As anyone with a career in books will tell you, the publishing industry is not diverse. Like, at all. So Jamillah Gabriel, a librarian at Purdue University's Black Cultural Center Library, decided fight back. Later this month, Gabriel is launching a subscription box that exclusively highlights contemporary Black literature and authors.
For $35 a month, subscribers to Call Number will receive one newly released book and four to five literary-related items, from journals to charms to stickers. Every detail about Gabriel's business is highly curated, from the name itself (libraries use call numbers to sort and shelve books in the correct sections) to the design on the lid of each box ("PN841," the call number for Black literature).
"The motivation is to promote black literature," said Gabriel in an interview with The Lafayette Journal & Courier. "It can be difficult to find writers of color if you are looking for that. Beyond the most popular ones you have to work to find writers of color. ... The book will come to you, a new writer will come to you without you having to dig and search. I do the work."
Gabriel has been adamant about maintaining an element of surprise around which books and authors will appear in her boxes, but she has revealed the inaugural work: Clover by Dori Sanders.
Clover Hill is a 10-year-old from South Carolina who, in the wake of a tragic accident, is raised by a white stepmother whom she hardly knows. Originally published in 1990 and re-released in 2013, Clover won the Lillian Smith Award for Southern literature that enhances racial awareness.
Like Dori Sanders, all the authors featured in Call Number will be Black writers operating on the edge of the mainstream - or in some cases, not at all. Though there's no doubt internationally renowned authors like Zadie Smith are invaluable, Gabriel wants to work past what the major publishing houses have deemed marketable — and, subsequently, acceptable.
The box will be released through Cratejoy, and currently is available for pre-order.
Images: Call Number/Cratejoy; Amazon