By Ann Lehue, MSIS, Senior Manager, Collection Development
When looking for inclusive titles for a diverse collection, most librarians would not browse the classics list. For centuries, marginalized people have authored important stories and nonfiction works, only to have those titles downplayed, ignored, or rejected by the relatively homogenous literary canon. Many titles quickly went out of print without fanfare or attention solely because of their different identities. This erasure can lead to the impression that only white men contributed anything of value to literature for most of western history.
In truth, literary history is full of hidden gems written by a diverse range of people. When Micaela Clark was brought in as Project Manager for Mint Editions books, she wanted to give new voice to these hidden gems instead of offering one more edition of the known and celebrated titles in the canon. “As a Black woman, I can’t necessarily separate being Black or a woman from my work. When I took over the reins of Mint Editions in October of 2020, I knew that I wanted to make sure that we offered books by Black authors that didn’t begin and end with slavery, and from there I began looking for titles that would give that same sense of positive representation to other groups. Fundamentally, I think that it’s important that if we’re presenting our imprint as publishing ‘important works from yesteryear,’ that it doesn’t erase or limit certain people.”
Sometimes researching authors and titles leads to new discoveries about the world of publishing. Clark says she has been most surprised by “just how many LGBT+ authors there actually are. I feel like there’s this misconception that being gay or trans is a new and recent phenomenon when in actuality, a lot of authors were historically out and open about it and made sure to incorporate who they were into their work.” When asked her favorite story about discovering a title, Clark quickly answered, “Just recently as I was looking for comps for our upcoming title Africa for Africans: Or, the Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey, one of the titles related to that one was by Carter G. Woodson. I thought the name was familiar and upon further research discovered that he’s the father of Black History Month as it’s known today! I immediately added a few of his titles to the calendar for next year.”
Other surprises come from the popularity of themed lists that Mint Editions host on their blog, and Clark notes that their Hawaiian Library has consistently strong sales, especially Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen, which was indeed written by Queen Lili’uokalani advocating for Hawaiian sovereignty before the annexation. Based on all our iCurate® inClusive diversity audit work for libraries across the US, Ingram’s Collection Development team can attest that representation of Indigenous people in publishing is sorely needed.
Mint Editions is an imprint of West Margin Press, a growing print and e-book publishing company based in Berkeley, California that is dedicated to creating beautiful books and sharing unique voices and important stories. “[I’m most excited about] the ability to share fascinating works. There are so many titles that get added to the calendar that I can’t wait to get out the door and into the hands of readers,” Clark concluded. Mint Editions also happily accepts feedback and suggestions, so if there is an author or title your library wants to see that they don’t have, contact them at email@example.com.