Sunday, August 2, 2020

#SCBWISummerSpec Editors' Panel: Namrata Tripathi

Namrata Tripathi is VP & Publisher of Kokila, an imprint of Penguin Random House, where she focuses on "centering stories from the margins" and expanding the vision of our narrative landscape, endeavoring to "add nuance and depth to the way children and young adults see the world and their place in it."

Tripathi, whose 20-year career in publishing included stints at Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, Hyperion, and HarperCollins, publishes picture books through young adult, fiction and nonfiction projects--all are welcome at Kokila. Of particular interest are children's book creators who have a singular point of view, who reflect on their sense of self and its manifestation in their stories.  Tripathi shared insights on some of Kokila's early and forthcoming titles:

Tripathi is an "agitator" who appreciates stories with multiple layers, like the seemingly simple My Papi Has A Motorcycle, by Isabel Quintero and Zeke Peña, which is about a loving father/daughter ride through the neighborhood on the surface, but also explores themes of gentrification, immigration in U.S. cities, and changing communities. Hair Love, by Matthew Cherry and Vashti Harrison, is also about a loving father/daughter relationship. It includes a celebration of Black hair and Blackness, and it is a vivid portrait of a young Black father just being a nurturing, fun-loving, engaged daddy, a decidedly non-dominant image in today's children's media landscape. "All of our books are creative...but also destructive," Tripathi said about Kokila's work to turn away from harmful narratives that are often considered the "norm". Hair Love went on to become an Oscar-winning short film.

When she sees a need in the world, Tripathi works to bring that vision to life through story. Such was the case with the board book Anti-Racist Baby, by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi and Ashley Lukashevsky. Personal experiences and dialogue with others about "when to discuss race" with young children prompted the development of the bestseller that belied the idea that there was an age "too young" for those conversations.

There are some books, like Veera Hiranandani's Newbery Honor award-winning The Night Diary, that are an immediate straight-to-the heart. match for Tripathi, the ones "that you know that nobody else can do." Her intimate knowledge of the history that grounded that story, and her understanding of what it means to move within and across borders enriched the process of acquiring and editing the book. Additional and forthcoming titles include Randy Ribay's National Book Award finalist young adult novel Patron Saints of Nothing, Traci Sorrell and Weshoyot Alvitre's At The Mountain's Base, Jessica Kim's Stand Up, Yumi Chung!,  and Keah Brown and Sharee Miller's Sam's Super Seats.

The small, but mighty team at Kokila accepts unagented submissions from September 1-December 1 every year. For more about the imprint, its people, and its vision, visit Kokila online,
on Instagram, and on Twitter.

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