By Dennis Abrams | @DennisAbrams2
Also ‘Enriching for a Larger Non-Muslim Audience’Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing has announced the launch of Salaam Reads, focusing on Muslim characters and stories.
Salaam Reads will introduce readers of all faiths and backgrounds to a wide variety of Muslim children and families, offering Muslim kids an opportunity to see themselves reflected in a positive way in published works. The imprint, which takes its name from the Arabic word for “peace,” plans to publish books for young readers of all ages, from picture books and chapter books to middle-grade and young-adult titles.
Plans are to publish a minimum of nine titles per year for all ages.
Executive editor of Salaam Reads, Zareen Jaffrey told Alexandra Alter at the New York Times that while she had long been concerned about the lack of Muslims characters in children’s literature, her concern grew when she began to read books with her young nieces and nephews. “It was hard not to notice that none of those books really reflected their experience.”
In a statement, Jaffrey says:
“There is an incredible range of cultural and religious traditions among Muslims in the United States and across the globe, illustrating that there is no one way to be Muslim.
“Our aim with the Salaam Reads imprint is in part to provide fun and compelling books for Muslim children, but we also intend for these books to be entertaining and enriching for a larger non-Muslim audience.”
Jon Anderson, President of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing adds:
“There are 3.3 million Muslims in the United States, 1.6 billion in the world, and they are an underserved literary market.
“Children’s books are a fantastic way to get to know our local and global Muslim neighbors. Simon & Schuster is thrilled to offer a home to books that share the stories of Muslim children, in all their diversity. ”
Salaam’s first list will launch in 2017, and the initial acquisitions include four debut children’s book authors:
- Salam Alaikum is a picture book celebrating peace, community, and love based on the popular song of the same name by global social media sensation and Awakening Worldwide recording artist Harris J.
- Musa, Moises, Mo, and Kevin is a picture book introducing four kindergarten best friends who share their favorite family holiday traditions for Eid, Christmas, Rosh Hashanah, and Pi Day, written by H. A. Raz, a pseudonym for husband-and-wife writing team Huda Abdul-Razzak and Azhar Sheraze.
- The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand by Karuna Riazi is a middle–grade adventure about twelve-year-old Bangladeshi American Farah Mirza from Queens, New York, and her quest to save her brother from a supernatural board game.
- Yo Soy Muslim is a picture book in which a parent shares with their child the joy and pride in having a multicultural heritage, written by Mark Gonzales, HBO Def Jam poet and TEDxRamallah speaker.
Writing in the Times, Alter notes that:
“The creation of a Muslim-themed children’s imprint is likely to further fuel the continuing discussion about diversity in children’s publishing. Salaam Reads is also arriving in the middle of a fractious and polarizing political debate about immigration and racial and religious profiling, when minority groups, and American Muslims in particular, feel they are being targeted.”