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Around Town: Brown Bookshelf & the 28 Days Later Project

By Bookaholic @BookReflections
As part of the Black History Month Hop, we are focusing on Black bookish events Around Town. I am so excited to feature the 28 Days Later campaign, which celebrates children's authors and illustrators, of color.  The Brown Bookshelf was kind enough to stop by and tell us about their 28 Days Later campaign.  I'll let their interesting post tell you about this wonderful event.  When you are done, hop on over and check it out for yourself.
Around Town: Brown Bookshelf & the 28 Days Later Project
The fraternity of African American authors and illustrators focused on children's literature is more extensive than most think and that's exactly how the Brown Bookshelf and our 28 Days Later campaign was born. Without it, librarians, teachers and even parents would continue to assume that great authors like Christopher Paul Curtis, Mildred Taylor and Walter Dean Myers were the only artists creating stories featuring characters of color. We wanted to honor the past and celebrate the future of those books, so we structured 28 Days Later to feature vanguard authors who blazed trails and those authors and illustrators that aren't nearly as well-recognized.
Every day in February a new author or illustrator, their body of work and latest project are featured. It's pure, unadulterated immersion in kiddie lit by creative artists of color.
The Brown Bookshelf filled a void, but we and our campaign haven't been without its controversies. Among them, our name. We actually selected the term "Brown" as opposed to "Black" because brown was more inclusive. Although we primarily feature African American authors during the campaign, throughout the year we highlight children's books by authors of color, in general, and those by Caucasian authors that feature brown characters. It's as inclusive as an initiative can get while still serving an under-served niche.
Another controversy, that we celebrate 28 Days Later during Black History Month. Some authors and illustrators believe that by doing so, we're supporting ignoring great brown books the other 11 months of the year. False. We selected Black History Month because many gatekeepers are actively looking for good books by and for African Americans to feature, at that time. It's great to walk into your local library and see a display with books by vanguards, but it minimizes the wealth of other books that are out there. 28 Days Later was our way of waving a flag reminding gatekeepers - hey, don't forget these when you're looking for work to booktalk or display.
Then there's the issue of featuring "under the radar" authors. There's a school of thought that it diminishes an author's work to call them under the radar. Another way to look at it is, would you rather be known as a really good under the radar author or not known at all?
If you go to a parent and ask them to name an African American author who writes YA or MG see how long it takes them to come up with someone at all, much less one who isn't among the already recognized. Now go ask that same question to a librarian, someone who is around books eight to ten hours a day. Don't be surprised if you're greeted with silence from both. It's because many brown authors writing for children are simply not profiled enough to mainstream gatekeepers or the readers.
28 Days Later was inspired by a genuine interest, among its founders Varian Johnson, Paula Chase Hyman, Kelly Starling-Lyons, Don Tate and Carla Sarratt, to serve as a resource for both readers and literary gatekeepers looking for children's lit by and about people of color. Since our inception in 2007 we've been joined by Tameka Fryer Brown, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Gwendolyn Hooks and Crystal Allen. We all share two things in common, we're all creative artists and we believe in uplifting our fellow authors and illustrators. And we're proud to present this year's roster of authors and illustrators
Thank you for telling us about your wonderful project!  I look forward to reading about the 2012 honorees.
Around Town: Brown Bookshelf & the 28 Days Later Project

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