We’re excited to announce that Simmons College Graduate Programs in Children’s Literature has awarded Genielysse Reyes as the 2018 recipient of the Lee & Low and Friends Scholarship.
A partnership between the Simmons College Center for the Study of Children’s Literature and children’s book publisher Lee & Low Books, the scholarship provides opportunities for students from diverse backgrounds to participate in Simmons’ prestigious children’s literature graduate program. Lee & Low Books is the largest multicultural book publisher in the country and a leader in the effort to diversify the publishing industry. Simmons shares this goal and is committed to creating opportunities for all students so that a multiplicity of voices can be heard in the publishing industry and in books published for children and young adults.
This year, we interviewed Genielysse Reyes about her love of children’s literature, her thoughts on providing equitable access for people of color in publishing, and her goals as a part of the Simmons program.
Tell us about your journey. What led you to the Simmons’ children’s literature graduate program?
My journey started in California, in a household fueled by love and Filipino karaoke parties. I began drawing and writing stories alongside my little brother, Marco, when we were very young. He has autism, and storytelling became our language. I hope to collaborate on a manuscript with him someday. I then studied psychology and creative writing at the University of California, Riverside. During that time, I realized that I truly wanted to be an author. I wanted to write children’s books that featured strong sibling relationships and complex Filipino-American narratives. I decided to apply to Simmons’s children’s literature graduate program because of its dedication to the diverse artistry of children’s literature and its engaging collaborations between writers, librarians, editors, etc. Soon after, I found myself traveling across the country to Boston to pursue an MFA in Writing for Children at Simmons University.
When you learned that you were the recipient of the Lee & Low and Friends Scholarship, how did you feel?
I was ecstatic and speechless! I very much admire Lee & Low Books and their work towards diversity in children’s publishing. Therefore, when I received the email that told me that I was the recipient of the Lee & Low and Friends Scholarship, I was beyond honored. I video-called my family, and they were very excited by the news. Also, I read about the past three recipients—I am so proud of them. I feel even more inspired to tell my stories and make a difference in my community. At the same time, I hope to make Lee & Low and Simmons proud as I continue to do my best in the MFA in Writing for Children program.
While at Simmons, I hope to further shape my voice as a writer and craft stories that help children understand themselves and one another. Simmons has emphasized that we each have such unique perspectives to add to the program, and that motivates me to gain more confidence and participate in the program as much as I can. I’ve already attended and helped organize some program events, and those were a lot of fun. I also want to continue making connections with my peers and mentors. They are all such wonderful people and artists; I learn from them every day. My overall goal is to become a children’s author, but I would also love to teach creative writing as a professor in the future. Simmons is preparing me to share my stories, and hopefully one day I can prepare future writers to share their stories as well.
What are some ways publishers can provide equitable access to the field of children’s literature?
I am very grateful for the scholarship opportunity Simmons and Lee & Low have offered me. I understand the importance of diversifying children’s books, and I am glad that that is progressively happening. I also understand that there is a lack of diversity in children’s publishing as well. In order to provide equitable access to the field of children’s literature, publishers can provide more opportunities like paid internships so that people with diverse backgrounds can earn the experience they need and pursue a career in publishing. That door will then be more open for people who may add new and unique perspectives to the field. If the diversity in children’s publishing increases, perhaps the diversity in children’s books and book creators will continue to increase alongside it. I truly believe that storytelling is a language. And if more diverse voices are included, this language will sound even more beautiful.
Lee & Low Books is the largest children’s book publisher in the United States specializing in diversity. Since 1991 the company has provided a comprehensive range of notable diverse books for beginning readers through young adults under several imprints. Follow LEE & LOW BOOKS on Twitter at @LEEandLOW.
Simmons College is a nationally recognized private university located in the heart of Boston, and is the preeminent authority on women’s leadership. Founded in 1899, Simmons is the only undergraduate women’s college in Boston, and maintains a history of visionary thinking and a focus on social responsibility. The college offers world-class coeducational graduate programs in nursing and health sciences, including physical therapy and nutrition; liberal arts; education; behavior analysis; library and information science; management; and social work. Follow Simmons on Twitter at @SimmonsCollege and @SimmonsNews.