|photo: Mark Kuroda
In 2017, Brittany Murlas found that few diverse books were published and marketed to new parents, so she launched LittleFeminist.com. Murlas previously worked for nonprofits serving people with disabilities and served as CMO of BabyList.com. Now, as CEO of Little Feminist, she lives and works in Oakland, Calif., and coaches woman-owned businesses on the side. Earlier this year, We Are Little Feminists: Families, written by Archaa Shrivastav and designed by Lindsey Blakely (Little Feminist, $8), became the first board book to win the Stonewall Children's and Young Adult Literature Award. Shelf Awareness spoke with Murlas about her company and its mission.
How did you feel when you received the call from the Stonewall Award committee?
I started crying immediately. I was so choked up that I couldn't respond. The poor ALA staff on the other side of the phone thought the call had dropped!
Did you know right away that this was the first board book to receive the award?
I was 98% sure we were the first board book ever to win an ALA award, because we had spent so many months at Little Feminist looking for diverse board books and not finding them.
Tell us about Little Feminist, how it works and what your goals are.
The goal of Little Feminist is to help families diversify their bookshelves. In focus groups I ran in our early days, I saw that parents were desperate to diversify their bookshelves but lost on how to start (Amazon really isn't very good at curation). So we started with a monthly book club subscription, which we call Little Feminist Book Club.
Our book selection team spends months searching for the best diverse books available, so that parents can focus on raising their conscious kids. Each month Little Feminist Book Club delivers the best diverse books to thousands of families around the world (accompanied by family discussion questions and a DIY activity).
Then, in 2019, as demand for our 0-to-3-year-old book club was exploding, we were running out of diverse board books to feature. Specifically, we found zero board books featuring people with disabilities; we found only five board books featuring trans and gender-fluid folks; we saw hair becoming an increasingly popular topic but found only one board book (published in Australia) that spoke to hair/head diversity.
At this point, we wondered, "Could we publish the books we knew were missing?" We didn't know much about book publishing, but we did know what the market was missing and what our families were asking for.
We decided to publish three board books, each focusing on a different aspect of intersectional feminism: mobility and ability, gender and sexuality, and race and ethnicity.
So many people worked on our books: we had one main designer, and then two consulting designers; we utilized a diverse book expert, two different writers, four different Little Feminist photographers and a logistics manager!
How did you decide to present this text in this format?
Our book club subscribers kept asking us for more photo-based books because they were their kids' favorites, so we knew we wanted to start with board books featuring photos, rather than illustrations.
Now we're planning on publishing more of the same, because with photographs myriad kids and families get to see themselves represented. With a single illustration style, this is a bit harder. We get to showcase even more diversity than we could with a single author and illustrator.
How did you choose the families represented?
Because We Are Little Feminists: Families, and our other two board books, were written to highlight intersectional feminism specifically, we wanted to make sure each book featured as many different types of identities as possible (Indigenous folks, people with disabilities, Muslim folks, trans and gender-fluid folks, to name a few). We created a ton of spreadsheets to track the identities we had represented, and what we were missing.
Our photographers took 60% of the photos featured, and the other 40% we sourced from influencers/advocates in the space. Of course, all the photographers and parents gave us permission to use their images.
Is there anything else you'd like to tell Shelf Awareness readers?
Little Feminist is a baby publisher--the reason we produced a book that won such high regard is because we talked to so many parents about what they were missing on their bookshelves. We read this book with countless families, educators and preschools. Every single family featured in our book gave us thoughts and advice on it. I encourage all publishers to do the same! --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness