Return of Blog – Diversity in YA
Posted on February 25, 2013
In some of my old posts, I talked about Race in YA literature. One of my favorite young adult literature authors, Malinda Lo, announced that an old site that she and author Cindy Pon created while they did a national book tour in 2011 has been revived. I reviewed Lo’s extensive blog before, and I’m happy to see that she helped bring back the website titled “Diversity in YA” on Tumblr.
The site gives space to presentation of books, awards, and discussion. On their home page, they state their encompassing mission when they write, “We celebrate young adult books about all kinds of diversity, from race to sexual orientation to gender identity and disability. We hope you’ll enjoy celebrating them with us.” It would be great if there weren’t a need for a specific website dedicated to diversity in YA literature, but most writers of the genre as well as readers should be able to admit that it’s an issue that needs a voice.
When I attended the James River Writers’ Conference back in October, I got a chance to talk to Lo specifically about diversity. I asked what to do if I wanted to include characters of different race or sexuality. Should I hint at it as other works do? For example, when the movie for Hunger Games came out, the race of the characters became a huge discussion since Suzanne Collins never comes out in the text to overtly establish it, and the portrayals in the movie caught some readers by surprise.
Lo gave one of the best responses I’ve heard to a question in concise fashion and a true gift to me as a beginning author. She told me not to hint at anything. If someone’s race is specific, then say it and move on. The same definitely applies to sexuality as well. The readers of the books are not all the same, so why should the characters be the same? It would be great for more young readers to see themselves in the characters in a more direct manner.
I was reminded of the issue recently when a friend and former teaching colleague of mine wrote a post on the blog site “Teen Writers Bloc“ about John Green’s lack of diversity. Dhonielle Clayton wrote an interesting plea to Greene in her post “Dear John Green: An Open Letter About Diversity from a Little Brown Librarian” that expresses the frustration of reading whiteness in critically acclaimed books and the desire for a YA author with his caliber to do something about it. Interestingly enough, Green (@realjohngreen) saw her blog post and responded to her (@brownbookworm) on Twitter. While he reminded her of a couple of secondary characters in Looking for Alaska, Clayton acknowledged his consideration of the issue but asked him to consider making a POV main character one of diversity. Their Twitter conversation adds to the discussion that it’s not an easy subject for beginning writers or established ones to deal with but one that needs addressing.
As a former English teacher and now a burgeoning YA author, I wish a site like this had existed when searching for books to teach. Diversity is more than just a multicultural section in a textbook or the few promoted books within the classroom or on the shelves of libraries. I look forward to reading more posts within http://diversityinya.tumblr.com/, and participating in the discussion.