Hi. I'm Ebony.
Like many of you, I was always a lover of books. From Cat in the Hat and Roly Poly Puppy, to Goosebumps and Boxcar Children, there wasn’t a moment when my face wasn’t planted in my book of choice.
But there was one thing that was always missing for me:
books that talked about kids that were like me.
I grew up in suburbs just shy of Detroit. I lived in a predominately black neighborhood where many of my peers didn’t read because of their low literacy level, their lack of interest, or a combination of both.
For me, I was always a fast reader, and I began to use my love of the arts to create stories of my own. I’d use my ruler paper, or sometimes my sketchbook that my mother so graciously bought for me, and staple together pages with stories of my parents and my friends in different shades of brown. Once my stories were complete, I would read it to whoever would listen—my mother, my friends, or even an audience of my stuffed animals. It was invigorating to see myself in these stories and to share them with my “world.”
Being young and naïve, it didn’t occur to me that
these stories were created to fill a void.
As I grew older, I realized many of my favorite books lacked characters of color. It helped me to understand why many of my peers were uninterested in reading; they didn’t feel connected to the characters. If anything, reading reaffirmed their position in this world as a minority. Fortunately for me, my personality and imagination allowed me to experience and enjoy other worlds, as well as create stories in my own world. But what if I didn’t have such an imagination?
In my pursuit to create my own stories,
I have also been invested in sharing others.
And this pursuit has led me to where I am now.
I started off working in my campus bookstore, and it was in there that I began to notice the discrepancy between publishing houses and their readers. Books for African-American readers were lumped into one category: African-American literature. But working at a bookstore for a predominately black customer-base showed me the power of readers. No two readers were alike at my school. While some liked chick lit, others were more interested in autobiographies. Some readers came in wanting to read erotica, while others wanted a novel with a strong female protagonist. It wasn’t fair to lump African-American literature into one category because as a people we don’t enjoy one type of book.
As I moved on to pursue my masters in publishing at Pace University, I met a second group of people that influenced the change in my vision: the average New Yorker. This person varied by race, culture and influence.
Yet we all shared a common bond.
We were a minority.
We were a group of people all looking to belong, to be recognized, to succeed. And like African-Americans whose books were lumped into one section, they too experienced the same issue. How were they able to find a book that interested them without having the daunting task of going into one section that was supposed to represent the tastes of an entire race?
And then there was my experience working in the publishing industry. Authors of color, who find it hard to get a book deal, finally achieve one only to realize how little they feel they are promoted. They are dealing with an industry who either doesn’t feel there is a market for minority authors, or simply don’t know how to reach them. With much of the marketing budget stretched thin across multiple books, it leaves many books from authors of color without the proper attention they deserve.
And from the readers’ aspect, I’ve heard countless times how hard it is for them to even find books they might enjoy. Unless the author is well known, it can become almost impossible to find someone new to read because of the lack in marketing, advertising, or resources. This journey of disparity is what helped me to realize my dreams of creating something to satisfy both needs.
This journey has helped me define Coloring Books™.
Coloring Books™ is a hand-picked list of hidden gems by diverse authors, books you may or may not know about, and recommendations of new talent to look out for.
But I hope it becomes more than that. I hope to create a conversation about stories—stories that we love to read, love to hear, and love to tell.
And I'd love your help.
Just as writing my own stories as a child became a way to see who I was reflected in what I read, I hope to hear your stories and your recommendations. What have you read recently that you love? Is there a book you think needs more attention? Or do you have a story similar to mine that you want to share?
Send me your stories, the ones you've loved and the ones you'd love to tell. I'd love to hear from you.