Inclusive Imprints: An Update

In the September/October 2018 Horn Book article “Devoted to Diversity: Publishers with a Purpose,” Shoshana Flax examined the landscape of publishing houses and imprints focusing on inclusive representation. That article recognized long-established publishers such as Just Us Books, Lee & Low Books, and Cinco Puntos Press and identified imprints, many of them newly created, intended either to highlight a particular underrepresented group or to focus on diverse books in general.

Revisiting the topic of inclusive imprints, I’m happy not to have to describe such publishing endeavors as a short-lived trend.

Smaller-to-mid-size publishers continue to do a lot of this work, including some that have sprung up in recent years. Levine Querido, founded in 2019 in partnership with Dutch publisher Querido and headed by Arthur A. Levine, “has a focus on publishing the writing and artwork of authors and creators from underrepresented backgrounds, including people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, Latinx creators, indigenous artists and writers, creators with disabilities, members of minority religions, and more.” Its Em Querido list includes titles translated to English from other languages. More recently, the publisher formed a Spanish-language imprint, Ediciones Levine Querido, to translate some of its own books into Spanish.

Canadian publisher Greystone Books established its Greystone Kids division in 2019, with a commitment to sustainability and social justice and the goal to “inspire, engage, and connect with readers of all backgrounds around the world.” Within Greystone Kids, the Aldana Libros imprint — headed by longtime activist publisher and editor Patricia Aldana — publishes children’s books translated into English.

At Abrams, Surely Books, curated by Eisner Award winner Mariko Tamaki, is a new “line of graphic novels [YA and adult] dedicated to expanding the presence of LGBTQIA creators and content in the comics world.”

Within larger publishing companies, the diversity-focused imprints that were being formed as of 2018 are, in general, still going strong, and some of their publishers have added even more, emphasizing different areas of representation. Penguin and Random House each had a new diversity-focused imprint at the time — Kokila and Make Me a World, respectively. Those are still active, and each of those houses now has an additional new imprint with a specific concentration, with its first titles publishing this spring. Random House’s Joy Revolution, led by authors Nicola Yoon and David Yoon, “is committed to publishing young adult romance novels starring people of color and written by people of color.” Rocky Pond Books at Penguin, helmed by Lauri Hornik, “will publish books for two through teen, both fiction and nonfiction, with a primary focus on mental health and social-emotional learning,” and Hornik also plans to include some books of Jewish interest on the Rocky Pond list.

Disney-Hyperion’s Rick Riordan Presents was brand-new back in 2018. Now Kwame Mbalia, the author of its acclaimed Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, is set to head up Freedom Fire, which “will feature stories of Black resilience and Black joy, written by Black creators.” Simon & Schuster, which had already established the Muslim-interest imprint Salaam Reads, has since acquired Denene Millner Books, which “publishes books that celebrate the everyday humanity of Black children and families.”

At the time of the 2018 article, the Versify imprint, then helmed by Kwame Alexander and Margaret Raymo, was compiling its first list at what was then Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Versify is now owned by HarperCollins, with Monica Perez as its editorial director. HarperCollins has also formed several other imprints in the past few years with missions related to furthering diverse representation. (When the ­HarperCollins Union reached a deal this February after three months of striking for a fair contract, we cheered for many reasons, including hope that support would continue for these editorial missions.) In 2019, the company announced ­Heartdrum, “a partnership between author Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee Creek) and Rosemary Brosnan” which is “devoted to publishing books by Native creators that introduce young Native protagonists and showcase the present and future of Indian Country.” In 2020 Quill Tree Books, headed by Brosnan, debuted with “a strong focus on diverse and underrepresented voices” and the motto “many branches, many voices.” This year, Allida launched as a new imprint of Clarion Books, now owned by HarperCollins. The Korean word allida means “to inform, announce, or make known”; the imprint, led by author Linda Sue Park and editor Anne Hoppe, “seeks to ‘make known’ stories by creators whose perspectives have too often been ignored or undervalued.”

Diversity-focused imprints and publishers have made very respectable showings among the ALA Youth Media Awards in recent years. In 2020, Versify’s The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson and Quill Tree’s New Kid by Jerry Craft took multiple top awards. So did Levine Querido’s The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera in 2022 and Sacha Lamb’s When the Angels Left the Old Country in 2023. And the names of these imprints pop up regularly in Coretta Scott King, Pura Belpré, Stonewall, AILA, APALA, and other awards and honors.

All of this seems like great news from the outside, but it’s hard to know what life looks like within diversity imprints. Do they receive as much support, funding, and marketing attention as others within a large company? Do they have dedicated staffs? Are they separate entities, or just designations on a book’s title page and opportunities to provide lip service to EDI efforts? The answers likely vary, but the questions should be raised.

As of and according to Lee & Low’s 2019 Diversity Baseline Survey, the publishing industry had seventy-six percent white employees; seventy-four percent were cisgender women; eighty-one percent were straight; eighty-nine percent did not report a disability. Are these publishers and imprints helping to improve these numbers?

The work of equitable representation isn’t exclusive to publishers or imprints who state it as their chief mission, nor should it be. Look at the diversity woven into lists at Big Five publishers Hachette and Macmillan; at Algonquin, Bloomsbury, Candlewick, Charlesbridge, Chronicle, Groundwood, Holiday House, Norton, Scholastic, Sourcebooks, and more. But as long as there are gaps to fill, I’m glad companies are making it their business to fill them. Within these imprints as well as outside of them, here’s to diverse representation becoming more and more mainstream.

From the May/June 2023 special issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Diverse Books: Past, Present, and Future.

Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, associate editor of The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in writing for children from Simmons University. She has served on the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award and Sydney Taylor Book Award committees.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing.