Children’s publishers Brian and Josie Parker talk with Emily about staying creative while striving for justice, representation, and respect for Black lives.
“The idea of picking up a book that deals with a culture or with characters who aren’t like you just seems like it’s part of the reading experience. But when you’re making the stuff and putting it out in front of people, sometimes there’s this kind of resistance, like ‘This doesn’t look like it’s for me.'”
“Especially if people have to put their money into it or they could take the space and put something that’s more profitable there, they will choose profit over inclusivity or over diversity every time.”
After going to one conference after another and talking to publishing industry professionals, somebody finally just said it. They told Brian and Josie Parker that publishers were less likely to pick up books with People of Color on the cover.
And like many of our guests have done, the Parkers said—welp, then we’ll do it ourselves. Over the past several years running Believe in Wonder publishing, the two have created books that inspire all children, especially ones who don’t often see themselves represented in books.
Our conversation centers on how and why they’ve built their own press, and the importance of every child seeing themselves as heroes. We also talk about the difficult feelings and frustrating conversations that they’ve had in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, the difference between paying lip service taking action, and when asking Black people questions about racism and social justice is (and isn’t!) a good move.
It’s tough to create joyful, beautiful words and illustrations when there’s so much upheaval in the world, but as Brian says…
You have to find a way to channel it too. Because I think, if there’s anything that Black culture has taught the world, it’s how you can make beautiful art even though your soul is suffering.
Of the many lessons that come from this conversation, a major one is that we can—and should—work to help others and do our best through it, while actively listening and learning along the way.
About Believe in Wonder
Believe In Wonder is a youth focused publishing entity based in Beaverton, OR, as well as a graphic design and illustration company providing beautiful and imaginative art and stories for clients all over the world. We publish internally developed works like The Wonderous Science, YOU CAN RELY ON PLATYPI, and Crow in the Hollow, but also actively search out new and amazing works to bring to the public eye. Our focus is to promote imagination, inspiration, and positive thinking in kids and adults alike. In a time where social pressures and injustices threaten to take away our ability to dream of a better future, we hope to promote endeavors and education that uplifts and inspires, as well as provides creative outlets for the young and young at heart. We have an emphasis on bringing these opportunities to underrepresented communities and their allies, but we hope our work and message is embraced by many.
Links from this episode:
- Listen to our first interview with Brian in episode 11.
- Check out the Believe in Wonder website
- Read about how Nascar dealt with a racist threat against driver Bubba Wallace
- Don’t fuck with Levar Burton today