Category Archives: Race

Interview: Author Janet Halfmann on Lilly Ann Granderson’s Legacy

Midnight TeacherToday is the release day of Midnight Teacher: Lilly Ann Granderson and Her Secret School, a picture book about the little-known story of Lilly Ann Granderson, an African-American teacher who risked her life to teach others during slavery. To celebrate, we interviewed author Janet Halfmann to find out more about the story behind Midnight Teacher.

Many of us have not heard of Lilly Ann Granderson’s story. How did you find out about her legacy? What inspired you to write about Lilly Ann Granderson?

I learned about it in bits and pieces. I have long been interested in early black educators, partly because so many books about teachers in the early schools for African Americans are about white teachers from the North. I wanted to shine the spotlight on an amazing early black teacher. The first mentions I found about Lilly Ann Granderson were under the name Milla Granson, the name used by a northern abolitionist who met this teacher and wrote about it in her book. Once I started researching, I learned that Lilly Ann Granderson was known as the Midnight Teacher because she held her secret classes from midnight until two in the morning. That fact made the story all the more intriguing to me, and I thought it would be for kids too. All accounts I found about this teacher ended shortly after the Civil War, so I am honored to have had the opportunity to flesh out Lilly Ann Granderson’s amazing and inspiring story and share it with the world.

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Black History Month Book Giveaway, Book Lists, and Resources

February is Black History Month, which was created to remember the important people and events in the history of the African diaspora and to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history. While ethnic heritage months can be problematic, they are also a good reminder to highlight the achievements of particular cultures, and can make people from those cultures feel acknowledged and appreciated. In this blog post, we’ve rounded up some of our best Black History Month resources.  Continue reading

The Role of Cultural Experts and Sensitivity Readers

After her recent interview about sensitivity readers in the New York Times, Editorial Director and Publisher of Tu Books, Stacy Whitman, further discusses the role of cultural experts and sensitivity readers and the important part they play in the editorial process.

Over the last several months, outlets like the New York Times have started discussions of the use in publishing of what are now being called sensitivity readers—what we here at Lee and Low have called cultural experts. In particular, the New York Times framed their take on the subject as a question of censorship. The current headline reads, “In an Era of Online Outrage, Do Sensitivity Readers Result in Better Books, or Censorship?” which is updated from the print version, “Sensitivity or Censorship? The Vetting of Children’s Books in an Era of Outrage.”

I’m not sure that the update changes the framing, which still implies that what should be a standard part of the editorial process is somehow a form of censorship.

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Read Bryan Stevenson’s Foreword for I AM ALFONSO JONES

I AM ALFONSO JONES cover imageToday, we are proud to release I Am Alfonso Jones, a heartbreaking exploration of the Black Lives Matter movement and the impact that police brutality has on families, young people, and communities. Written by Tony Medina and illustrated by Stacey Robinson and John Jennings, this title offers a powerful entry to discussion as well as essential historical context to today’s discussions on police brutality. Below is the powerful foreword by Bryan Stevenson, Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative and author of Just Mercy.

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Interview: Axie Oh, author of Rebel Seoul (Out Today!)

Today is the release day of Rebel Seoul, the New Visions Award-winning science fiction debut by Axie Oh! When Lee Jaewon is assigned to partner with supersoldier Tera in Neo Seoul’s top weapons development division, he must decide where he stands: with the people his rebel father protected or with the totalitarian government that claims it will end all war.

To celebrate today’s release, we asked author Axie Oh about her writing process, the inspiration behind Rebel Seoul, and her advice to aspiring authors.

Axie Oh Rebel Seoul

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Diversity in Publishing: A Closer Look at LEE & LOW’s Staff

In our earlier blog post, Diversity in Publishing: How Diverse is LEE & LOW’s Authors, Illustrators, and Staff, we shared a mini breakdown of our authors and illustrators as well as our staff. In the past, we’ve received a few questions asking about the percentage of authors/illustrators of color we publish as well as the percentage of people of color on our staff. And we hoped that this post would answer a few of those questions.

After posting the percentage, we received a few more questions: what is the breakdown per department? What is the breakdown by race and ethnicity? How many members of your staff are LGBTQ+ identifying, and/or disabled?

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Diversity in Publishing: How Diverse is LEE & LOW’s Staff, Authors, and Illustrators?

At the beginning of 2015 we conducted our Diversity Baseline Survey to measure the amount of diversity among publishing staff across the industry. The numbers told us something we already knew: publishing suffers from a major lack of diversity, not just in books but also in staff.

But we’ve also received this question: How diverse are the authors and illustrators that Lee & Low publishes? And how diverse is our Lee & Low staff?

As the largest multicultural children’s book publisher in the United States, we think this information is important to share. Below you’ll find our demographic breakdown of our authors and illustrators as well as our staff. Continue reading

Classroom Library Assessment: How Culturally Responsive is Your Library?

Teachers, let’s talk about a popular topic across education blogs and Pinterest: the classroom library. A quick search on the Internet results in numerous tips, tricks, and ideas for different ways to configure and organize your classroom library. It’s an intensive and thoughtful process that involves thinking about genre, reading levels, interest levels, grade-level content, categories, and themes.

Unfortunately, we often see classroom libraries that group diverse books into categories that isolate or limit their use. Simply having a book bin labeled “cultures from around the world” or “black history month books” does not mean your library is culturally responsive. We need to think critically about how these books reflect the diversity of our students, their backgrounds, and the communities in which we live while exposing them to new ideas and concepts. Does your classroom library contain books that include main characters of color or with disabilities? Do your books featuring people of color only focus on issues of race, prejudice, or discrimination? Do they go beyond ethnic heritage months? Do they only focus on cultural traditions and foods? Continue reading

The Diversity Gap in Children’s Book Publishing, 2017

Last month, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) released its statistics on the number of children’s books by and about people of color published in 2016. Two years after the founding of We Need Diverse Books, the issue of diversity in children’s books continues to gain traction and media attention; it is the topic of panels, conferences, training sessions, and studies.

But is it all making a difference?

The answer is yes and no: Continue reading

Ten Favorite Diversity-Related Reads from 2016

Now that 2016 is finally coming to a close, we gathered a few of our favorite reads that engaged, entertained, and fascinated us throughout the year.

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