Tamarind: 'more multicultural writing needed'

Publisher Tamarind Books has called for more writers and illustrators to tackle multicultural issues in their work, pointing to a lack of strong writing in this area. Fiction editor Parul Bavishi said: "I am looking for great multicultural books, but it is hard to attract good submissions."

Tamarind, which was originally established by Verna Wilkins, is now part of the Random House Group. The publisher had previously focused on picture books and illustrated stories for younger readers but is extending its list in 2012 to include more fiction for children aged eight years plus and young adult readers.

However, Tamarind has struggled to find the kinds of multicultural books it is looking for. "Authors themselves don't need to come from a mixed community—although that can work well—but I am essentially looking for strong stories and a good mix of ages," said Bavishi. "It has to be a beautiful story—not a focus on the fact that the main character is not middle-class or white." 

Bavishi attributed the scarcity of writing in this area to a lack of role models. "We need more writers of the calibre of Malorie Blackman and Bali Rai, who can access the mainstream market and provide strong role models for young people who wouldn't otherwise consider writing as an option."

Authors Jamila Gavin, Benjamin Zephaniah and Meera Syal are among Tamarind's newly announced patrons, alongside Michael Rosen and founder Verna Wilkins. Publisher Annie Eaton said: "We hope they will get involved in events for Tamarind and that they will write for the list, and get diversity talked about."

Among Tamarind Books' forthcoming highlights are Now is the Time for Running by Cape Town Opera director Michael Williams, about two brothers fleeing Zimbabwe, and fiction titles by British Olympic gold medal-holder Christine Ohuruogu about a girl who discovers her talent for running. The Tamarind Star series, which profiles individuals, will continue with Sporting Heroes in June 2012.

Tamarind will continue to publish picture books for younger readers, including newly illustrated books from its backlist, said deputy publisher Sue Buswell.