Harlequin is getting into the YA market, with a new trade paperback imprint aimed at African-American teenage girls, a group of readers the publisher says is underserved by commercial fiction. Kimani TRU, set to debut in early 2007, will tackle such topics as high school, best friends, boyfriends and family relationships, said Linda Gill, Kimani's general manager. The first two titles will be Indigo Summer by Monica McKayhan and Fast Life by Cassandra Carter, both to be released in February.
While the YA market is new territory for Harlequin, the publisher already has lines of books catering to African-American women, including Arabesque, Sepia and New Spirit. Evette Porter, who is editing the new imprint, said that Kimani TRU will offer 14- to 19-year-olds age-appropriate titles. "The readers in this age range were reading some pretty mature and racy stuff," she said. "There is nothing like what Kimani TRU is doing," said Marva Allen at the Hue-Man Bookstore in Harlem. She added that while some African-American authors authors are strong in YA fiction, there are no imprints exclusively dedicated to this group.
The new line will employ a mix of veteran writers, like McKayhan, known for her novels AsReal as It Gets and From Here to Forever, as well as young newcomers, like Fast Lifeauthor Carter, who is a senior in high school. "The kids who read these books want to feel like the writers can relate to them," Porter said.
Gill said that in creating the imprint, they are trying "to make sure the book, the stories, the packaging and the voice of the authors is true and authentic to African-American teens across a variety of spectrums. Whether a suburban girl or an urban teen, we want these stories to resonate the breadth and depth of their lives."
After the two-book launch, Kimani TRU will release one title per month, for a total of 12 a year.