Tu Books Focusing on Diversity

A new imprint for fantasy, science fiction, and mystery books is born

By Marcela Landres
Published on LatinoLA: November 4, 2011

Tu Books Focusing on Diversity

Have you written the next Twilight or The Hunger Games? If so, I highly recommend you submit your manuscript to Tu Books, the recently launched imprint at Lee & Low, an independent children's book publisher focusing on diversity. Over the years, Lee & Low has done excellent work, and many of their books have won awards. I predict Tu Books will continue this tradition. Note that Tu Books accepts un-agented submissions, and welcomes Latino/a stories set in Central and South America written by people from those countries. To learn more, read this month's Q&A with Stacy Whitman, Editorial Director of Tu Books.

Stacy Whitman is the editorial director of Tu Books, an imprint of Lee & Low Books. She spent more than three years as an editor for Mirrorstone, the children's and young adult imprint of Wizards of the Coast in Seattle. Before that, she edited elementary school textbooks at Houghton Mifflin, interned at the Horn Book Magazine and Guide, and spent a brief stint working as a bookseller.

Stacy edited the highly acclaimed YA series Hallowmere, the middle grade fantasy adventure series that debuted with Red Dragon Codex, and the New York Times best-selling picture book A Practical Guide to Monsters. She holds a master's degree in children's literature from Simmons College. Currently, she is seeking fantasy, science fiction, and mystery for children and young adults that feature diverse characters and settings. For more information, visit http://www.leeandlow.com/p/tu.mhtml.

Question (Q): What inspired you to launch Tu Books?

Answer (A): There were a number of influences that all came together at the right time. Online, the #racefail discussion, which mostly addressed racism in science fiction and fantasy for adults, got me thinking about diversity in genre fiction for children and young adults. In my personal life, I was lamenting the lack of translations here in the U.S. of a Japanese light novel series I wanted to read. And I had been laid off a few months before that and was job-hunting. So the idea of starting a small press was a little bit nutty, in that it was the middle of a recession and I didn't have a lot of capital, but it filled a definite need that people were on the lookout for books to fill.

Q: Could you share some of the challenges and/or opportunities in publishing multicultural books for children?

A: One of the biggest challenges with multicultural publishing is that it's a double-edged sword. On the one hand, we want people to know about us and what we do. We want them to come to us when they're looking for diversity in the books they pick up. And more than that, we want them to engage with us about issues of diversity and representation (or underrepresentation, as the case may be) so that they become aware of some of the challenges facing authors of color and facing readers who are looking for characters like them and can't find many.

On the other hand, we don't want people to be picking up our books--or any multicultural books--just out of a sense of obligation, or only for Black History Month, or what have you. We want them to pick them up because they are interesting, exciting stories. Sometimes I think the hardest thing is the label, because although you need it so people can find you, I do think it does damage sometimes and makes people hesitate before they pick our books up.

I will say, though, that the idea that books about characters of color don't sell is most definitely false. If it were true, we wouldn't be here--our existence is proof that there is an audience for multicultural books.

Q: Which genres are you seeking for Tu Books?

A: We're only looking for science fiction, fantasy, and mystery. We're looking to diversify an exciting genre that kids love, but that not enough kids of color can see themselves reflected in.

Q: On the other hand, which genres do you definitely not want to publish?

A: Realistic fiction and problem novels with no "genre" content. The story should have some strong sense of magic, science/social science extrapolation, or mystery/suspense for the characters to solve. We are also not interested in picture books or young chapter books of any kind right now. (Plenty of publishers focus on realistic multicultural fiction; we're looking to fill this specific niche. However, the main Lee & Low imprint takes realistic and picture book submissions.)

Q: In terms of readers, what age groups are you targeting?

A: Our books are for readers ages 8-18, covering two main categories: middle grade (ages 8-12) and young adult (ages 12-18).

Q: Are you focusing on U.S. writers, or do you have an international scope?

A: For right now, I'm reaching out to U.S. writers via the SCBWI and other writers' organizations, but I'm not limited to the U.S. if a submission were to come in from another country; in most cases I don't reach out because I'm not sure who to contact. So if you're from another country, your submissions are welcome. In particular, I'd love to see Latino/a stories set in Central and South America written by people from those countries, because those are settings that many Americans aren't as familiar with. The stories we publish could really be set anywhere in the world, at any time--future, past, or present--as long as the main character is a person of color or of a non-Western culture

Q: Do you accept un-agented submissions?

A: Yes, we do. We just ask that writers follow our submission guidelines, which can be found at http://www.leeandlow.com/p/tu_submissions.mhtml

Q: I understand Tu Books's inaugural list will be available in fall 2011. Would you share a sneak preview of your upcoming books?

A: I'd love to! Here are the blurbs for each book:

Tankborn, by Karen Sandler - "Best friends Kayla and Mishalla know they will be separated when the time comes for their Assignments. They are GENs, Genetically Engineered Non-humans, and in their strict caste system, GENs are at the bottom rung of society. High-status trueborns and working-class lowborns, born naturally of a mother, are free to choose their own lives. But GENs are gestated in a tank, sequestered in slums, and sent to work as slaves as soon as they reach age fifteen.

When Kayla is Assigned to care for Zul Manel, the patriarch of a trueborn family, she finds a host of secrets and surprises--not least of which is her unexpected friendship with Zul's great-grandson. Meanwhile, the children that Mishalla is Assigned to care for are being stolen in the middle of the night. With the help of an intriguing lowborn boy, Mishalla begins to suspect that something horrible is happening to them.

After weeks of toiling in their Assignments, mystifying circumstances enable Kayla and Mishalla to reunite. Together they hatch a plan with their new friends to save the children who are disappearing. Yet can GENs really trust humans? Both girls must put their lives and hearts at risk to crack open a sinister conspiracy, one that may reveal secrets no one is ready to face."

Wolf Mark, by Joseph Bruchac - "Luke King knows a lot of things. Like four different ways to disarm an enemy before the attacker can take a breath. Like every detail of every book he's ever read. And Luke knows enough--just enough--about what his father does as a black ops infiltrator to know which questions not to ask. Like why does his family move around so much?

Luke just hopes that this time his family is settled for a while. He'll finally be able to have a normal life. He'll be able to ask the girl he likes to take a ride with him on his motorcycle. He'll hang out with his friends. He'll be invisible--just as he wants.

But when his dad goes missing, Luke realizes that life will always be different for him. Suddenly he must avoid the kidnappers looking to use him as leverage against his father, while at the same time evading the attention of the school's mysterious elite clique of Russian hipsters, who seem much too interested in Luke's own personal secret. Faced with multiple challenges and his emerging paranormal identity, Luke must decide who to trust as he creates his own destiny."

Galaxy Games: The Challengers, by Greg R. Fishbone - "Things are looking up for Tyler Sato (literally!) as he and his friends scan the night sky for a star named for him by his Tokyo cousins in honor of his eleventh birthday. Ordinary stars tend to stay in one place, but Ty's seems to be streaking directly toward Earth at an alarming rate. Soon the whole world is talking about TY SATO, the doomsday asteroid, and life is turned upside down for Ty Sato, the boy, who would rather be playing hoops in his best friend's driveway.

Meanwhile, aboard a silver spaceship heading for Earth, M'Frozza, a girl with three eyes and five nose holes, is on a secret mission. M'Frozza is the captain of planet Mrendaria's Galaxy Games team, and she is desperate to save her world from a dishonorable performance in the biggest sporting event in the universe.

What will happen when Ty meets M'Frozza? Get ready for the most important event in human history--it's off the backboard, around the rim, and out of this world!"

Excerpted from Latinidad?« ?® 2003 by Marcela Landres

About Marcela Landres:
Marcela Landres is the author of the e-book How Editors Think. She is an Editorial Consultant who specializes in helping Latinos get published and was formerly an editor at Simon & Schuster.
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