CHICAGO — Children’s books that feature black main characters offer both “validation” and “possibilities” said Joy E .Triche, founder of Tiger Stripe Publishing.
“I think it serves as a mirror and a possibility of what they can do and be,” she said.
Recent titles released by her children’s books publishing company — created in 2014 — are "Q Saves The Sun" by Isaac Perry and "How I Became We" by Raquel L. Monroe. The Chicago-based independent publisher of children's book focuses on books that celebrate diverse people.
Triche, a Hyde Park resident since 2002, moved here from Arizona. She said she’s always been infatuated with the publishing industry.
“I am one of those odd people who have wanted to have my own publishing company since I was in high school; I never even thought about doing anything else,” Triche said.
Throughout college she would always help people who wanted to self-publish. She said her journalism degree gave her an editorial background, and most of her career was spent in educational publishing, which she enjoyed.
When she had her son and daughter, she began to see the need for more books with black faces, she said.
“When I had children I fell in love [again] with children’s books,” [My son] wasn’t a voracious reader like my older daughter was, so I would have to work to find books he’d like.”
Triche would search everywhere, but often returned empty-handed, she said.
“I tried to find books that reflected him, and I had a really hard time doing that,” Triche said. “I looked for books that reflected my son, at least in the race of the characters, and give him something to connect to, and I was disappointed.”
She said she used that disappointment as motivation. Triche was ready to launch her own publishing company and work with black authors who wanted a publisher for their children’s books.
“I decided to make that my niche, to develop diverse books that aren’t just diverse for the sake of being diverse, but they celebrate the diversity of the main character,” she said.
It’s difficult for all writers to get a publisher, which is why she said she’s supportive of writers of color in particular.
If the writer doesn’t publish with a top five publishing house and chooses to go the small independent route or self-publishing route instead, it’s difficult to get into stores, Triche said.
The diverse content is out there, but the challenge is placing it in front of consumers, she said.
She is a member of the American Library Association advisory board, which she said is working on a movement to get more diverse books into libraries.
She acknowledged efforts have been made to give these black writers a platform. More community bookstores are featuring books by black authors, and the Soulful Chicago Book Fair brings together black authors.
Although the authors Triche is currently working with are all local, she said her company is open to working with anyone from anywhere.
“There’s a lot of talent here in Chicago, but we’re not limiting ourselves to only Chicago writers,” she said.
This year will be a very good year for her company, she said.
“2017 is going to be our biggest year of growth because we have seven new books in development, including 'Nuri Means Light,'” Triche said.
Marquette Park resident Shannon Hill Muhammad wrote 'Nuri Means Light," and she and her 20-year-old daughter Maryam Afzaa launched their company This Lil’ Light of Mine in 2009. The company offers a line of products such as T-shirts, polos, onesies, aprons and more.
For an art project back when she was in third grade, Afzaa repeatedly drew the face of a smiling black girl with puffy hair and cartoonlike features. Nuri, whose name means 'light,' was born.
A few years later Muhammad got the idea to turn the image into a logo for a clothing line with the name, Nuri, a character she said represents self-love and life.
Now the women are hoping to spread the image around the world “so more girls can see the image, think 'that’s beautiful' and identify with that beauty,” said Afzaa, now a college student. “The majority of black and brown girls around the world still struggle with loving themselves. It's especially hard for darker-skinned women."
They’re working with Tiger Publishing to release a children’s picture book this summer.
Muhammad said when other publishers told her no, Triche saw her vision for Nuri and was willing to work with her.
“Joy sees my vision and how Tiger Stripes can help grow This Lil Light of Mine,” she said. “I think she’s willing to take that journey with me.”
Having a range of diverse publishers, including black publishers, is still important today, Muhammad said.
“It’s important to have black publishers, but I think every individual brings a unique perspective to their passion, and I liked her perspective,” she said. “Joy also brings a certain freshness to the publishing space. I’ve always respected and admired her.”