If you pick up a random book off your bookshelves, there is a 96% chance that it will feature white, heterosexual, cisgender, and able bodied main characters.
This is a FACT.*
*Percentages may vary. Not based on scientific evidence.
If you’ve been here in the book world, you know that people are clamoring for books featuring diverse characters. And I am ALL FOR IT. With sites like LGBTQ Reads, or We Need Diverse Books, or book blogs entirely dedicated to diverse books… It’s incredible. It’s a topic that’s constantly talked about. And yes, I’m one of those people who DOES talk about it a lot.
If people wanting to see themselves in books annoys you? If you think that people talking about diversity is just “drama in the book community”? Please, leave now. I won’t be sad to see you go.
One of the reasons I love reading so much is that I get to read about people unlike myself. How can I do that if every character looks and lives like me? It is just boring when every book you read features an identical cast of characters.
I make it a goal of mine to read books by #ownvoices authors and/or books with characters of color, LGBTQIAP+ characters, disabled characters, etc…
And I KNOW I’m not doing as good a job of it as I want to be. I try, but it’s not good enough. I support books that don’t have white/cishet/able characters, but I can do MORE. I can talk about those books that I have read more often. I can buy those books more often. I can recommend them to my library so others might have the chance to read them.
And if you think:
that diversity is NOT important
that the people wanting diversity are just complaining
that there’s “already enough” diversity and representation in books
that if we want books featuring characters like us we should just write them ourselves
that we’re trying to “force diversity”
that it’s unrealistic to have diversity or more than one “diverse character” in books
that “you can’t just not include white people”
I don’t know what to say to you. (I could list on and on. I really have heard all of these arguments over and over, and I just can’t believe them.)
Oh, also: Writers, don’t stick to just writing characters that look like you. You want to write an Korean character, but you’re white? Do your research, write them respectfully, and get (Korean) beta readers. If you mess up? Try again. Don’t say “Oh, I was too scared that I would do it wrong, so I just made everyone white because it was easiest.” That’s not an excuse. Try harder.
Without further ado, here are just a few reasons why diversity and representation are so, so needed in YA.
#1: So EVERYONE can see themselves represented in books accurately and respectfully.
#2: Because our world is wonderfully diverse, and that should be reflected in YA.
I could list so many more. Really. I could talk FOREVER about why we need diversity and representation in YA.
But I hope that by now, you get it. I hope that you understand WHY it’s so important. And not just from this blog post, but from the hundreds of people speaking out on Twitter and then getting attacked for it. You really should get it by now.
And if you don’t, I don’t want to waste my time with you.
(I’d rather spend my time recommending or reading diverse books.)
Diversity IS needed. That’s not just my opinion. That’s a fact.
So, to summarize:
Read (and review!) diverse books. Support diverse authors. Talk about why diversity is important. And if you ARE a writer…I sure hope your characters aren’t all white, heterosexual, able, and cisgender. Because that’s just disappointing.
Why do YOU think we need diversity and representation in YA? What are some of your favorite diverse books? What are you doing to talk about diversity?