Thursday, December 5, 2013

Reviewers' Roundtable- Diversity in YA

The Reviewers' Roundtable is a weekly discussion feature hosted by me and Emily from Read Your Bookcase.  Each week we discuss a different bookish/blogging topic and hope you guys will share your thoughts too! 

Go HERE to find a list of past/future topics.

The Hosts:

Diversity in YA- Where is it??

So I don't think it's any secret that there's a lack of diversity in YA books.  Many of the books on the shelves of Barnes & Noble feature straight white girl main characters.  Sometimes you get a boy main character... but mostly it's white girls.  And if you look at book covers, you will see this is reflected there.

The one trend I have been noticing on the rise is that there seem to be more YA books that feature Gay & Lesbian couples.  I mean I never thought a book like Two Boys Kissing could be able to be so popular in America... and this summer it seemed like everyone was reading it!  Just the cover and title alone in our homophobic society would normally be enough for people to fear it.  I'm happy to say this book did become main stream... and it's been nominated for a ton of awards.

But what about other minorities?  Sometimes I'll read a book which has a love interest who isn't white.  I've read a few books with Asian main characters.  Not very many African American main characters at all.

So why is this??  I am not equipped to answer such a huge question.  I *think* some of this has to do with that authors write what they know.  If most authors are white women, they are going to write about white women.  I recently went to a signing with Siobhan Vivian and Jenny Han where they discussed their Burn for Burn series.  Siobhan basically said that she didn't write as much of the Lillian character's parts because she didn't feel like she could portray the Asian-American experience as authentically as someone who is Asian-American (actually Korean-American I believe).  And that makes sense.  Can white authors really know how a character of a different ethnicity sees the world?  I don't really have the answers to that.  I'm sure they can do it, but maybe it doesn't feel as natural to them?

Maybe the real solution is that we need more diverse authors being published.  Maybe not every book cover with an African American on the cover needs to go directly to the Black History Month shelf at the book store.  Or the Urban Fiction shelf.  

If you want to get some really good information on this topic, I love this website.  It basically celebrates and promotes diversity in YA.  Also Forever YA did a fab series on this topic.  I also think librarians are big pushers of diversity in books, and I see that in all the book blogging librarians that I follow.  So I say keep up the good work guys!  

Here are some books I read or want to read which feature diversity:

So what do you think about this topic?  What would you like to see more of from a diversity perspective in YA?


  1. I think you're right about authors writing what they know and I think that accounts for a lot of the lack of diversity. It's nice to see when an author incorporates more than one ethnicity and I think it makes for a more authentic story. Great post! :)

  2. I AM a big pusher of diversity in YA :) Hooray! Great post! I agree - we need more diverse authors, too!

  3. "I never thought a book like Two Boys Kissing could be able to be so popular in America" So agreed but I was thrilled when it was received well!

    So I read pretty much all sci-fi and fantasy and this is even a bigger problem there. Apparently there are no PoC in alternate worlds.... Or LGBT people.... *bangs head against desk* I definitely feel that white authors have a hard spot when they want to write a character that isn't white/straight/whatever but they fear criticism if they mess it up ya know? I guess there are answers to this that involve lots of beta readers with alternate perspectives, but I'm not an author, so what do I know ;-). I've also read some horrifying posts about the difficulty that PoC authors go through when trying to get published. The idea that there is still that amount of discrimination in publishing just makes me so sad....

    The biggest thing we can do as readers is to buy the books that show diversity and support the PoC/LGBT authors we know of though right? And keep talking it! So thanks for posting <3

    1. I love your comments! and so agree. I don't read a lot of fantasy/sci-fi so I don't ever really know what goes on in that genre. I agree talking about it is important and I'm glad that the other girl who hosts this feature with me came up with the topic :)