We are so grateful to Simon & Schuster Executive Editor Zareen Jaffery for her kindness and generosity in sharing so much insight and advice with us during this Q&A series. Aisha had one last request for Zareen, which was to share culturally diverse books from her or Simon & Schuster’s list. We’re sure you’ll recognize some favorites, and hopefully find some new books to discover!
Zareen: I am always on the lookout for more diverse voices and stories. In the interest of shorthand, when I refer to diverse voices or diversity, please know that I mean racial, cultural, economic, and religious diversity as well as narratives about LGBTQ and special needs characters.
Some books I’ve published that feature diverse characters are young adult and middle grade novels such as TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE by Jenny Han and THE CASE OF THE TIME-CAPSULE BANDIT by Octavia Spencer. And I’ve also worked on memoirs for teen readers by writers of color, like HIDDEN GIRL by Shyima Hall and THE PREGNANCY PROJECT by Gaby Rodriguez.
The publisher I work for (Simon & Schuster) has an incredibly varied catalog, and books that would appeal to readers looking for diversity in children’s literature include:
This is by no means an exhaustive list! It’s just the ones off the top of my head. The Children’s Book Council also has a GoodReads list specifically highlighting books that feature diversity.
In case you missed the previous posts, Zareen shared her thoughts on why there are not as many books published by authors from diverse backgrounds (including fewer submissions and the problem of books with an obvious agenda), whether culturally diverse books are harder to market and sell (including a great discussion of how book sales work, how “comp” titles are used, and how publishers balance the desire for greater diversity in their lists with commercial and business concerns), and what advice she would offer to aspiring writers, literary agents, and editors (including seeking out internships, listening to your critics, knowing the market, and why writing a manuscript that is like “nothing else out there” is a huge red flag). (Note, Zareen has provided amazing feedback to questions posed in the comments section of previous posts. Don’t forget to scroll down and read.) The previous posts can be found here:
Thank you, Zareen! It has been our great pleasure. ~ Aisha, Jennifer, and Mohammed
Executive Editor Zareen Jaffery has over a decade of experience in publishing, and joined Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers in February 2011. Her focus remains acquiring commercial and literary young adult and middle grade fiction, as well as teen non-fiction. Zareen works with a number of New York Times bestselling and critically acclaimed authors including Jenny Han, Siobhan Vivian, Kresley Cole, Sheila Bair, Claire Legrand, Hilary Duff, and Becca Fitzpatrick. Her recently published projects include a debut middle grade series by Academy Award winning actress Octavia Spencer and a memoir by Shyima Hall, a former child slave. Zareen began her children’s publishing career at HarperCollins Children’s Books editing bestselling novelists Lauren Conrad (L.A. Candy), Jodi Lynn Anderson (Tiger Lily), LJ Smith (The Vampire Diaries), and Claudia Gray (Evernight). Prior to working in children’s publishing, she was an editor of fiction and non-fiction at Hyperion, the book publishing arm of The Walt Disney Company, where she worked with notable authors Amy Goodman (Standing Up to the Madness), Marshall Goldsmith (What Got You Here Won’t Get You There), Jon Kabat-Zinn (Arriving at Your Own Door) and Paulina Porizkova (A Model Summer). Zareen is a graduate of New York University.