An installation of mirrored art, will line the floors of the Bekenstein Atrium of the Yale School of Management, from April 24th to the 30th. Its hope is to invite the audience “to reflect on the perspectives of others and share personal thoughts about seeing and being seen.”
Their big question is: WHEN PEOPLE SEE YOU, WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE THEM TO KNOW?
As an author of colour, advocating for more diversity in children’s literature, this is a question I’ve reflected on for many years. The Cooperative Children’s Book Centre in Wisconsin has collected data for the number of children’s books published by and about people of colour for decades now. Their most recent update tells us that the numbers are growing, but they are still not reflecting the reality of our diverse world.
In Canada, we have yet to begin collecting that kind of data. One of the major differences between book publishers in the U.S. and here, in Canada is that Canadian children’s books are mainly published by independent presses. When I launched Saffron Press, it was during a surge of vanity presses, so there was a stigma attached. The bias was, and in some cases still is, that an independent press cannot possibly create a book that mirrors the quality of a trade published title. Well, in the last few years a number of us have been able to at least open perspectives to the possibility of something different. Works by Zetta Elliott, and books like A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara, and When a Bully is President by Maya Gonzalez are soaring. The challenges and distribution obstacles are huge, but change is possible.
Creating Saffron Press was intentional. Words carry power and our books reflect the freedom to portray the lives of children who have not belonged on the whitewashed covers of children’s books over time. Mirrors break stereotypes by reflecting whole people, not just the parts you want to see. Authentic stories give agency to our voices and reflect our lived experiences.
And so, when you see SAFFRON PRESS, this is what I would like you to know.