Kid Lit Represents!

One thing that both Laura and I are always keenly aware of when buying and merchandising for and in the Kids’ Room and YA section is making sure that we represent the diversity of our world as widely as possible. In kidlit we are fond of saying that books should be both mirrors and windows, and we take this idea very seriously here. Of course this philosophy holds true for all books, but we’re particularly focused on it for children’s books. We believe very strongly in the importance of both seeing yourself in a book as well as being able to immerse yourself in worlds that are absolutely new and unfamiliar.

This covers a wide range of territory, touching on race, gender, sexuality, religion, community and much more. And on a more basic level, it also means that we might, for example, recommend a book with a girl protagonist to a boy reader. Because if we read only ‘in our own lane’ we never get that vicarious experience of living someone else’s life in the pages. That’s where empathy comes from, and the understanding that at the end of the day, regardless of genre, all good books are in some way about what it means to be a human on this planet –– the good, the bad, and all that’s in between.

The author and publishing parts of the kidlit world are very conscious of this, too, in case you were wondering. Serious conversations are occuring about making sure stories are authentically told. Sometimes this means the hard reality that not every author is capable of telling every story. So much of culture and identity comes from the small, intimate nuances of thought and behavior, much more than the broad swaths of things such as food or landscape. Certainly we here in Houston know that much more defines us than just oil money or the Rodeo or chicken fried steak or country music or even our regionalisms, such as calling the road on the side of I-45 the "feeder". My own novel THE SWEET DEAD LIFE, for example, is set not just in Houston, but specifically in the northern suburbs, their own special mix of strip centers, tract housing, and mall culture, among other things. There is a life and language and identity to this place outside the urban center and the characters who inhabit it.

Our kids’ shelves are filled with amazing books and many of them are wonderfully outside each of our personal wheelhouses, waiting for readers to find new adventures!

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