As a general rule, I’m wary when someone thinks that a book is for everyone. It’s usually a red flag that people don’t know their market or haven’t thought about their category. But in a different sense, it’s critical that books be for everyone, as this incredible piece by Mira Jacob illustrates. (It’s fantastic. Go read it. I’ll wait here till you get back.) We need to have books for everyone. Books that reflect everyone’s experience. Not all books need to be for all people, but no one should be unable to find themselves reflected back on the page. And no one should be unable to love and enjoy and identify with a book only because it’s not written explicitly for them. Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me is pretty explicitly for his son and about the experience of being black and male, but it’s still one of the best books I’ve read this year, even though I am neither black nor male. We’re all drawing from the same well of human experience: joy, anger, fear, alienation, community, love, loneliness, etc. There are things in the book I identified with, and things that were alien to me, but those too had value for me as a reader. People need to be seen, and they also need to see. People need to be heard, and they also need to listen.
To that end, for the last several years I’ve made sure to take this into account when I consider who I want to represent. I’m very interested in underrepresented voices, and if that describes you and you’re reading this in the course of your search for representation, I hope you’ll consider querying me.
There largely aren’t specific underrepresented voices I’m looking for, but I am on the lookout for books for young readers and middle graders featuring protagonists who are on the autism spectrum. My nephew (I call him Fidge) is a voracious reader, one of my two favorite people on this earth alongside his little brother, and on the spectrum. Reading is kind of our thing. I already know he’s capable of loving books that don’t reflect that aspect of him, but I’d love to help bring books to the market that he would be able to find himself in. He’s one of the world’s two best people—surely he deserves to feel seen and heard.