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Phoebe Robinson Launches A Curated Line Of Books, Tiny Reparations Books


Comedian Phoebe Robinson is one of those multitalented people who seem perpetually busy even during a pandemic. She may be best known for her podcast "Two Dope Queens," but she's also an actress, a producer and the author of the books "You Can't Touch My Hair" and "Everything's Trash, But It's Okay." And now Phoebe Robinson has launched her own imprint, a curated line of books. It's called Tiny Reparations Books. Our colleague Sarah McCammon spoke with her about it.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Phoebe, welcome to the program.

PHOEBE ROBINSON: Thanks for having me.

MCCAMMON: So tell us more about the title, Tiny Reparations. First of all, why Tiny?

ROBINSON: Yeah (laughter). It just - it really just sort of started as a joke. I would always say whenever - you know, I'm not going to get like the big fat financial reparations check. But like the little moments in my life that are good or surprising, I would call them tiny reparations. And then when I was thinking about this imprint and what I wanted to do and because it is a highly curated imprint where we're not publishing, you know, 100 books a year, it's going to be probably around three to five, I felt like my - like, each book that was published under this imprint is, like, my way of giving back. So I was like, yeah, that's a tiny reparation, too.

MCCAMMON: You're a comedian. You've produced, acted, written books. What inspired you to go in this direction with an imprint and specifically this imprint?

ROBINSON: I mean, that was always - to be honest, that was always the goal. When - I met my lit ag at the end of 2014, Robert Guinsler, and, you know, he was like, what do you want to do? And I'd say I want to write a book. I want to have an imprint. I want there to be a space where I can help, you know, sort of provide a platform for other people to write the stories they want to write and represent their point of views and get their voices out there and feel like they can be the, you know, protagonists in their own stories. So we just really got excited about how I can be just one link in a chain that can help sort of change the way that publishing is right now.

MCCAMMON: Right. You wrote on your Instagram that you were honored that this project could be part of a moment to, quote, "uplift and center voices oft disregarded, discredited and disrespected." What kinds of voices, what kinds of writers will you be publishing?

ROBINSON: I mean, I really went to run the gamut of women, people of color, people in the queer community. You know, of course, men are also welcome. I'm not going to say no to men, but I think, you know, when I look back at when my first book came out four years ago and five years ago when we were shopping it around and just the nos I would get and most of the nos were like, oh, well, no one wants to read an essay collection from a black girl or this is too niche. Like, she's not relatable. Like, no one outside of America is going to care about some black girl story. And that's five years ago, which is ridiculous that even just five years ago the notion that, like, the life story of a black woman is not interesting to anyone. So if people could see this imprint and that helps motivate them to write their own stories, then I think that that's great.

MCCAMMON: And on the same token, who do you see as your audience for this?

ROBINSON: I mean, it's always tricky to say because it's like with anything I do, I don't necessarily think about a certain demographic. I just want to do things that I believe in and that I think will resonate with people. Maybe whether it's funny or whether it's more emotional, I just want people who love books who love a great story, who love really distinct and powerful and interesting and quirky voices, like, I think that is one of my calling cards as a writer, not that I'm, like, that famous or anything, but if you know me and you read something without my name on it, you'd be like, oh, yeah, that sounds like you. So I really just want people who are attracted to that kind of style of really vibrant storytelling. And, you know, our focus is our essay collections, literary fiction and nonfiction. So I'm really - you know, I want to find that next Kiley Reid. Like, I really want to publish, like, that next Samantha Irby or just all these sort of amazing talent out there. And I want to be able to help bring in some more people.

MCCAMMON: That's author, comedian, actress and producer Phoebe Robinson telling us about her imprint, Tiny Reparations Books.

Phoebe, thank you for joining us.

ROBINSON: Thank you so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.