Discussion: Low Diversity in YA
Kel Sunday, May 11, 2014 discussion
Recently, a campaign for more diversity in YA books went viral. Twitter, Tumblr, the whole shebang. I'm sure many people have already said everything on this topic in far more eloquent terms, but I needed to write this post to gather my thoughts.
First, I really want to see more data. All the charts/graphs I've seen come from published samples. I'd love to see a comprehensive study starting with the literary agents and slush piles. I wonder how many manuscripts are submitted with "diverse" characters? Why are they rejected or accepted? How many are submitted to editors? Why are they accepted/rejected by the publishers? How well do they sell? And for what reasons?
Writers now seem to be in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" pickle. They're condemned if they don't write characters of color/LGBT/disability. They're condemned for stereotyping or writing too ambiguously if they do. I think it's important to keep campaigns like this positive. We shouldn't force writers to write characters one way or another for the sake of diversity statistics. What we should do is encourage writers of today and tomorrow to work hard and write the stories they want to tell. As my school teachers always said, if the book you want to read isn't out there, go write it.
Having options is the great thing about books. There's something for everyone regardless of your reading preferences. In the midst of this call for diversity, I want to stop for a moment and take a breath. Increased options for readers are good; but I want to be careful that, in the process, we don't vilify or devalue the white, straight, non-disabled characters or their authors, or the people who read them.