In the Trenches Trolling for Gems

Brown Bookshelf Opens Submissions for 2009 28 Days Later Campaign

When The Brown Bookshelf (BBS), a website designed to push awareness of the myriad of African American voices writing for young readers, launched last Fall, the founders knew they were filling a void. But the authors, Varian Johnson, Paula Chase, Carla Sarratt, and Kelly Starling Lyons and author/illustrator, Don Tate had no idea the void’s magnitude, until t hey were already knee deep in submissions. “Near ly two hundred author names were submitted in a thirty-day window,” says BBS Co-founder and Young Adult author, Paula Chase. “I don’t think I’ve ever been able to name two hundred African American children’s authors and, no surprise, many of them were authors I’d never heard of.”

The five-member Brown Bookshelf went on to cull those two hundred names down to twenty-eight authors and four illustrators, which they spotlighted through interviews in February, as a complement to Black History Month. The site has drawn over 44,000 views since it launched and has fast become a source for librarians and parents seeking diverse literature for their young readers – and not a second too soon. “The numbers of books published by people of African descent remains stagnant, according to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center’s annual study,” says Co-founder and Young Adult author, Varian Johnson. “Of the 3,000 books submitted for the survey, only seventy-seven were by African Americans, down 12% from their 2006 numbers. So either CCBC is not receiving the titles upon calling for books or the numbers are truly decreasing.”

The Brown Bookshelf’s mission to make more people aware of the rich selection of children’s books by and about African Americans remains on course. 28 Days Later will feature under-promoted and little known authors and illustrators20alongside vanguard authors. With steady web traffic and a loyal following of librarians, the group is calling for submissions for the 2009 28 Days Later campaign. Submissions can be submitted through the website thebrownbookshelf.com or at thebrownbookshelf@gmail.com from September 29 through November 1, 2008.

Guidelines from 2007 remain intact:

  • Seeking authors and illustrators of African or African-American descent
  • Only one submission per author necessary.
  • Submissions are accepted from individuals, librarians and teachers and are encouraged from publishers.
  • Traditionally-published authors may nominate themselves.
  • Self-published spotlights are by invitation only.

“It was amazing to see the breadth and depth of African American children’s literature through last year’s submissions,” says, Co-founder and Author/Illustrator, Don Tate. “If five authors were rocked by being exposed to so many great books, imagine how a reader feels having these new doors opened to them. We’re ready to shine the light on more deserving authors and illustrators.”

The Brown Bookshelf is designed to push awareness of the myriad of African American voices writing for young readers. Their flagship initiative, 28 Days Later, is a month-long showcase of the best in Picture Books, Middle Grade and Young Adult novels written by African American authors.