Weekend Reads #7: Diversity in YA

I’m so glad to report that Nici has updated the Goodreads group page so I’ll be continuing with her topics. Weekend Reads is a Goodreads group created by Nici, a booktuber over at LitPixie. Basically book lovers can record a video or write a blog post about what they plan to read on the weekend, and also answer a fun question.

The question for this weekend:

Diversity in YA…why do you think there is a lack thereof, and what do you think can be done about it?

Nici hits us with a serious topic this weekend. There is a lack of diversity in young adult and children’s fiction, and it is a problem. One only has to glance at my bookshelf to see evidence of this. I enjoy reading young-adult and middle-grade fantasy novels, and the majority of writers in those fields are White. It’s a fact that niggles me because as an African descendant, I often do not feel represented in the majority of books I read. —Not that it prevents me from enjoying the book, mind, but it would be nice to see more of myself and my culture in what I read. It helps to show that I matter in this society. As Apoora Mandavilli said in a wonderful article I found on Medium.com:

“You can never overestimate how empowering it is to see someone who looks like you—only older and more successful. That, much more than well-meaning advice and encouragement, tells you that you can make it.”

She was discussing the lack of diversity in science journalism but the quote can be applied to any field. For me, it’s empowering to see successful authors of color and it’s empowering to see characters of color holding well-meaning roles in the books I read. I think that’s why I’m so excited to read Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older since he infuses Caribbean legend into the story.

However, in order to diversify the books that are published, the publishing industry—”the gatekeepers”—must also be diversified. Most times when people consider the lack of diversity in books, they only think of characters and authors and not those who help to bring such stories and people to their attention. But there is also a lack of diversity among those working behind the books. Usually those who are able to work in book publishing are those who are from a wealthy background, which often means those who are White. Internships are often unpaid and the pay is low so those from poorer backgrounds—usually minorities—are unable to take such payment while working in an expensive city like New York, where the majority of publishing houses are based. An article published on Melville House’s website back in 2013 touched on this issue. It was discussing a salary survey of the publishing industry that was released by BookCareers.com. The focus was on U.K. salaries but I think the article applies to the U.S. as well.

Hence it’s no surprise that I admire the efforts put forth by the We Need Diverse Books campaign. Not only do they rally to have more diverse children’s books published, they’ve also started an internship program for minorities to secure positions in the publishing industry. I think this a great venture because simply having more diverse authors published without also diversifing those working at publishing companies is like giving a house a facelift but leaving the cracks in its foundation. I hope this campaign is a success and I hope that there will be more successful minority authors and more stories about minorities or that prominently feature minorities in the future.

What I’m reading this weekend?

And after all that talk on diversity, I’ll be spending my weekend with these two. I’m about halfway through Talon and I don’t like it as much as I thought I would. The story is okay, the protagonist, Ember, is annoying, and….I’m not a fan. I don’t hate it so I’ll finish it but right now I doubt I’ll continue with the series.

I started reading Anna and the French Kiss sometime last week when I got a free sample from my Nook app. I thought it was interesting so I’ll continue with it this weekend to see if I like it.

And that’s it.

Please share your thoughts and comments below, whether it’s on diversity in publishing or what you’re reading, or anything else.

Happy reading 😀

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5 thoughts on “Weekend Reads #7: Diversity in YA

  1. Pingback: “A Long Day’s Evening” by Bilge Karasu | Zezee with Books

  2. Diversity in fiction is so important! When I was 8, I was fortunate enough to stumble upon the Teen Power Inc. series by Emily Rodda which had an Asian girl as a main character. I had someone to to look up to, someone who gave me confidence, and I will always be grateful to that book and to that author.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yea, I think stories have a greater impact when you can see yourself or a representative of your background in them. Since I spend most of my time reading fantasy, I usually don’t see myself reflected in the stories but the ones that have a strong female protagonist make me so happy that I’ll just imagine myself as her and continue on reading with my image in her place.

      Like

  3. This week / end, i have been reading ‘ The wisdom of laotse ‘ by Lin yutang, which is very interesting if you like ancient philosophy, which I do do do.
    My only criticism of it is its smell!!!
    I payed 70 cents for this 67 year old book and I think for 66 of those years it’s been mouldering in some dank dirty corner!
    I’ve named it ‘old smelly’ and tried to diffuse it’s pong with aftershave and mandarin peel. Anyway it’s good reading so back to it :-S

    Ps Diversity press would be a good name for a publisher 😉
    Diverse tales, by zezee Z 😉 😉

    Like

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