hearts and hands of all young readers. Times are tight and we'll do a lot of "pushing" ourselves, we promise ... but if there's a standout house or two in the crowd with a track record, we want to know, because these are the forward thinkers publishing for an increasingly multicultural story-consuming society.
In the meantime, I'm going to keep writing stories for many young readers about many kinds of young people. And I'll do my best on the Fire Escape to generate buzz for good books featuring protagonists along the margins of prosperity and culture. How about you?