SHE LIT: Editing Authors Amid Banned Books 📖
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#currentlyreading Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm by Laura Warrell

Why authors of color tend to lean into indie publishers to get their work distributed


Maggie Tokuda-Hall went viral this week for claiming she declined a book deal with Scholastic over an edit to remove any references to the word “racism” in her children’s book. Her actions show the reason why many authors of color prefer to have their books published through indie publishers and self-publishing companies: To be able to tell the stories they envisioned with their authentic lived experiences.


The author from Oakland, California, wrote Love in the Library, a children’s book centered on a love story set in a World War II incarceration camp for Japanese Americans. The story is inspired by her grandparents who fell in love at one of these camps. She writes about the inspiration in an author’s note. But Scholastic allegedly wanted to tweak the contents of that note to make the book more consumable for classrooms, as many are dealing with banned books.


In the author’s note, Maggie writes her grandparents’ “improbable joy does not excuse virulent racism, nor does it minimize the pain, the trauma, and the deaths that resulted from it. But it is to situate it into the deeply American tradition of racism.”


Scholastic wanted to remove the word “racism” and the words around it, according to the author and the letter she posted on her website discussing that edit.


“I wrote this author’s note for a lot of reasons,” she wrote in a letter to Scholastic. “Philosophically, because I genuinely believe children deserve the truth, and the truth includes racism. Ethically, because I believe talking about my grandparents in isolation would be misleading, dishonest and wrong — when we do not call what happened to them racism, when we do not connect them to others experiencing racism, we only allow it to happen again.”


In her blog post, Maggie expresses gratitude to the original publisher, Candlewick Press, and her publicist and editor there. What Maggie shared seems to be common for authors of color who may feel like they have to strip down their work for a chance to be published because they mention racial elements in their storylines, or in this case before the storyline starts.


After Maggie went public with her story, Scholastic said it had apologized to her for its editing approach.


“This approach was wrong and not in keeping with Scholastic’s values,” the company’s CEO Peter Warwick wrote in a statement. “We don’t want to diminish or in any way minimize the racism that tragically persists against Asian-Americans.”


Scholastic said it wants to rekindle the conversation about including Love in the Library in its Rising Voices collection featuring works by authors and educators from Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities.


This case is a bit different because the main edits seemed to be in an author’s note, rather than the story. It was the author’s choice to fight for her note to describe her reasoning for bringing the story into fruition. Some may argue the edits were minor, or the note was not needed. It all comes down to an author’s decision on whether they sign with a publisher to ensure the book they truly want on bookshelves.

Check out past newsletters!

What we’re highlighting


Libraries make memes over losing blue checks on Twitter

The D.C. Public Library and Los Angeles Public Library are a few of the libraries that had fun with making memes Thursday letting the public know they are still verified spaces even without their Twitter blue checks. Twitter began removing legacy blue checks for individuals and entities that had the famous checks to verify to the public they were real.


Actress refuses to sign book as TV adaptation rumors swirl

Jessica Chastain was shown in a video saying no to a fan who wanted her signature in a copy of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Fans have casted Jessica in the role of Celia St. James, a starlet close to the titular character Evelyn Hugo. So far, no official casting news has been announced. Read the book review here.


Netflix drops details on ‘Perfect Find’ book-to-TV film

The streaming giant shared photos this week revealing stars Gabrielle Union and Keith Powers playing the unlikely couple featured in the romantic comedy film based on Tia Williams’ 2016 novel The Perfect Find. The film will start streaming on June 23 and also stars Gina Torres.


Also what’s lit…

Candice Carty-Williams posted an image of the scripts from her new series based on her best-selling debut Queenie. Read the book review here.


Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai’s next memoir will focus on her coming-of-age journey in the public spotlight and have a young reader’s adaptation.


Maaza Mengiste’s forthcoming novel A Brief Portrait of Small Deaths, which focuses on a Black German woman trying to survive Hitler’s reign, has been bought at auction by HarperCollins’ UK imprint 4th Estate Books with Doubleday Publishing already securing North American rights for a 2025 release.

What we’re reviewing

‘Shakti Girls’ Author Shetal Shah Uses Poetry to Tell the Stories of Indian Innovators


A former teacher who taught at all-girls schools, Shetal Shah said she noticed how girls’ self-esteems soared when they were learning about women of various diverse backgrounds. This has led to Shakti Girls, her debut children’s picture book featuring poetic biographies about trailblazing women across the Indian diaspora.


“Shakti” refers to an individual’s divine power and energy in traditional Hinduism. This energy is considered female because mothers have the power to birth new life, according to the first page of the book. Throughout the book, the poems highlight the accomplishments of newsmakers such as Vice President Kamala Harris to actress-producer Mindy Kaling, but we also learn about former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, gymnast Mohini Bhardwaj, and astronaut Kalpana Chawla.


Empowering Hindi words and motivating messages are woven into the verses to affirm each young reader’s identity and self-esteem. A short glossary of English and Hindi words is provided on each page to enhance the experience, as well as activities to empower one’s inner shakti.


The inspiration to tell these stories are not only from Shetal’s education background, but it also pairs with her upbringing in New York City as a second-generation Indian American. She talks to she lit about telling these women’s stories in rhythm and seeing her children’s reactions to the finished product.

Check out the conversation here

What we’re watching

Saint X on Hulu premiers on April 26 bringing Alexis Schaitkin’s critically acclaimed novel to life about a young woman still coming to terms with her sister’s mysterious death years earlier on a family island vacation. Read the book review here.

What the plans are


The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the nation’s largest literary event, will have over 500 authors, poets, artists, celebrities, and musicians make an appearance on April 22-23 in-person on the campus of the University of Southern California.


The Newburyport Literary Festival will be held April 28-30 in Newburyport, Massachusetts, and feature authors like Rebecca Makkai, Kamila Shamsie, and Allegra Goodman.


The Ohioana Library Association’s annual Ohioana Book Festival will take place on April 22, at Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Main Library in Columbus, Ohio.

Where the opportunities are


The Prince George’s County Memorial Library System in Maryland is accepting applications until May 7 for its free Social Justice Camp, a weeklong day camp teaching rising high schoolers how to engage their activism.


Scholastic Kids Press are accepting Kid Reporter applications until June 1 for the 2023–2024 program for students between the ages of 10–14 who will have to write a news story, two story ideas, and a personal essay.

“They want to sell our suffering, smoothed down and made palatable to the white readers they prioritize. To assuage white guilt with stories that promise to make them better people, while never threatening them, not even with discomfort. They have no investment in our voices. Always, our voices are the first sacrifice at the altar of marketability.” – Maggie Tokuda-Hall on responding to Scholastic’s edits to her author’s note

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