Jump to content

Frustrations of a Black Children's Book Author

Recommended Posts

In the recent social awareness of Black conditions, I want to voice some observations as a Black children's book author.  It's just off the top of my head, so forgive me if it turns into a rant.


A Black authored, Black published, Black distributed project is unlikely to have the capital (money, network, recognition) to market itself against non-Black authored, non-Black published projects.  A simple google search for Black children's books today produced ads from B&N and Urban Outfitters(!).  I suppose we should be happy for Black content, but I could never hope to "outbid" those companies for ad space.  


Beyond that, representation is not enough.  I am shocked at how often Black books are white authored, white published, white distributed.  I don't want to name names, but for example, children's books like "The Story of Rap", "We Love You, Rosie", and "Jabari Jumps" (as well as dozens of others) are entirely white produced and could be misleading to readers hoping to support Black production. 


This is no critique of the quality of those titles in particular.  I have not read them.  And I am not saying a white woman cannot write about Black characters.  Still, one could also argue her use of the name Jabari may be strategically designed to "take the spot" of a Black author.  White voices, arguably, compound the problem by masking the lack of representation with inauthentic voices.  And we are all just thankful for representation. 


Other issues include the tone of Black content offered.  Based solely on my own research, celebrated Black children's books often seem limited to oppression narratives or (possibly condescending) self-esteem/validation guides.  In this problem, Black is equated with struggle alone and forces Black voices into formulaic tropes. 


A politically controversial point, is the identities put to the front of Black listings.  Although most of us are thankful for progress when we see Barack or Kamala ascend to well-deserved heights in government, I've witnessed debates about when one could expect a full descendant of slaves (or someone born to two Black parents) to find similar levels of success.  Does America need to "ease itself in" to diversity with bi-racial Black persons or near-Black persons?


This post is no referendum on any of the aforementioned books or authors.  Yet, the effort to amplify Black voices in Children's literature should consider these points.  The illusion of progress is frustrating because the love for (or indifference to) reading in the next generation may be formed by this generations good but short-sighted intentions.


I anticipate some criticism here, but my comments are just an honest, off-the-cuff response to pricing marketing options for my own creative efforts.  I simply think the obstacles are too unfair for Black creators to even try.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I appreciate your candor @Jeffrey I wish more people would express themselves on the subject of book here, so thanks.


Yeah, I was a diver back in the day the best in NYC Public schools my Sr. Year  so I found Jabri Jumps cute yes the author is white https://aalbc.com/authors/author.php?author_name=Gaia+Cornwall in this case the author's race was immaterial to me.  Same goes for Ezra Jack Keats, Diane Dillion, etc.


This is America -- everthing is unfair to us especially in the book world.


If you really believe in what you're created you'll figure it out. There is no other way. It will be hard, but try not to reinvent the wheel completely, learn from others.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Jabari Jumps is beautifully illustrated and has earned many awards.  To be clear, I'm thankful for representation and admire her work.  I'm just thinking about the implied problem aloud.  Simply put, Black creators are Sisyphus and may never have the opportunity to make up ground.  


I wonder if race/color SHOULD be immaterial in these cases.  I recall a Black History professor at a college I attended was white.  He went to a prestigious school.  I assumed he was qualified and capable of teaching the subject.  Years later, I would reevaluate my assumptions when I met a credentialed but unemployed Black woman in the field.


I feel we are conditioned to think, "Maybe she didn't try hard enough.  Maybe she's just not as good at teaching Back history as he is."  In an ideal world, I would want both to be employed and contributing to the conversation.  I mean, is there NOT inherent value in her identity that deserves a space?


I believe in my work, but acknowledge it may not be in league with Cornwall's work.  That's just capitalism; the best sells.  I don't argue with that.  I argue the playing field may not even give room for a chance to compete.  Here, race/color may be material. 


I believe you, as a diver, could achieve the same level of success as a diver of any other origin.  Jesse Owens already addressed those concerns.  Yet, I am from an era where a Black NFL quarterback was still noteworthy.  I am interested in addressing another concern: I do not believe you could afford the same level of marketing as a similar company founded yesterday by the son of a rich family.  Unless similar entrepreneurs pooled their money to level the field.  





Link to post
Share on other sites


I empathize with your frustration, while concurrently acknowledging the work of others. In complete transparency, the "authorship" game is the most competitive arena that I've encountered. Professional athletics, the military, bodybuilding, nothing is as biting as the literature world.


With that being said, I concur with @Troy. Since you've been here (this post), I discovered a FREE IG Series hosted by AAMBC that is SEARCHING for people to take over their popular social media pages, while earning free promotion. However, be forewarned, the application is extensive; they want to see your work, future projects, etc. Out of respect, I won't post the link here, yet, this is an OPPORTUNITY! Perhaps not THEE opportunity, yet a MAGNIFICENT one, nonetheless. Steps...


1 hour ago, Jeffrey said:

I would want both to be employed and contributing to the conversation.


You have contributed to THIS conversation, and often times, WE have to understand that THIS conversation is as valid as the next. Thank you for sharing, openly and encouring positive dialogue.



1 hour ago, Jeffrey said:

I am interested in addressing another concern: I do not believe you could afford the same level of marketing as a similar company founded yesterday by the son of a rich family.


Grind your hustle to dust... then sweep it up and do it again. Who cares about "the rich," when an underdog story is underway.


Best of luck, I have an entry to prepare for release this evening.... The Setup: Double Homicide In The Heartland - BASED UPON A TRUE STORY. owshowe.com 

Link to post
Share on other sites

@Jeffrey how do you win a war? One campaign after another. First establishing more relationships with Black Children’s Illustrator and Writers is important. I don’t know if there’s a children’s picture book section here.


What I have done this far is to start building those relationships with them via Facebook. I started reading and reviewing the ebook version of their books on a “free” service.


Although I have personal feeling against Facebook. I do feel that some of their properties can be helpful in list building.


The second thing is contact with existing black organizations. I think my next target will be Black Sororities. They have lots of potential customers. 

This is my first children’s book, but I have already expanded to a WEBTOON and am looking at doing an animated video. 

Third English speaking countries globally. This not only provides a readership base it also provides a talent pool. 

Big publishers don’t frighten me. My rival is The Principal Baruti Kafele formerly known as Tony Hopkins. We were schoolmates and I first have to catch up to him. He started self publishing. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You are posting as a guest. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...