At the time of this writing, we don’t yet know the outcome of the presidential election. (Anyone with a time-travel device, please let us know things turned out okay.) But it sure has been A Year for women. We’ve been quite busy with our roaring and our woman-card-playing and our Lemonade-making (who runs the world? Not us yet, Beyoncé). The conversations have been loud, lively, and insistent.
We were pleased to facilitate these types of discussions at this fall’s Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards and Horn Book at Simmons Colloquium. (Lots more here, and even more to come in the January/February 2017 Magazine.) The tone was celebratory, collaborative, and convivial, even in disagreement; more than one participant noted: “Children’s publishing is so nice.” We got confirmation of our field’s high score on the niceness scale via the esteem shown by the winners and honorees to one another; the gratitude they expressed toward family and editors and mentors and girlfriends; their reverence for books and reading; and their respect for their child audience. And there may be no greater example of our field’s kindness than Yuyi Morales (Thunder Boy Jr.), who could not attend the ceremony in person because she was donating one of her kidneys — a well-read one, as she pointed out, and she encouraged us to pay it forward by reading to other peoples’ kidneys (it wasn’t as weird as it sounds — she had the room in tears).
But there’s a time and place for “nice,” and a time and place for channeling our inner…let’s say “bosses.” (As Marla Frazee tweeted when she heard the news that her new book, The Bossier Baby, had been starred in this issue: “I’m so happy The Bossier B*tch, I mean, Baby is on this list.”) The Lie Tree winner Frances Hardinge described being a shy child, whom people mistook for being “sweet and fluffy all the way through,” when “in reality, I had a rather black and surreal sense of humor.” Roxane Orgill touched on the challenges faced by the three female jazz musicians in the Harlem 1958 photo on which her book Jazz Day was based. Carole Boston Weatherford argued: “We need to celebrate diverse stories that aren’t about the same twenty black people,” a point exemplified by her Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement. And make no mistake—looking around the room, the claim that the children’s book field is peopled largely by white women couldn’t be denied. BGHB judge Roxanne Hsu Feldman had some concrete suggestions. Among them: publishers, hire salespeople of color, to unclog the publishing pipeline and bring in the bucks. And stop reinforcing that old, tired idea that books about underrepresented people are only for them. We’re with her.
Speaking of bringing in the bucks — and of the whiteness of publishing — Publishers Weekly’s “Publishing Industry Salary Survey, 2016” came out in mid-September. Once again, it shows women paying the price (“Indeed, one of the most consistent findings over the years — the gap between the earnings of men and women — was as stark as ever”), along with minimal progress in diversity and inclusion (more progress in the types of books published; less so in who is being hired). Is anyone surprised by this? Frustrated, yes. Resigned, no. Reinvigorated by the discussions of the “nice” people during our “Out of the Box”–themed weekend? Absolutely.
And now to this issue of the Horn Book. It wasn’t intentional that all the articles were written by women — and that many are uniquely about women. Sarah Hannah Gómez desperately seeks middle-grade historical fiction about everyday domestic life starring people of color. Summer Edward interviews the Ghanaian children’s publishing pioneer Deborah Ahenkorah, including a discussion about women’s unique place in children’s publishing and social change movements. Jeannine Atkins draws parallels between the March sisters, the Everdeen sisters, and those Frozen sisters, Elsa and Anna. Look to the book review section, too, for girls and young women from many backgrounds who defy expectations, make mischief, survive horror, or otherwise shake up the status quo. We’re with them.
Finally, we’d like to bid a fond farewell to longtime Horn Book Guide editor Kitty Flynn, who is moving on after twenty-plus years with The Horn Book, Inc. Kitty has been a superior colleague and mentor whose warmth, kindness, and dry sense of humor place her among our own pantheon of Great Ladies. We’ll always be with her.
From the November/December 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine