Last December, Polis Books founder and publisher Jason Pinter announced that the press would add a new imprint devoted to crime writers with diverse voices, Agora Books. “As both a writer and someone working in the publishing industry, it was glaring to me,” says Pinter. “It seemed like a lot of voices were not being heard. There were books not being published in terms of race, culture, gender, sexuality, identity, and age.”

To head the imprint, Polis hired writer Chantelle Aimée Osman, cohost of the Crime Friction podcast and former editor-in-chief of RT Book Reviews Magazine. She says that she, too, has long been concerned about the lack of diversity in crime and noir fiction. “The books that I would want to see on a shelf weren’t there,” she says, adding, “The timing seemed right for us to work together and find the books that we knew were out there.”

For the imprint, Pinter says that he and Osman are looking for books by underrepresented voices, “whether it’s African-American crime writers [or] members of the LGBTQIA community. It can be the voice of a white writer writing about society, gender, or culture in a way that we find unique. As long as the voice is diverse or underrepresented, then we’re interested.”

“Not only do these voices need to be explored in our society,” adds Osman, “but this is a wonderful way to open up the world and show ways of life and ideas that we may never get to experience for ourselves. Reading is not only escapism, it’s an education.”

This fall Agora is publishing its inaugural list of three titles, which kicks off with debut novelist John Vercher’s Three-Fifths (Sept.). His own experiences inspired his novel. “[It] is about a biracial man passing for white his entire life, who is forced to confront the lies of his past with the truth of his present when his best friend involves him in a hate crime. I’m a biracial man. I never passed for white, but always had struggles with identity from a very early age. Questions of identity have dogged me throughout my life.”

Polis will be offering galleys of Vercher’s book, along with Patricia Smith’s Remember (Oct.), a psychological thriller dealing with mental illness by an African-American writer, and Chinese-Norwegian author Tori Eldridge’s Ninja Daughter (Nov.), the first book in the Lily Wong series.

Today, 10:10–10:50 a.m. John Vercher participates in the “Indie Insights: First Novels and Mystery” panel, on the Indie Publisher Stage.

Today, 11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Vercher will sign ARCs at the Polis booth (728a).