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#InConversationWith: D'Avellonne Van Dijk

Portrait by Coco Olakunle featuring Loulou Drinkward (left) and D'Avellonne Van Dijk (right), the founders of 'Wild Hair Publishing House'.
© Coco Olakunle

‘If we continue to publish stories from only one perspective, we will lose compassion for the other and the ability to learn from another person's experience.’

We asked D’Avellonne van Dijk (pictured on the right) to share her experience and ideas about Diversity and Inclusion in the publishing sector.

Together with Loulou Drinkwaard, Van Dijk looked for children’s books that featured characters who resembled them and discovered they were hard to find. So she founded Wilde Haren, a Dutch publishing company with its main focus on visibility and the representation of people (and children) of colour. At Wilde Haren, inclusivity, visibility and diversity are the norm.

When did you start up this publishing company?

We started after the Black Lives Matter protests, in order to provide a platform and visibility for our community.

Why did you want to publish children's books specifically?

We noticed we had missed ‘seeing ourselves’ as we grew up, and it was important for us to provide a new vision for the next generation.

What ages are your books aimed at?

Three to thirteen, although the age will go up with the newer releases in 2022.

Do you think the current story landscape is inclusive enough?

Absolutely not. There’s a lack of accountability at bigger publishing companies, which need an active mindset to work on this internally and acknowledgement that it is important for future generations. In response, Wilde Haren offers personalized advice and targets to publishing companies that are keen to improve in this respect. Another key is making space on the work floor for a more diverse crew, so that marginalized groups can provide input and expand the circle of what you already know.

Who is your target audience?

People of colour (with children of colour). But also white children and children in general. Reading our books normalizes the featuring of children of colour as central characters, as scientists, or knights.

What stories are you looking for?

All stories are welcome, written from the perspective of 'own voices'. It’s important to note that we focus on stories that are not about cultural differences, but about things that every child can experience or relate to.

Why do you think inclusivity in literature is important?

If we continue to publish stories from only one perspective, we will lose compassion for the other and the ability to learn from another person's experience. The beautiful thing about reading is how it allows you to immerse yourself in another world. It would be extremely sad to exclude worlds we haven't seen yet, just because we don't know of their existence or are unwilling to make space for them. To thrive is to learn and then use that knowledge to create something even better.

What difficulties or limitations do you still face in your business?

The difficulty lies mostly in convincing long-standing businesses that, even though our ways might be unorthodox, this is the right path to take to ensure publishing keeps up with supply and demand in the future.

What is your biggest dream for your publishing company? And for the book industry?

Our hope is that the rest of the book industry will understand the importance of using their own voices and making ALL steps in the book-making process more inclusive. Our dream is to become renowned for inclusivity in books and showing what support for communities that deserve a podium can accomplish – because the possibilities, creativity and stories are endless.

What is the kind of book you most enjoy publishing?

A children's book or graphic novel. The combination of a good story with exciting illustrations makes my heart fill with joy.

How do you think other publishers could pay more attention to diversity?

Take a critical look around. Do the people you work with and their

backgrounds represent the percentage of diversity (in every sense of the word) found

in your country? And if not, why not?

Of which project are you most proud?

I am very proud of our collaboration with the Dutch National Opera on the book ‘Hoe Anansi de verhalen van de wereld bevrijdde’. The graphic design and illustrations are truly unique.

What are some inclusive books you can recommend?

I would highly recommend the choices made by the Educulture Store in Amsterdam. Their range of inclusive books is impeccable.

And of course our titles ‘Allemaal Anders’, ‘Liever Niet’ and ‘Hoe Anansi de

verhalen van de wereld bevrijdde’.

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