Kokila Books : Centering Stories from the Margins
Having worked at a Title 1 school as an elementary school librarian for five years now, diversity and representation have become deeply important to me, even more so as I struggle to find books with characters, stories and, most importantly, authors and illustrators of color. This could be because the world of book publishing, along with authors and illustrators, is predominantly white. According to Publishers Weekly's 2018 Industry Salary Survey, 86% of the publishing workforce is white. (And, not surprisingly, while the majority of the people working in the industry identify as female, men are paid more for doing the same jobs.) However, non-profits like We Need Diverse Books, founded by author Ellen Oh in 2014 to, "advocate for essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people," and mentorship programs like Representation Matters and the Diversity in Publishing Summer Internship offered by Lee & Low Books are driving changes in the industry that is seeing a growth in diversity, albeit a slow one. Add to these forces for positive change Kokila, an imprint of Penguin Random House, with this mission statement:
Kokila (pronounced KO-ki-la) brings together an inclusive community of authors and illustrators, publishing professionals, and readers to examine and celebrate stories that reflect the richness of our world.
By centering stories from the margins and making space for storytellers to explore the full range of their experiences, we deliver books that inspire and entertain readers, and add nuance and depth to the way children and young adults see the world and their place in it.
Kokila will publish works for children and young adults across all formats and genres.
Vice President and Publisher (and veteran kid's book editor) Namrata Tripathi says that Kokila (the Sanskrit name for the koel bird, often invoked in Indian poetry as a harbinger of new beginnings) was, "born out of the optimism and frustration I felt about the conversations around diversity and representation in children's literature." The purpose of this imprint is to, "holistically address the three major ways in which we talk about diversity in our field: 1) on the page, 2) in the creators, and 3) in the gatekeepers and staff." Tripathi, who grew up in Afghanistan, India, Canada, Pakistan and Germany, is joined by Associate Art Director Jasmin Rubero (scroll down for a cool article on how she created the Kokila logo), Joanna Cárdenas, editor and cofounder of the Representation Matters Mentorship Program, and Sydnee Monday, assistant editor and Howard University graduate.
Kolika, kicked off their list in March of 2018 with the Newbery-Honor winning middle grade novel The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani. Next week, their official debut list is launching with two picture books, followed by middle grade YA novels this summer and I am beyond thrilled to be able to share them with you here next week and in the coming months!
If you want to see change in action, or how an imprint is born, I definitely suggest you follow Kokila on Instagram. I think it would be so amazing to be in on the ground floor of an imprint, especially one with such a vital mission and it's cool to see Kokila grow. Check out this interview with Jasmin Rubero to learn how the cool logo at the top of this article came to be: How to Hatch A Logo.
And, since pets & book swag are a natural fit (and because cats have to sit on top of any paper or book you set down) I'll close out here with Smudge, my crazy calico, showing off my super-awesome-pencil-pouch!