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Simon & Schuster launches Salaam Reads imprint for Muslim children

A glaring lack of diversity in children's books has led Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers to launch an imprint centering on Muslim characters and stories, The New York Times reports. The brainchild of Zareen Jaffery — who recalls growing up as a Pakistani-American Muslim unable to relate to Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume — the new imprint will not emphasize theology or Islamic doctrine but instead the experience of being Muslim.

"I remember looking at books and trying to figure out, 'What does it mean to be American? Am I doing this right? The truth is, I didn't see myself reflected in books back then," Jaffery explained.

The imprint, Salaam Reads, will publish nine or more books a year. Many different age groups will be targeted, from board books to picture books to middle and young adult books:

So far, Salaam Reads has acquired four books that will come out in 2017, including Salam Alaikum, a picture book based on a song by the British teen pop singer Harris J. Others planned for release next year are Musa, Moises, Mo and Kevin, a picture book about four kindergarten friends who learn about one another's holiday traditions; The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand by Karuna Riazi, about a 12-year-old Bangladeshi-American who sets out to save her brother from a supernatural board game, and Yo Soy Muslim, a picture book by the poet Mark Gonzales. [The New York Times]

Other brands are also expanding to appeal to Muslim consumers, such as Uniqlo and high-fashion labels like Dolce & Gabbana, which have invested in lines specifically for Muslim women.