Representation Matters! (ft. Cynthia Leitich Smith & Ellen Oh)
Play • 37 min
Representation matters, especially in children’s literature and stories that represent Native American people. In this episode, we focus on Heartdrum, an imprint about stories by Native American creators who publish stories with an emphasis on the present and future of Indian Country, and on the strength of young Native American heroes. Author-curator Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee Creek), author and co-founder of We Need Diverse Books, Ellen Oh, and HarperCollins editor Rosemary Brosnan discuss how the Heartdrum project came to fruition and a sample of the beautifully diverse stories now available to young readers.

To learn more about Heartdrum, visit

Do you have a story about how a classic book changed your life? Tweet @readingpod or email us at Learn more at Until next time!

[:01] In her book, Jingle Dancer, Cynthia Leitich Smith depicted Native American girls and women, who are underrepresented in children’s literature.

[5:01]The books by authors of color that impacted Cynthia and Ellen as children.

[7:40] In her series, Indian Shoes, it was important to Cynthia the characters be in contemporary, urban settings.

[10:57] When publishers shifted away from multiculturalism and inclusion, Cynthia successfully pivoted and created paranormal stories including the Feral series.

[13:23] The progressive ideas that fuel We Need Diverse Books make the organization much more than a hashtag.

[15:42] Ellen, Cynthia, and Rosemary Brosnan instigated the creation of Heartdrum, the first native imprint at a major publisher.

[21:36] The Sea in Winter by Christine Day is one of the first books published by Heartdrum.

[26:14] Current trends in contemporary children’s literature and future opportunities for Heartdrum.

[29:44] Ellen describes her motivation for writing her very personal latest book, Finding Junie Kim.

[32:02] Ancestor Approved is a collection of stories and poetry that showcases the diversity within Indian Country and pairs new and established authors.

Continue Your Journey:
Cynthia Leitich Smith
Ellen Oh Books
We Need Diverse Books
Remember Reading Podcast
@ReadingPod on Twitter
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