Earlier this month I did a guest for for the wonderful Avid Reader blog and I chose to speak about racial diversity specifically in YA.
I wrote up this post because diversity in books really hits home for me personally. Almost three years ago my husband and I adopted a sibling group who, even amongst themselves, are diverse racially.
Racial Diversity In YA Over The Last Year
If you follow me at all on my blog or Twitter @thebooktraveler, you’ll know a few things about me: 1. I love reading fantasy, and 2. I adopted a sibling group (Daughter: African American, Son: Biracial (African American/Mexican), and Son: Biracial (African American/Caucasian)) three years ago with my husband. After my kids moved in I became grossly away of the MAJOR imbalance of racial diversity within books, TV and movies.
It is so unequal I found, and still find, myself getting frustrated…a lot!
For this post I wanted to address racial diversity within the confines of YA literature specifically. I’ve seen, just over this year, a major shift and change in regards to diversity as a whole in YA. If you asked me a few years ago to name Non-White MAIN CHARACTERS in a YA book, my options were VERY limited. Allison Sekemoto from The Blood of Eden trilogy by Julie Kagawa is Japanese, and To all the Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han is Chinese American. Other than that, I could only name secondary characters: Nehemiah from Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, Magnus Bane from The Immortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare, and Jie Chen and Daniel Boyer and from Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard. Obviously, this was not ok! I’m sure there are more but none that I had read.
Every time a book cover is revealed and another “white face” appears, I cringe. Come on! Really? Do they ALWAYS have to be white?
When it comes writing diversity, I see things twofold:
- If the world is make believe, such as fantasy or science fiction, racial diversity is EASY to put in. There are no cultures that need to be researched in order to make the character authentic and real. My example is Jubilee from Their Shattered World. Her race wasn’t really a focus of the book, at all. I loved that this book had a MAIN character who was not white.
- If the book is a contemporary or historical fiction book, diversity must be taken more cautiously. If a white author wants to write about a black family, then the author should do research in order to make sure stereotypes aren’t written in and that facts are correct. However, there is no need to HAVE to write white if you’re white! (Again reference Ockler post)
I am quite pleased to see SO MANY MORE diverse books this year. I have not read many of these books yet so I cannot vouch for the authenticity of the racially diverse characters. I’ve read a few of these books on the list I’ve put together and many more I plan to read (especially The Wrath and the Dawn, 5 to 1, and The Summer of Chasing Mermaids) over this next year.
Let’s keep the trend going, but please authors, don’t write racially diverse books just to write them because it’s “popular to do so” but rather, write them because all races deserve to be seen and let these characters be beautiful inside and out.
Below is a list I created with the help of suggestions from others on Twitter. (I apologize if any of the information is inaccurate. I tried my best to get as many books as possible, get the ethnicity correct with the characters and also including book release dates. It is by no means exhaustive)
*Click image and zoom in to see the ethnicity of the characters and release dates!