Author Lamar Giles is bringing diversity to books

Lamar Giles is an author and a founding member of We Need Diverse Books. We Need Diverse is a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates for essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people. Their mission is to put more books featuring diverse characters into the hands of all children. Besides that, Lamar recently edited “Fresh Ink,” a YA anthology book featuring works by Melissa de la Cruz, Sara Farizan, Eric Gansworth, Malinda Lo, Jason Reynolds, Nicola Yoon, and more. “Fresh Ink” offers stories from thirteen of the most accomplished YA authors on topics like gentrification, acceptance, untimely death, coming out, and poverty, each ranging in genre from contemporary realistic fiction to adventure and romance. YEM spoke with Lamar about “Fresh Ink” and the importance of diversity in literature.

Young Entertainment Mag: How did you first get involved in writing/publishing? 

Lamar Giles: I’ve written since I was a kid, just for fun. Then around my senior year of college I got serious about wanting to see my work in print. I started to learn about the publishing business, sold my first short story when I was 21, and haven’t looked back. Now I have the privilege of writing fun stories for young readers and it’s the best gig ever. 

YEM: So, tell us about “Fresh Ink.” 

LG: Fresh Ink is a collection of 12 short stories for young adults from some of the hottest writers working today. From We Need Diverse Books, it’s the second anthology . (Hopefully the second of many). And it really is a worthy addition to the library of anyone who enjoys stellar fiction. 

YEM: How did you get the idea for this anthology series? 

LG: To be fully transparent it wasn’t my idea. Much like the We Need Diverse Books organization, the anthologies are the brainchild of We Need Diverse Books founder and CEO Ellen Oh. She edited our initial anthology, “Flying Lessons,” which collected stories for a middle grade audience. When it was time to do the next collection, Ellen tapped me on the shoulder. She asked if I’d like to edit a collection for a slightly older audience? Of course I said yes.

YEM: How did this anthology come to be? And how did you gather all of these great authors?

LG: There’s a lot of support for the We Need Diverse Books movement among the writing community so, from our very beginning, we’ve had many many writers express a desire to support in some way. So when the anthologies came up, it became a matter of seeing who was available and interested in contributing. Almost across the board, barring some sort of scheduling conflict, we’ve been able to get our very favorite writers on board. We’ve been fortunate in that regard. 

YEM: So were the authors given rules for their writing? Or were they able to be as creative as they wanted?

LG: No rules beyond keeping in mind you’re writing primarily for a teen reader. Other than that, we let the writers go wild and write about whatever topics they found most appealing. Ultimately, that led to some truly passionate original work. 

YEM: What do you hope readers take away from this anthology series?

LG: Recognition and insight. Because I want readers to see themselves in this anthology and if that’s not the case, I want them to gain insight into people they may not have ever known through the thoughtful representation in our pages. 

YEM: Finally, what advice would you give readers who are looking for other diverse books that they can relate to?

LG: They can always visit for resources. Besides that, they can also speak to teachers, librarians, and booksellers. Because most will be able to point the reader toward something they’ll love.