15 Diverse Authors to Watch in 2020
15 Diverse Authors to Watch in 2020
January 16, 2020
The importance of diversity in children’s books cannot be overstated. When children see themselves represented in the book and characters they are reading about, it allows them to better connect to the stories, builds their self-esteem and worth, and helps others to discover and understand different ways of life. #OwnVoices authors can provide authentic perspectives and experiences based on real life, broadening all readers’ perceptions and outlooks. Check out these 15 diverse authors we think you should have on your radar for 2020!
- Anita Amin is a former IT business consultant turned author. Her upcoming debut picture book, Raja’s Pet Camel is set to be released in October 2020. A story of love and hope set in India, Raja’s Pet Camel tells of a young boy named Raja, whose father wants to sell his pet baby camel, Kamal. Illustrated by Parwinder Singh, this picture book is sure to grab the attention of any child that has wanted to own a pet. Find more about Anita on her website: anitaaminbooks.com
- Ray Jayawardhana is an astrophysicist, Harold Tanner Dean of Arts and Sciences, and Professor of Astronomy at Cornell University. Ray has co-authored more than 130 papers in scientific journals and has received accolades such as the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Radcliffe Fellowship, the Rutherford Medal, and more. His book Child of the Universe is set to debut in March 2020 and focuses on a child, the vastness of the universe, and people’s connection to the broader cosmos. For more information on Ray, you can visit his website at drrayjay.net.
- Saadia Faruqi is Pakistani American and lives in Houston, Texas with her husband and children. Saadia writes for quite a few publications, including the Huffington Post, and is editor-in-chief of Blue Minaret, a magazine for Muslim art, poetry, and prose. Known for her Yasmin series, Saadia will have two other books coming out in 2020. In May, A Place At The Table, co-written with Laura Shovan, is about two friends, a Pakistani American girl and a Jewish girl, who take a South Asian cooking class. She also has A Thousand Questions set to release in September 2020, where two girls become friends and face a summer full of changes, all set in Karachi. Learn more about Saadia at saadiafaruqi.com.
- V.T. Bidania is a production editor, graphic artist, elementary school librarian assistant, and author. She is a recipient of the Loft Literary Center’s Mirrors & Windows Fellowship, a program dedicated to mentoring indigenous writers and writers of color to write picture books, middle grade, and young adult literature. Her debut chapter book series, Astrid and Apollo, is set to release in August 2020 and stars a Hmong-American twin sister and brother and their family. You can find more information on her website vtbidania.com.
- Siman Nuurali grew up in Kenya, but now resides in Minnesota where she works at the Minnesota Children’s Hospital. She is also a recipient of the Loft Literary Center’s 2019-2020 Mirrors and Windows Fellowship mentoring program. Siman is Somali and writes about a young Somali-American boy named Sadiq. In August 2020 she will be debuting 4 more books as part of the Sadiq series. Follow along with Sadiq as he starts his own exploring club, puts on a play, and celebrates Ramadan.
- Darshana Khiani is a second-generation Indian American who plays the role of computer engineer during the day and children’s writer at night. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and two daughters. Her debut picture book How to Wear a Sari, which is set to be released in the Fall of 2020, is a tale of a young girl who wants to show her family how grown up she is and decides the best way to do so, is by teaching herself how to wear a sari, just like the adults. To learn more about Darshana, visit her website at darshanakhiani.com.
- Susan Muaddi Darraj is a writer, an editor at Barrelhouse Magazine, associate Professor of English at Harford Community College in Bel Air, and a faculty member in Fairfield University‘s MFA program. Named a 2018 Ford Fellow by USA artists, she is also a two-time recipient of an Individual Artist Award from the Maryland State Arts Council. Susan is credited as the originator of the Twitter #TweetYourThrobe, which went viral and became a social media moment in early 2019. Her debut children’s book series, Farah Rocks will be released in January 2020. Centering around Farah Hajjar, a Palestinian-American girl, as she faces bullies, school, and family problems. More about Susan can be found on her website at susanmuaddidarraj.com.
- Hope Lim was born and raised in South Korea, but now resides in San Francisco. Previously a conference interpreter for the U.S. State Department, she now focuses on children’s literature. Her debut picture book, I Am Bird is a story about how the perspective of a girl changes towards the stranger she passes on her way to school each day. Illustrated by Hyewon Yum, it is set to be released in fall 2020.
- Vicky Fang is a product designer who began writing to support the expanding need for early coding education, primarily for girls and minorities. She has two debut books set to be released in 2020. Premiering in May 2020, Invent-A-Pet showcases STEAM concepts for young kids. A young girl dreams of a pet and receives a machine from her mom that creates crazy mixed-up creatures. Layla and the Bots will also make its debut in May and tells the story of a rock band that likes to invent and use creative problem solving. For more information on Vicky, visit vickyfang.com.
- Yamille Saied Mendez is an Argentine-American residing in Utah. She is a recipient of the inaugural Walter Dean Myers Grant, whose mission is to provide financial support to promising diverse writers currently unpublished, as well as part of the Las Musas, the first collective of women and nonbinary Latinx MG and YA authors. In 2020, she has Come On In, a YA anthology covering the experience of immigration in addition to two others, Furia and On These Magic Shores. Learn more about Yamille and her work at yamilesmendez.com.
- Andrea L. Rogers resides in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. She is a teacher at an all-girls public school is Fort Worth, Texas and was appointed to the Board of the Fort Worth Public Library. Her debut book, Mary and the Trail of Tears: A Cherokee Removal Survival Story, is set to be released in January 2020. Part of the Girls Survive series, this chapter book focuses on the forced removals following the Indian Removal Act of 1830. To learn more about Andrea, visit her website at andrealrogers.com.
- Nikki Shannon Smith currently lives in California. She is a children's author, teacher, presenter, as well as Co-Regional Advisor (Co-RA) for the California: North/Central region of Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). She has two new books coming out in January 2020: The Amazing Life of Azaleah Lane, the story of a young African American girl who lives in Washington D.C. and Sarah Journeys West: An Oregon Trail Survival Story, part of the Girls Survive series about a free Black family seeking a better life in California. Learn more about Nikki at nikkishannonsmith.com.
- Kenard Pak is an art director, illustrator, and author who currently residing in San Francisco. He has worked as an artist on many animated films with DreamWorks, Disney, and more. In February 2020 his picture book Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring is set to be released and will add to his collection about coming seasons, which includes Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn and Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter. The upcoming installment tells the story of a boy and his dog as they take a walk to say goodbye to winter and welcome springtime. You can visit Kenard’s website at pandagun.com.
- Leah Henderson lives in Washington D.C. and is on faculty in the MFA program at Spalding University. She has three books making their debut in 2020. Mamie on the Mound tells the story of how Mamie ‘Peanut’ Johnson became the only female pitcher in the Negro Leagues and debuts in January. A Day for Rememberin’ will be released in spring 2020 and is about the event that is considered to be the first celebration of what is now Memorial Day. Magic in Changing Your Stars will also be out in the spring, centering around a boy who travels back in time to Harlem in the 1930s. More information about Leah can be found at leahhendersonbooks.com.
- Isabella Kung is an illustrator, author, and instructor. Originally from Hong Kong, Isabella now resides in San Francisco. Some of her accolades include winning the Silver Medal in the Illustration West 56th Competition and Portfolio Best in Show at the SCBWI 2016 Golden Gate Conference. Her book, No Fuzzball! comes out in the August 2020. It features a rascally cat who deems herself Queen of the house all while hearing everyone shout her name “NOFUZZBALL”. More about Isabella and her work can be found at isabellakung.com.