Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tu Publishing-- YA and Children's Books in Today's Multicultural World

On Monday, Heather Zundel of The Secret Adventures of Writer Girl, posted about Tu Publishing. Heather has a contest going right now, so check it out, and spread goodwill.

The mission of Tu Publishing is simple and one that's close to my heart-- to broaden the scope of the genres of science fiction and fantasy, genres that have long ignored ethnic and cultural diversity even in imagined worlds. They even go so far as to recommend multicultural fantasy and sci-fi books on their site. I've copied their mission statement below:

"Fantasy and science fiction, mystery and historical fiction–these genres draw in readers like no other. Yet it is in these genres that readers of color might feel most like an outsider, given that such a large percentage features white characters (when they feature human characters). It is the goal of Tu Publishing to publish genre books for children and young adults that fills this gap in the market–and more importantly, this gap in serving our readers. By focusing on multicultural settings and characters in fantastic stories, we also open up worlds to all readers.

The word “tu” means “you” in many languages, and in Ainu (the language of Japan’s native people), it means “many.” Tu Publishing is dedicated to publishing fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and historical fiction for children and young adults inspired by many cultures from around the world, to reach the “you” in each reader.

Kids who love to read do better in school. One way to encourage that love of reading is to provide stories that readers can identify with. By increasing the number of books that feature multicultural characters and settings, we can influence the multicultural world of tomorrow.

Books can be both a mirror and a window to other worlds for readers. Tu Publishing hopes that by publishing books that feature multicultural characters and settings and books with worlds inspired by all the many non-Western cultures in the world, we might shine a mirror on you and open a window to many."

They hope to be open to submissions (unagented as well as agented? That's the way it sounds so far) in January, so you have only a month to spruce up that manuscript. The catch is, they are currently fund-raising in order to be able to do so. They hope to meet their goal of $10,000 by mid-month, so they need your help.

If you can contribute anything (I just donated $5), click over to this Tu Publishing post to find out how. It's safe and easy to donate, especially if you already have an amazon account, and who doesn't these days? I already had a card on file with amazon, so the whole experience was extremely painless. I wish I would have heard of this publishing house sooner-- I would have been plugging them this whole time.

On a personal note, I'm not sure who I would have grown up to be if not for my love of science fiction and fantasy. But I'm not sure if I would have liked fantasy and sci-fi if no one in the stories looked like me... I do know that I enjoyed reading about other cultures from a very young age, but I'm sure I would have been discouraged if all I had to read were books about some other culture, not my own. If I'd grown up being told that my race doesn't buy books, so why should publishers waste time and money catering to me? If I'd never had the pleasure of reading about a character who was like me. I can imagine I'd probably swear off reading for good, since I was a stubborn child.

But this was not the case for this little white girl who was a tad weird and friendless, luckily. I found in books all the friends I needed. If I hadn't had my books, and they hadn't been so very special to me, I'm not sure if I would be here today, blogging and writing for your reading pleasure. And I certainly wouldn't be the person that books have helped me metamorphose into. If I hadn't seen "myself" in books, I'm not sure that love would have had such a lasting affect on me.

I hope that this perspective might convince even one person to donate $5 to Tu Publishing this week. If we all donated $5, that would go a long way to help Tu Publishing meet their goal.
Thanks for listening, y'all! And have a safe and happy holiday season.


Davin Malasarn said...

I just heard about this from Beth Revis's blog. It's an important concept, and I'm spreading the word. Thanks for the nice write-up about it! And, what a touching remembrance.

Abby Annis said...

I've thought about this before, and I would love to write something from another cultural perspective, but I don't know if I could do it well enough. It's on my list of things to try one day.

Thanks for the info!

Tess said...

That's pretty cool - I'm all for broadening our viewpoints. I'll check out the link, thanks :D

Voidwalker said...

That's interesting. I wonder what the % is for minority authors and whether or not it impacts the % of stories written, in those genres, about main characters.

I know in my Sci-Fi/Fantasy novel, that I'm writing, I have several characters who are African American, not because they fit better, but just because, I wanted my character base to be somewhat diverse. So, I guess it just takes awareness that there's a desire for that.

Nice Post!

Weronika Janczuk said...

That's really cool. Thank you for sharing . . . I'm off to see if they have recommended any books I've read before. :)

Karen Denise said...

I hear people say they don't know if they can write a character of another race or ethnicity and I think, well, it's all about personality.

If you're writing a character with dark skin, why can't she think, move and act like a character with light skin. It's not about piling on stereotypes. I have characters in my books who are black, white, Asian and Hispanic and I only have experience being black.

Growing up as a little black girl, I had no idea that I wasn't being represented in fiction. I didn't see myself in books but I don't think that children think like that...or, I didn't think like that when I was little. I loved reading my books and disapearing into stories. They shaped my life, gave me a vivid imagination and made me want to be a storyteller almost from the moment I could read.

It's only when I got older that the lack of mulitcultural characters in fiction became something I noticed. Now, I get people who expect me to write only black characters because I'm black. If you have a good eye and pay attention to people, you'll be able to write characters who are real, and complex and not stereotypes no matter what nationality you are and no matter what ethnicity you make your characters. Look at Justine Larbalestier and her book Liar. Prime example of someone writing a character outside of their race and making it work.

Have I rambled on long enough? LOL

Btw, I nominated you for the Honest Scrap Award..go check out my page!

Tere Kirkland said...

Davin, thanks for the kind words. I think it's more important than ever for kids to read about characters from cultures other than their own, and STAY that open-minded about it as they get older. I hope Tu Publishing can help.

Abby, I bet you could... for Mara's story I've been doing lot of research about the Romani, which has been challenging. One of the biggest reasons I want to see this book in print is to shine some light on her people, and the stereotypes they face everyday. It's tough, though, and I sweat it all the time. I sweated it writing Evangeline, too. There's a fine line between what's considered verisimilitude and what's just plain demeaning.

Tess, my parents were all about broadening our viewpoints, and I moved around a lot as a kid. I think it's made me a better person. (and congrats again! you know what I mean!)

Voidwalker, kudos to you for adding diversity to your own work. I know what a challenge it can be sometimes, not to write, but later, when you second guess yourself. Good to know I'm not alone.

Weronika, I highly recommend "The House of the Scorpion" and I've been dying to read Silver Phoenix.

Karen, ramble away! I appreciate your viewpoint. And in my ever so humble opinion ;), I think you're not alone when you say people expect you to write only black characters, or to write stories about the black experience. Consider yourself in good company: ;) Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, visual artists like Jacob Lawrence and Palmer Hayden... the list goes on and on...

I took a great class in my grad studies called "Art in the African Americas", which was very enlightening as we studied Brazil and Cuba in depth, where the desire for art and writing to depict the "black experience" was not as constrictive as in the U.S. (Look up Cuba's best known modern painter, Wifredo Lam, who was once the world's best known Cablasian, sorry Tiger. You won't be disappointed.)

I loved Liar, and appreciate Labarlestier's good example. Hopefully, I'll get Evangeline published soon, and join her ranks, lol.

Thanks again for all your kind words, y'all!

Heather Zundel said...

Wonderful post! You did it even better than I did! Thank you.