Diversity in YA Lit–We Need It!

DiversityHello everybody! >throws snow in your face< Seasons greetings!

Heh heh. Aren’t I hilarious?

So when I first started Girl Knows Books, when I was but a wee elementary school student who was vastly dorky and ignorant of many, many things, I did not see the book world as incredibly complicated. At all. I had a vague idea of the process that goes into creating a book, and that those books got shipped to bookstores and stuff and people bought them, and they liked them or didn’t like them, etc., etc. But over the years, it’s being revealed that there is so much more–more and more facets to consider and pay attention to. The book industry is a big place, and there are many different things that are a part of it and the books we read.

One of these revelations came when I was surfing the Internet (as I am terribly wont to do) and I came across this amazing Tumblr, created by Young Adult authors Cindy Pon and Malinda Lo. This Tumblr focuses on the diversity found in Young Adult literature, and, too often, the lack thereof. And there is a lack, trust me.

Take a look at this picture:

"Diversity in Children's Books" by Tina Kugler

“Diversity in Children’s Books” by Tina Kugler

Then take a look at this infographic from First Book:

Lack of Diversity--First BookBoth of these show deeply troubling facts about children’s books–there is a distinct, gaping hole in their diversity. A HUGE hole. A MAMMOTH hole.

A VERY VERY VERY VERY NOT GOOD HOLE.

While these aren’t dealing with YA literature, the same is true there, as well–while YA is full of vastly different stories, plots, and settings, the diversity of its characters is. . .well.

But it’s not even just in YA or children’s.

In the Combined Print & E-Book Fiction (adult) bestsellers list of The New York Times, out of 124 authors, 3 were people of color. And there were NO African Americans.

There are more and more examples of similar situations. (Like this.) It’s definitely a problem.

I think one of the best things about books is the fact that you can see yourself in them. When you’re reading about a character and you realize that they feel something you thought only you felt. When you don’t feel alone. When you see your culture represented. When you see yourself in the book.

That feeling is great. But without diversity, how are more people going to be able to experience it?

Diversity--GlobeNot to mention the fact that it’s pretty amazing to be able to look at a bookshelf in a library or store and see all the different colors and facets of the characters, white, black, Latino, Asian, straight, gay, transgender, boy, girl. Humanity, reflected in the written word.

This problem even extends to book covers, too. There have been books that feature characters of color that have white people on the covers, or covers designed so that the race of the model is hidden. Author Ellen Oh writes here about the huge amounts of gorgeous white girls on books. It’s just more disheartening.

We need diversity to show the beauty of the many, many cultures present on Earth, and to help show that everyone (everyone) is beautiful, no matter what they look like, what they identify with, etc.

Luckily, though, there’s hope. The Diversity in YA Tumblr, for instance, is great for getting the word out about diversity-related issues, and also spotlights diverse books and book covers. (Here, they’ve collected diverse book covers from 2013 YA lit.) Getting people to know about it is important to finding a solution. While the lack of diversity is incredibly sad, and it would be great to see the numbers increase, there are a lot of amazing books that feature diverse characters. Maybe they just need more attention, so they can reach more people. There’s Walter Dean Myers’ books. Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman. Two Boys Kissing by David Leviathan.

Really, this is just sort of a post that resulted from me wanting to talk about this, and I apologize if it’s disorganized. But seriously, check out those links. There is A LOT to see. (You can also see more about that illustration and infographic here and here.)

What diverse books do you know of? If you leave them in the comments or email me, I’ll put them together into another post!

Have a great day!

Literary Quote of the Day: “It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” –Maya Angelou

P.S. Two posts? IN ONE DAY?! >falls over< You probably shouldn’t get used to it.

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