More Than Numbers

by Megan Schliesman

Last week KT Horning tweeted that it would be a great year to be on the Coretta Scott King Award Committee because of all the outstanding novels by African American authors that have been published so far in 2014. At the time, I’d just finished novelist Teresa E. Harris’s terrific debut book, The Perfect Place (Clarion), and had also been thinking about what a great year it’s been for longer books in general by African American authors.

It’s late November, and we are still waiting for many 2014 books to come into the CCBC (we moved in August, complicating our deliveries), but I’ve listed below what we’ve documented so far in terms of fiction and longer non-fiction we’ve received by Black authors (yes, we count picture books, too, we just aren’t listing them here):

  • Alexander, Kwame. The Crossover. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Barber, Tiki & Ronde. Extra Innings. Paula Weisman Book / Simon & Schuster
  • Booth, Coe. Kinda Like Brothers. Scholastic Press
  • Colbert, Brandy. Pointe. G. P. Putnam’s Sons
  • Curtis, Christopher Paul. The Madman of Piney Woods. Scholastic Press
  • DePrince, Michaela. Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina. Alfred A. Knopf
  • English, Karen. The Carver Chronicles: Skateboard Party. Illus Laura Freeman. Clarion Books
  • Flake, Sharon G. The Unstoppable Octobia May. Scholastic
  •  Freeman, Shannon. The Public Eye: A Port City High Novel. Saddleback
  • Giles, Lamar. Fake ID. Amistad /  HarperCollins
  • Harris, Teresa E. The Perfect Place. Clarion Books
  • Hegamin, Tonya Cherie. Willow. Candlewick Press
  • Johnson, Alaya Dawn. Love Is the Drug. Arthur A. Levine Books / Scholastic
  • Johnson, Varian. The Great Greene Heist. Arthur A. Levine / Scholastic
  • Magoon, Kekla. How It Went Down. Hentry Holt
  • Mitchell, Don. The Freedom Summer Murders. Scholastic Press
  • Moore, Stephanie Perry and Derrick Moore. All In / Stand Firm (Grovehill Giants Series). Saddleback
  • Moore, Stephanie Perry and Derrick Moore. Real Diva/Man Up (Grovehill Giants Series). Saddleback
  • Moore, Stephanie Perry and Derrick Moore. Scream Loud / Quiet Strength (Grovehill Giants Saddleback
  • Moore, Stephanie Perry. Make Something of It (The Sharp Sisters). Darby Creek / Lerner
  • Moses, Shelia P. The Sittin’ Up. G. P. Putnam’s Sons
  • Myers, Walter Dean. On a Clear Day. Crown Books
  • Nelson, Marilyn. How I Discovered Poetry.  Dial
  • Neri, G. Knock Out Games. Carolrhoda LAB
  • Patrick, Denise Lewis. A Matter of Souls. Carolrhoda LAB
  • Pinkney, Andrea Davis. The Red Pencil. Little, Brown
  • Reynolds, Jason. When I Was the Greatest. Atheneum
  • Stoudemire, Amar’e. Standing Tall And Talented: Most Valuable. Scholastic
  • Woods, Brenda. The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond. Nancy Paulsen Books / Penguin
  • Woodson, Jacqueline. Brown Girl Dreaming. Nancy Paulsen Books / Penguin

I haven’t read them all, but besides The Perfect Place, some of my favorites from the list above include The Crossover, Kinda Like Brothers, The Madman of Piney Woods, How It Went Down, The Knock-Out Game, Love Is the Drug, How I Discovered Poetry, and Brown Girl Dreaming. These and several others from the list above are already on our ever-growing compilation of books we’ll be including in CCBC Choices 2015, the most recent edition (still under construction) of our annual best-of-the-year list, which will be finalized by mid-January.

It’s not just the Coretta Scott King Award Committee, but all of us who are charged with reading, evaluating, and recommending books for children and teens, whether it’s through award committees like the King, Newbery, Printz and others; through best-of-the-year lists; through reviews; or in other ways, who benefit when there are more books to consider by African American authors and all authors of color. If we take our work seriously, we know that finding great stories and great books of information that also, critically, speak to specific cultural experiences and reflect culturally diverse perspectives, is essential to the larger world of kids and books and reading, regardless of the criteria for a specific award or list.

So as we talk about numbers, which is an important dimension of the discussion about diversity and publishing, it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the terrific books by people of color that are published each and every year. At the same time, it’s important we understand that the more books by people of color that are published, including books by new authors and illustrators like Teresa E. Harris, the better the outcome for everyone—publishers, librarians, teachers, and, of course, young readers.