Black teens enjoy reading, too…Whowouldathunkit?

I don’t know whether to be overjoyed or annoyed at the recent Publisher’s Weekly article reporting that editors in the young adult genre are paying more attention to the interests of black teen readers. I’m happy that young black readers are finally getting some love from the publishing industry, but as a longtime bibliophile I am dismayed that it took so long. 

Although black teens read plenty of books that feature no prominent black characters—Stephenie Meyer’s titles, for example—the emergence of more young adult publishing programs geared toward African-Americans is in many ways a response to demand. Most editors contacted by PW agree that the publishing industry is starting to understand that black teens not only want to read about themselves but are also an economically viable readership. “The aha! moment is unfolding slowly,” says Andrea Pinkney, v-p and executive editor at Scholastic, “but it is happening.” Read more…

Why the notion of young people of color finding enjoyment escaping into a good book is a concept so hard to grasp that it must be digested slowly escapes me, but at least publishers are gradually “getting it.” And what helped spark this epiphany in the publishing world? Vigilant parents like the ones here at ARP.

This need for more relatable titles aimed at African-American teenagers is also being spurred by parents, according to Cheryl Hudson, cofounder of Just Us Books, an African-American house focused on children’s titles that is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. It was feedback from parents that motivated the publisher to start releasing young adult titles in addition to the picture books it is known for.

The members of the ARP family are always looking for good books featuring children of color. The Publisher’s Weekly article includes a list of recommended titles aimed at black children. I’d love to hear some reader feedback on these. (Why so many historical titles? That seems to me a trend in literature aimed at African American youth.)

Image courtesy of  babblingdweeb on Flickr.

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About Tami

Tami Winfrey Harris writes about race, feminism, politics and pop culture at the blog What Tami Said. Her work has also appeared online at The Guardian’s Comment is Free, Ms. Magazine blog, Newsweek,, Huffington Post and Racialicious. She is a graduate of the Iowa State University Greenlee School of Journalism. She is mom to two awesome stepkids and spends her spare time researching her family history and cultivating a righteous 'fro.
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