November 21, 2019
HarperCollins Children’s establishes imprint for Native creators
by Ryan Harrington
Coming Winter 2021, young readers can expect a new line of books by Native authors and illustrators that introduce the world to oft-overlooked Native protagonists.
This is all thanks to a new imprint of HarperCollins Children’s, to be called Heartdrum, which will publish books for the earliest readers up through the middle grades.
As Sally Lodge reports at Publishers Weekly, the new concern “is helmed by author Cynthia Leitich Smith, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, and Rosemary Brosnan, VP and editorial director at HarperCollins Children’s Books.”
The unique imprint was born out of the lack of Native titles in the marketplace, and the fact that those few titles can’t possibly reflect the diversity of Native and individual experiences.
The numbers clearly point to the desperate need for an operation like Heartdrum. A study from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) at the University of Wisconsin suggests that of the 3,312 children’s books from U.S. publishers the CCBC surveyed in 2018, only 22 were by American Indian / First Nations authors, and only 34 were about American Indian or First Nations characters.
Of the imprint’s first season of correcting this injustice, Lodge writes:
Heartdrum’s launch list underscores the imprint’s concentration on “intertribal voices and visions.” The roster features Ancestor Approved, an anthology of stories that take place at an intertribal powwow, edited by Smith; and The Sea inWinter, a novel by Christine Day, a member of the Upper Skagit Nation, whose debut novel, I Can Make This Promise, was edited by Brosnan and released in October. Subsequent releases will include novels by Brian Young (of the Navajo Nation) and a chapter book series by Dawn Quigley (of the Turtle Mountain Band Ojibwe Nation).
Adding to the experienced DNA of the company is some early guidance from and partnership with We Need Diverse Books. Indeed, Heartdrum plans to make a yearly donation to the We Need Diverse Books Native Fund.
Bravo and congratulations to Heartdrum.
Ryan Harrington is a senior editor at Melville House.