NEW YORK, July 20 —Simon & Schuster announced a two book deal with Washington Post Contributing Columnist and former NPR Host Michele Norris whose unique platform at The Race Card Project provides an unparalleled lens to explore how Americans see themselves and their place in a fractured world. The book, currently untitled, is based on her journey collecting hundreds of thousands of hidden conversations for The Race Card Project archive and will be followed by a related children’s book. World English, audio, and first serial rights were sold to Dawn Davis, Vice President and Publisher of 37 Ink, an imprint of Simon & Schuster for adult books, and Kendra Levin, Editorial Director of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers for the children’s edition, by Gail Ross of Ross Yoon Agency. It is slated for publication in 2022.
What started as an invitation to share six-word stories about race in 2010 has grown into a massive international archive of personal, candid provocative stories about identity, culture and belonging that reveals the full gamut of human emotion. Norris created a space for vulnerability and trust with The Race Card Project, prompting thousands of people from all over the world to share thoughts, memories, viewpoints and quandaries with surprising and sometimes uncomfortable honestly.
Norris will mine The Race Card Project archive to produce a book that captures America’s racial DNA in a period bookended by the presidencies of Barack Obama and Donald Trump and punctuated by the global pandemic and explosion of street protests around the world after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The Race Card Project archive moves through space and time, reaching back to difficult histories, examining hard truths and confronting the hardened narratives that so often confine or define our lives. Much like the WPA project or the landmark work of Studs Turkel, Norris has captured a broad and diverse collection of voices that do not make their way into news headlines or history books and yet reflect the shifting attitudes and definitive events that shape our current world and the past century.
The book will interweave Norris’s reported essays based on in-depth investigations into themes or individual stories from the archive along with a waterfall of six-word reflections and extended oral histories. Norris has spent ten years eavesdropping with permission on America’s hidden conversations about race. The Race Card Project has been adopted in classrooms, courtrooms, businesses, museums and prisons. It has allowed Norris entry into conversation and consternation that is normally walled off from public view. As NAACP Legal Defense Fund President, Sherrilyn Ifill has noted, “Norris guides this country gently but firmly to stand before the mirror.”
This book will be captivating and catalytic—a volume that will prompt deep introspection and include voices that are overlooked or ignored.
National Public Radio listeners have sampled a taste of the rich content in The Race Card Project archive in the Peabody Award-winning radio sections she produced from the archive, including a woman whose father gave her an invitation to a hanging, a white mother who discovered that black babies cost less to adopt, an Asian man who wants the world to acknowledge his masculinity, and a black man whose wealthy suburban community treats him differently when his mixed race children are not by his side, and an exploration of the complicated story behind the hit Broadway Tune from South Pacific—You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught.
Dawn Davis had long kept her eye on this acquisition. “For nine years, I watched Michele Norris grow the Race Card Project from a noteworthy and interesting archive of contemporary reflections on cultural identity to a deep, powerful and prescient look at America’s Achilles heel—race—just when we most need the tools to talk about it.”
“I’ve wanted to publish Michele Norris for a long, long time. We believe her book is going to empower and inspire people to have essential conversations about race identity and how we express those thoughts and feelings. We expect this book to become a foundational and lasting resource to readers of all ages and backgrounds,” says Jonathan Karp, Chief Executive Officer of Simon & Schuster.
When Dawn approached Kendra Levin about the possibility of a children’s book, Levin was thrilled by the possibility. “The Race Card Project is already a remarkable tool to foster exploration of self and of our world, and we see an incredible opportunity here to bring Michele Norris’s brilliant concept to our youngest readers. We envision a beautifully illustrated picture book that will facilitate thoughtful discussions about race between adults and children, reaching kids at just the age when they begin observing and commenting on the differences between people and planting seeds for disrupting systemic racism in the next generation.”
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Vice President, Director of Publicity, Simon & Schuster/37 Ink Adult division
Senior Director of Publicity, Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing