Voice is a common thread in So Booking Cool’s conversation with bestselling, critically acclaimed children’s book author, Lisa Moore Ramée. There’s the beloved ‘Shay’, Ramée’s debut protagonist from A Good Kind of Trouble (which has garnered renewed interest and now an Indie bestseller in paperback), whose voice has been praised and prompted whether it is important for Ramée to create resonant voices within her characters; there’s Ramée sharing the time she overcame her fear of public speaking; there’s her starred-reviewed, anticipated sophomore release, Something to Say (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, July 14, 2020), which she says is about finding one’s voice; and then there’s publishing saying they will amplify marginalized, especially Black, voices.
Regarding the latter, while Ramée is delighted that the literary space says they want to have better representation, she has her concerns. “Maybe I’m a pessimist, but I’m nervous that the loudness that we have heard, that’s already starting to quiet down, is something that is very short-lived.”
Many of us are familiar with the recent social unrest lending itself to dialogue about representation and inclusion, especially in media and the arts. In the book world, many have taken to social media to center disparities in the industry, which incited trending topics like #blackoutbestsellerlist and #publishingpaidme. Publishers have posted statements saying they stand with the Black community and condemn systemic racism.
“We need more than a week,” Ramée continues. “We need more than people giving lip service to this idea of ‘yes, it would be nice if we had more authors of color getting published.’ Quite frankly, publishers are going to have to put their money where their mouth is; they’re going to have to make offers to authors of color, and not only are they going to have to buy those books, but they’re going to have to put steps into place to market those books so that they actually have a fair shot at getting sold…publishing a book isn’t enough. Making sure that people can find it is the real job.”
In addition to finding one’s voice, Something to Say analyzes whether people should be held accountable for past remarks and/or transgressions. What is the barometer for someone getting “cancelled”? Ramée uses the context of schools that are named (and changed) after prominent figures; in this case, John Wayne.
“…The fact that he said horrible, racist things about black people, native people, that he was kind of proudly a white supremacist, I definitely had a viewpoint of what I thought about him and his acts,” says Ramée. “But I also wanted to present it in a way, in a story, of saying ‘okay, let’s not prejudge. Let’s actually explore this question of should things that he said in the past be still held up as something that would have to hold against him?’ I would argue yes, but I wanted to explore both sides of the question so that someone reading the book would feel that the issue had been looked at fairly.”
Watch the interview to learn more about Something to Say including the book’s inspiration, how she crafted ‘Jenae’ and the heart and soul of the character; whether Ramée sees herself in ‘Jenae’; what it was like working with her agent Brenda Bowen and publisher and editor, Alessandra Balzer, on a second book; details about her third book; how she captures the voice of children in her literature and insightful tidbits on character dialogue; the celebrity in which she struggled to separate the art from the artist; what it’s been like to virtually connect with the book world, and more! For more information, visit Ramée’s official website.