Local authors bring diversity to children’s books

Hidden History

There’s a surge of African American authors born out of what they say is a necessity.

Creativity flows from a downtown Lancaster apartment. Dr. Zetta Elliott shares her collection of 36 children’s books.

“When I was growing up, almost none of the books that I read had kids that looked like me,” Elliott said.

Her works feature characters of color.

“Rudine Bishop is an African American scholar and she says kids really need books that are windows, mirrors and sliding glass doors. It teaches how we learn empathy. It’s how we learn about people who are different from us. It’s how we learn about ourselves,” she said.

Elliott writes historical fantasy, sharing her stories in classrooms. One just released will share the history of Lancaster’s Bethel A.M.E. Church.

“I’m deeply invested in African American history,” Elliott said. “When I was working with kids and I would talk about black history, they would groan and roll their eyes because of the way black history is taught, and they’re taught that it is all about slavery.”

Her publishing journey was not an easy one, with disappointing turns along the way.

“I kept sending things out and got a letter that said you write beautifully but there is no market for books like yours, which is frustrating because even if they were thinking books about black children are only for black children, which is not true, black people have a trillion dollars in spending power.”

Elliott decided to use her spending power to self publish, and she hopes to inspire-aspiring young writers.

“Kids are taught history is something that happened a long time ago when we take the box off of the shelf in February and then we put it back, and that’s not how I understand or how I experience or how I make history,” she said. “Kids don’t have to be just consumers of books, they can be creators of books, and we can all contribute to how history is made, and that’s what black history means to me.”

Elliott’s latest book, “Say Her Name” came out in January. You can meet her at a book reading at the Midtown Scholar in Harrisburg on Feb. 27, from 7-9 p.m.

Julia Mallory writes children’s books, too. Her first book is “Black Mermaids.”

Mallory specializes in picture books, poetry and creative non-fiction. She began writing after finding a shortage of books representing diverse characters and books written by people of color.

In addition to her books, Mallory has a website that sells inspiring wearable items.

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