On Wednesday, publishing industry goliath Simon & Schuster announced the launch of its newest imprint Salaam Reads.
The imprint’s focus will be on producing children’s and young adult books that spotlight Muslim families and their children. According to a statement from the company, Salaam Reads will be “the first imprint at a major publisher focused on Muslim characters and stories.”
Salaam Reads is headed by publisher Justin Chanda and executive editor Zareen Jaffery and is set to publish at least nine books a year. The imprint is close to Jaffery’s heart, a sentiment that she’s vocalized while discussing Simon & Schuster’s newest publishing endeavor.
As a Pakistani-American Muslim, “I didn’t see myself reflected in books back then,” Jaffrey said in an interview with The New York Times.
It’s a major step in the right direction for an industry that has had a very public struggle with its handling of diversity. The hashtag campaign #WeNeedDiverseBooks, which birthed the non-profit has helped bring more attention to the larger issue. According to the Pew Research Center, Muslims constitute about 1 percent of the United States population, but are rarely reflected in media, and even less so in a positive light.
As part of the company’s public statement regarding the imprint’s launch, Jaffery noted the company’s efforts to offer more portrayals of the diversity found within the Muslim community to both Muslim and non-Muslim readers.
“Our aim with the Salaam Reads imprint is in part to provide fun and compelling books for Muslim children, but we also intend for these books to be entertaining and enriching for a larger non-Muslim audience,” Jaffery said.
The first book to be published under the Salaam Reads umbrella will be pop singer Harris J’s picture book that is based on his song “Salam Alaikum.” Another picture book featuring holiday traditions, a lyrical picture book by Def Jam poet Mark Gonzaleas, and a middle-grade adventure with a Bangladeshi-American heroine are also scheduled for publication.