An Interview with Montgomery Jones
The month of January brought forth a launch of something amazing: the Magic of Diversity Book Box! Founded by Children’s Literacy major Montgomery Jones, this box aims to bring a book of diverse content (ranging from LQBTQIA+ to different countries to characters who are differently abled to people of color and more) to subscribers each month. Each box also includes a custom book mark and a few accessories inspired by the reading material chosen for the month. Montgomery has mentioned wanting to work with the authors of the books being featured to bring exclusive content in the forms of Twitter Q&As, letters, and other insights. All this, and exposure to different cultures! What more could a book nerd dream of?
BRIDGETTE: Who all is the Magic of Diversity team? Founder? Introduce your role, and tell us about yourself!
MONTGOMERY: Magic of Diversity is myself along with my friends Rachel and Sam! They both offered to help me with it because they both have special talents: Rachel is an amazing artist and Sam is a master at marketing.
BRIDGETTE: What inspired Magic of Diversity?
MONTGOMERY: The idea for the box came to me while I was volunteering in Morocco. I used to think that books about people like myself and my friends simply didn’t exist and have been frustrated by the lack of diversity for quite a while. I used to credit this to being a general lack of diverse literature on the market. Then I found out that that [statement] isn’t 100% true thanks to efforts from organizations like Disability in Kid Lit and We Need Diverse Books! There are quite a few (not enough, but I digress) they just aren’t celebrated in the same way as books about characters who fit the “majority”. This happens in television, in movies, in literature – especially young adult, and children’s literature as well. There are authors writing this stuff and actors willing to act the roles, they simply aren’t given the same exposure or even the same chance to shine [like] the books on the display shelves at your local bookstore or library. These aren’t the books that are picked up for tv shows or movies. They often aren’t chosen as “Books to Read this Summer” and if they are, only “other” kind of them is chosen.
I’m an avid reader and I happen to be a woman of color but it wasn’t until I was in Morocco that I realized that the world is comprised of so many different kinds of people that simply don’t get celebrated like the mainstream white, straight, cis gendered, able bodied, etc.
BRIDGETTE: Where did the name Magic of Diversity come from; what inspired it?
MONTGOMERY: I was trying so hard to think of a name that encompassed my feelings; the pure joy I feel when I think of inclusivity and representation! Magic is the feeling I get. It’s the feeling I feel after I read, period. One of my favorite quotes is from Stephen King: “Books are uniquely portable magic.” Ain’t that the truth!
Diversity has kind of become a filler word for a lot of people, one of those words that loses its meaning when we use it so much. But it shouldn’t be. Diversity is my ultimate goal in life, to make everyone feel welcome.
BRIDGETTE: How do you go about selecting the books that will be included?
MONTGOMERY: That’s the best part! I have a list of topics I want books to cover. In some cases, it’s disappointing by the lack of choices but I don’t just choose a book because it’s about a marginalized character. It has to actually be good. So I read them and go from there.
BRIDGETTE: Are there any plans to invite authors or other teams/individuals to curate a box?
MONTGOMERY: Yes of course!! I’m open to any and all suggestions! I love the idea of having someone curate a box theme that may identify with! Nothing is more authentic. So I’m black, I have lupus, and I am a plus sized young woman; those terms do not define me by any means but I really appreciate when I read about a character with traits or plights to overcome that are similar to my own. Hence different “themes” if you will. That’s not the right word. I suppose topics. So short answer, yes! Would love to hear ideas and have collaborations.
BRIDGETTE: What about specially themed boxes for things like Black History Month, Native American Heritage Month, and even Cancer Awareness?
MONTGOMERY: Haha, you know me so well! I do have some books that are close to my heart. Not that I’m opposed to popular authors but I’m really trying to reach out to books from smaller publishing houses/lesser known authors so I can, again, give them a platform to get their stories out there! I plan to stay somewhat tight-lipped about what will be in the boxes, just because I subscribe to a lot of book box services and love the surprise each month! I want the goodies that come in the box to pertain to modern activism and 2016 (or a specific time period in which the story takes place). I’m putting extra things in the box that will enhance the experience or supplement the story from pages to real life.
BRIDGETTE: Who is your favorite author? Your favorite book?
MONTGOMERY: Gah, that is so difficult! I don’t know that I have a favorite. I read so much and I read everything from children’s (no shame) to international classics. I always say nothing is too trivial or pretentious for me to read. At the moment I’m even reading a few books!
- Outside the Box: Interviews with Contemporary Cartoonists By Hillary L. Chute
- The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
- An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Which sums me up nicely, a book on a subject I know nothing about (also gives me some history in said subject), a book that is giving me incredible insight, and a delicious YA story.
BRIDGETTE: Will there ever be multi-lingual boxes available? Magic of Diversity for Spanish Speakers, Magic of Diversity for French Speakers, etc.
MONTGOMERY: THE DREAM. Man, I would love that! I also want to have a box for three different age groups. Right now we’re kind of ages 10+ with most books being young adult. If volunteering in Morocco taught me anything, it’s that I am severely lacking on the rest of the world in terms of languages! People deserve to read about people like themselves in their native tongue, so hopefully one day.
BRIDGETTE: Since starting this venture, is there anything special you’ve learned about business, publishing, or life in general?
MONTGOMERY: I’ve never thought of myself as a business woman so it’s bizarre to invest so much in something I’ve created. I’m usually the person behind the keyboard reviewing these things so it’s a lot of pressure. I love book boxes but I’m sick of reading the same kind of characters in books in general and while passion for reading is very important, I think my ulterior motive to expose children and adults to books that aren’t marketed towards them, brings me so much genuine and that’s what will set me apart (hopefully)! I’m working harder than I normally would be cause this topic is close to my heart.
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Do you have a book you’d like to recommend? Are you scouring the shelves for something particular but can’t seem to find it on your own? Do you run a bookish service and want us to check it out? For anything book related feel free to email me with the subject line BOOK CLUB: firstname.lastname@example.org