We need diversity in all genres of YA, and across the board in media. This is a well-known fact, and if you don’t believe in it…I’m not sure my blog is the place for you. In this post, I’ll be focusing on why we need diversity in the genres of science fiction and fantasy specifically.
Fantasy and sci-fi are two of the most read genres of YA. Most teenagers have read books like The Hunger Games or Harry Potter. Those genres are also extremely non-diverse: most stories feature white, cishet, able characters. It’s a fact that both science fiction and fantasy are mainly diverse. Slowly, the number of diverse SFF (science fiction & fantasy) books is growing, but every SFF book should be diverse.
In a fantasy or sci-fi world, even if it’s based on or in our own, the author creates the rules of the world, so they can add as much-or as little-diversity as they want. Why, then, are we seeing the same non-diverse stories over and over? If an author can create fictional races, why can’t they include POC or LGBTQ+ characters? It’s not difficult, especially because diverse characters are not other beings. You have to come up with a completely new thing to write a character like an elf, and that’s not the case for writing diverse characters. So why do we see more elves than LGBTQ+ characters in SFF? Especially if the book is science fiction, and can still use all the terms we do today, there is no excuse for not having diversity in fantasy or science fiction.
You might be understanding why I wholeheartedly support adding more diversity to fantasy and science fiction.
We need diversity in both fantasy and sci-fi for the same reasons we need diversity in all other genres. But we also need it for even more reasons.
-to show POC teens that they can save the world, too.
-to show LGBTQ+ teens that they can do just as much as cishet ones.
-to show teens with anxiety that they can kick ass.
-to show disabled teens that they belong in as many stories as as able teens do.
Our marginalized teenagers deserve to see themselves represented in every book, including fantasy and sci-fi. Marginalized characters can battle monsters and traverse worlds and go to space just like any other character, so why isn’t that reflected in science fiction or fantasy?
And less important, but still: Our privileged teenagers need to see that they are not the most important people in this world. There are a lot of different people across the world, and everyone should be focused on expanding their worldview. Books do help with that.
Imagine, for a second, if your favorite sci-fi or fantasy book had more diversity. (If it already does, I am very happy. I know mine do.) Imagine The Hunger Games if Katniss used a wheelchair or had anxiety. Imagine Throne of Glass if Celaena was queer. Imagine Harry Potter if Hermione was black. They would be very different stories, but still just as interesting, if not more so.
Diverse Fantasy and Science Fiction Recommendations:
(Note: I’ve tried to keep this list free of problematic books, so please don’t comment and say, ‘Hey, you forgot to add this one!’ if you know it’s problematic. If you know a book is not problematic, mention it in the comments so others can find out about it.)
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
The Young Elites by Marie Lu
The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
The Reader by Traci Chee
The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Legend by Marie Lu
Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older
The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie
On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis
Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis
Proxy by Alex London
We Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson
The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
Unicorn Tracks by Julia Ember
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Iron Cast by Destiny Soria
Timekeeper by Tara Sim
The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine
Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee
Beyond the Red by Ava Jae
Truthwitch/Windwitch by Susan Dennard
Fate of Flames by Sarah Raughley
Prophecy by Ellen Oh
The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco
The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig
Serpentine by Cindy Pon
Huntress by Malinda Lo
Ash by Malinda Lo
The Blazing Star by Imani Josey
Dreadnought by April Daniels
Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza
Every Heart A Doorway by Seannan McGuire
The Diviners by Libba Bray
Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst
Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova
This is just a small sampling of the diverse SFF books we have, so they are out there, but that number needs to grow. Diversity in science fiction and fantasy is so important, and something needs to change. Our SFF cannot keep looking like this.
Why do you think we need more diversity in sci-fi/fantasy? Do you read diverse SFF? What are your favorite books in that category? What books on this list have you read? What books-on this list, or off it-are on your TBR?
Thanks for reading!