Where’s the diversity in YA literature?

Last week I talked a little bit about how stories can be a bridge builder between different cultures. When it comes down to it though, there really aren’t that many books published that deal with diversity. The majority of novels being published are primarily ones that reflect the dominant culture. But why?

Problems Within the Publishing World

It’s not like there aren’t authors who aren’t writing about characters outside of the “norm”, they just aren’t always published, “white authors and illustrators already have 95% of the publishing pie.” These books are often overlooked and seen as though they are not in high demand. Except, they are in high demand.

There are so many minority, young children and adults that would LOVE to have their story told, and better yet be represented in something they are reading. It doesn’t always have to be about the struggles they face as a minority race, but sometimes it can just be them being the hero for once in something they read.

“Books transmit values. They explore our common humanity. What is the message when some children are not represented in those books? Where are the future white personnel managers going to get their ideas of people of color? Where are the future white loan officers and future white politicians going to get their knowledge of people of color? Where are black children going to get a sense of who they are and what they can be?” – Walter Dean Myers

It’s so important for ALL children to be represented in what they are reading. To say their isn’t a demand for diverse reading materials is ignorant. Publishing companies need to wake up and realize that their job is to provide ALL readers with material that is going to be of great value to the kids. It’s not all about money and what is going to sell the quickest… sometimes it’s about being a nice human being by recognizing these issues and fixing them.

“It seems that if a publisher has one or two award-winning authors of color, they no longer feel obligated to actively seek out new talent, emerging voices that might extend the limited range of realities we find in children’s literature today.” – Elliott Zetta

Sometimes we have to recognize the problems for ourselves. Not all publishing companies are going to change whether we demand it or not. However, what we can do is continue to speaking out about the problem. We can also recognize the lesser publishing companies that often times publish diverse novels, and even look into independent publishers.

It’s time to put an end to the boundaries we have created that keep out banned books, challenged books, books that offer diversity. None of these boundaries are worth having. They all limit the opportunity and value that some kids may find in them. We don’t know what book with dramatically change a kid’s life, all we can do is offer them the books that we know have the potential to do so.

It’s important to place value in and read diverse books. There’s not many of them, no, but the ones that are published deserve to be read. We are people of diversity, why aren’t our books a mirror image of that?

My personal opinion: If we are going to continue to encourage young adults and readers of all ages to read, there should probably be something out there that they can be represented in.

Further Resources

Click on the links below for lists of diverse novels that you may be interested in:

http://bookriot.com/2014/05/22/30-diverse-ya-titles-get-radar/

https://www.buzzfeed.com/zakiyajamal/add-more-color-to-your-shelf?utm_term=.fqEXgB2o8#.ht3Q3JBdY

http://www.diversityinya.com/category/book-lists/

 

Happy reading this week!

 

-A.

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8 thoughts on “Where’s the diversity in YA literature?

  1. marharding says:

    I think another issue that individuals are faced with is if the diverse character is actually representative of the individuals who align with that character. Diverse characters need to not be devalued and need to be portrayed correctly. I think sometimes it’s easier for authors to devalue their diverse characters so they don’t have to do the research.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lifewithbooks2017 says:

      You’re so right! This is such an important aspect in writing. It’s important to know the culture in which a person is writing. I love Patricia McCormick for this reason, when she was writing “Sold” she spent a lot of her time researching the topic of sex trafficking. Thanks for making such a great point!

      Like

  2. MaryAnneJ says:

    You focused a lot more on the publishing aspect, which got me thinking; is our world as encouraging to all races and ethincities as it needs to be? We all know about those professions that have an unspoken conotation towards a certain group, cutting out a majority of others. I never really thought about it, but now I am interested to learn if publishing is one of those.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lifewithbooks2017 says:

      MaryAnne, I honestly think it could be consider as one of “those” groups. In the long run, they want what they think will sell to the majority of readers. If the majority of readers are the dominant culture, then that’s who they are going to target. It’s the sad reality I think. There are several books that get turned away every day because they “don’t have what it takes to sell”. It’s interesting stuff to research. I think the publishing industry has a long ways to go before its representing all kids fairly.

      Like

  3. seetheworldinbooks says:

    You wrote a very thoughtful response to this week’s readings. I agree with all of your points, and appreciate them too. As a Hispanic person, future teacher, and most importantly as a mother who’s trying to raise two good humans who are proud of the ethnicity, we need more representation in books – off all kinds of differences – whether it’s religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, students need to see themselves in books. It validates them in ways simply checking a box on a registration form can’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. tannerwalker6 says:

    Your quotes in the post about the publishing were good reference points. I think all your facts were very good and building bridges with books is an excellent way to break stereotypes and express the positive sides of culture.

    Liked by 1 person

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