Today I’m going to call myself out.
My classes at Brock recently have encouraged a closer analysis of my own interests in YA lit in order to determine how those interests correlate with what lit is pushed by publishing houses and marketing teams.
You’ve guessed it. I’m talking about the white washing of popular YA lit and my own
blind consumption of it.
In case anyone cares to learn something from this today, what I am about to take part in is called pleasure critique nexus. It is the critiquing of a concept, genre, or activity that a patron particularly enjoys. Obviously, I quite passionately enjoy YA lit.
Today, I took a look at my bookshelf, and I looked for covers that illustrated a person of colour or featured a protagonist of a skin colour other than white within the story.
There are approx 200 books on this shelf (I haven’t counted so don’t hate if I’m wrong). When I looked through the books I owned for representation of ethnic diversity, this is what I came up with.
Of the approx 200 books on my shelf, there were 7 books that featured a person of colour in a primary position in the story. The books are The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Adieh, Red Queen & Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard, The Walled City by Ryan Graudin, Veronica Roth’s Allegiant, Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, and Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes. In Adieh and Tahir’s novels the protagonists are of an undisclosed middle eastern ethnicity. In Roth’s Divergent trilogy Four, the love interest of the protagonist Tris, is mixed race. I only included Alegiant and not the first two novels because it was only after Insurgent was published that Roth revealed an inconsistency in her writing where Four was in some scenes very pale but in other dark skinned. Moreover, Allegiant is a split narrative with both Tris and Four telling the story. The protagonists in The Walled City and Cinder are both a undisclosed Asian heritage and the protagonist in Aveyard’s books, Mare Barrow, is also of mixed race.
So why is this important? What does this say about me as a reader? What does this say about diversity in YA? Is this more telling of my own interests or of the priorities of the publishing houses that publish these books?
With careful consideration, I think that is a mix between my own fault and the fault of the publishing companies for the lack of diversity. I am a firm believer in everyone wanting to read a book where they can relate to the protagonist. On more than one occasion, I have found myself striving to emulate the characteristics of my favourite heroine in my every day life, and this is by no means a bad thing. However, I am a white, heterosexual, middle class female, and the novels that I read tend to be similar to what I am. If I can’t relate to the character, I usually can’t get into the book.
I’m here to call bullshit on myself and say that this type of attitude is unacceptable.
By reading the same character profile throughout a variety of novels, I am only limiting myself. I am only making myself more ignorant to the colourful vibrant haunting glorious and terrifying novels out there that don’t immediately appeal to me because they arn’t about someone like me. And this is shitty on my part.
So! Here’s to a diverse YA lit 2016. To the readers, have you ever noticed yourself falling into a habit of reading things that are within your comfort zone? What thoughts do you have on diversity within lit (doesn’t have to be YA)?
Next week I’ll be talking on another level of diversity in YA, and that’ll be the lack of LGBTQ relations. I will, however, highlight a few that I have read recently and love. 🙂