Tell us about Mango & Marigold’s place in the world of children’s
Sailaja: It all started six years ago when I was pregnant with my first child. I
have always adored books, and so I was planning a library-themed baby shower, of course! I
envisioned filling her bookshelf with beautiful books that celebrated our shared Indian culture
and heritage. In this moment, I found the diversity gap that exists within children’s
literature. The books I did find were inappropriate for a child, or even worse, culturally
insensitive. I could not imagine raising my daughter in a world where she would not see herself
as the hero on the cover of a book, so I took matters into my own hands and started a publishing
company for diverse children’s literature.
Kids are born open-minded. They aren’t born with the idea that there is only one way to do
things; that there is only one kind of beauty or belief. With our books, we want to open up the
world to our readers, encourage wonder and awe in diversity, and show children that diversity is
the nature of humanity, not an initiative. Through diversity, we increase education, love,
kindness, and understanding.
I love seeing the difference our work has made. As I read our books that celebrate and share
India’s culture and heritage with my children, I am so grateful that they will grow up in a
world where they can see themselves on the cover. Our books empower families and teachers to
talk about diversity from an early age in beautiful, impactful, and meaningful ways. One of our
early readers was just two and a half when he started asking his mother questions about
diversity! It is these conversations that will change this next generation of children into
culturally literate citizens. And now, we’ve expanded our reach to include young adult books
with the release of Untold: Defining Moments of the Uprooted , a collection of real stories that
explores the South Asian experience in the U.S., U.K., and Canada through the lens of identity,
being, and relationships.
How many books does Mango & Marigold acquire each year, and what is the
Sailaja: It can really depend on the year but on average it's around 5-7. That
process is fairly straightforward and looks akin to what most other publishers do. First, you
submit your manuscript per our requests, then our team (board members and senior editor) read
through. If there is a consensus, then we bring you in for a conversation. From there, it
usually takes about 3-4 months to get a contract out to you. Then, well, the process starts!
Why did you change your press's name from ‘Bharat Babies’ to ‘Mango & Marigold’?
Sailaja: Bharat Babies started as a small, mission-driven boutique publishing house and turned
into a movement. With award-winning books across multiple categories, features in national media
and international tv, we've helped to showcase the importance of diversity in children's
literature and make a stand for representation.
When we started, our vision was to share the stories of our home, our heritage, of India. It's
why we selected our name Bharat Babies, to reflect the home of our families and the community we
were trying to reach. But over the past few years, we've quickly realized just how much more
work needs to be done. We've realized that the stories of the entire South Asian experience need
to be told. Stories that go beyond the borders of India. Stories that go beyond childhood.
After nearly two years of reflection and conversations, our team decided to make a change to our
name. A change that will reflect our broader mission and vision behind our brand. A change that
reflects our path forward.
So, in January 2020, Bharat Babies transitioned to the name Mango and Marigold Press, an
award-winning independent publishing house that shares the sweet and savory stories of the South
With a new look, a new tagline, our vision is to continue to share the stories of the South
Asian experience, expanding beyond children's literature to the likes of middle grade, young
adult, and more. In addition, we expand our borders beyond those of India to include countries
like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, the Maldives, and more.
You have a unique campaign to get more multicultural books for children
out to the public. Can you tell us a little more about this campaign?
Sailaja: #1001DiverseBooks is a campaign we started one year ago to increase
access to literature for underserved communities. Through this initiative, we are committed to
raising funds for 1001 diverse books to be given to nonprofit and literacy advocacy groups
across the country for all new releases. For every preorder, customers will have an option to
sponsor a copy of the book for just $10. This sponsored copy will be given to one of the
company’s partners and distributed to the children who most need the books. It is so exciting to
be able to say YES to organizations like the City of Cambridge, Behind the Book, Book Smiles, and IRIS Refugee Families and give beautiful new
diverse books away to children in need.
So why are we so passionate about not only closing the diversity gap but also the accessibility
gap? In low-income neighborhoods, the ratio of books to children is one book for every 300
children, far below the ratio of 13 books per child in middle- and upper-income neighborhoods
(Handbook of Early Literacy Research 2006). This is what we are combatting, and I am determined
to change this.
So you may be asking, why are children’s books so important? Eric Velasquez captures this
perfectly by saying, “Once children see themselves represented in books, their existence is
validated, and they feel that they are part of the world.”
What are the struggles of independent publishing houses in 2021?
Sailaja: One of our biggest challenges, simply put, is financing. As a
publishing house, in a very traditional space that is dominated by five big publishing houses,
there is little space (and investment) for houses like ours. Our team works hard, investing each
dollar we earn back into our company to help ensure more diverse books come into the market. Our
executive team, myself included, work full-time jobs in addition to our roles at Mango &
Marigold Press. The publishing world is expensive and gives very little returns for investors.
We struggle to challenge the largest publishing houses for space on bookshelves, an
acknowledgment in publications, awards… everything.
What hopes do you have for the future of children’s publishing?
Sailaja: That smaller indie publisher will get more space with gatekeepers like
Publishers Weekly. In addition, I look forward to expanding and adding to a space that is in
dire need of more representation.
For more information about Mango & Marigold Press, visit their website https://mangoandmarigoldpress.com/.