Monday, April 30, 2012

Diversity (or the lack of) Explored

 On April 27,  author Laura Lacamara wrote a post called Will Latino Stories Sell? Over at Mommy Maestra.  Lacamara first picture book, Floating on Mama's Song is gorgeous.  In her article Lacamara gives hard numbers about under-representation.
The day before  Jen Doll wrote an article in the Atlantic Wire called The Ongoing Problem of Race in YA  She does not reveal anything new but its still good  for the lack of diversity in YA to be talked about.  What was more telling was a previous article by Doll called The Greatest Girl Characters  of YA literature.  It actually was not list itself which was exclusively White that had me shaking my head  but the comments. Though before I get to that, the first thing I noticed about the list is that there were a lot of older middle grade titles.  Overall it was not a great list and it was  founded on nostalgia.  Anyone familiar with children's literature knows characters of color do not have a chance when nostalgia comes into play.  There's always room for A Little House in the Prairie and Tree Grows in Brooklyn  but never  House on Mango Street,  Born Confused, The Bluest Eye or Huntress  All but Huntress (which I included because I was on roll) are classics but sadly these titles do not warrant the same amount of nostalgia pull.  So I was not surprised that they were all overlooked.   To be fair to Doll it looks like she did not work on this alone.

But in the Y.A. books of our youth, they are far more complex, and more thoroughly drawn. They have been for years, and they continue to be so. Here are a few of our favorites

Knowing that this diverse free list was a group effort and not the work of one person is a bit more troubling.  To Doll's credit, she admits to the oversight  in The Ongoing Problem of Race in YA.  However it should not have happened in the first place. If I created a list in which I neglected include any White authors or characters I would be called out with the quickness. And that's how it should be. Though that is not what happened here 

PaulaNash left the fifty four comment, and was first person to suggest a character of color, Cassie Logan from Roll of Thunder Hear Me Cry. Before that comment no one mentioned or even questioned why the list was all White. Some people probably raised their concerns  privately via email, hence the Ongoing Problem of Race in YA article.  Even so the fact that no one deemed it necessary make note of this in public comments is very telling.   People should want to comment freely about the  lack of fair representation at any time not only when the article, piece, entry what have you is on diversity.  When it is only the latter it proves to me a lot more still needs to change.  

If you have read this far down, I hope you are a little amped up to support   YA diversity. If that is the case, Guys Lit Wire is currently running their annual book fair. This year they have returned to Ballou H.S. in Washington D.C.   Head on over to GLW and find all you need to know,

5 comments: said...

I have read several articles on the lack of diversity in children book publishing. Even the SCBWI latest magazine issue addresses the subject, quite nicely, I think. I just wonder if the publishing world is listening, or even care. We may need to diversify the publishing industry before we see any progress in that direction. Often time, change is a long time coming.

Kristi's Book Nook said...

This is a great post. I know lots of authors of color who are supporting this and working on books that have characters of color. Thanks.

Wm Bearclaw said...

Thanks so much, Doret, for the great post & for linking to Laura's article & her book ! !

It seemed disappointing that publishers were taking such a narrow view of the market . . . however, we'll continue to be optimistic that strong stories & colorful (in both senses) characters will shine through & find a larger audience.

-- H A L ☮ ♥

Charlotte said...

I think this is one of the worst years EVER for kids of color in mg sff, and in YA too. And whitewashing keeps on chugging along....

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