#WeNeedDiverseBooks

Sunday, May 4, 2014

This weekend the internet was abuzz with a campaign that made me giddy with excitement. Before I explain, let me back up and share what has been going on in the book world, in case you have missed out. The Book Expo America will be taking place at the end of this month in New York, and some startling news popped up about the BookCon author panels. BEA announced an all white, all male Kid Lit panel. Problem? You bet. To make matters worse, they announced a guest list where the only non-white person was a cat. A FREAKING CAT. 





Now, if you have read even a handful of books in the YA universe, you will know that there are some bad ass authors that are also people of color (POC). So for BEA to make a mistake like this is an epic one. This is what caused authors Ellen Oh, Malinda Po, and Cindy Pon to come together and create a three day event in protest. Their website is full of eye opening statistics and facts that only encourage readers to support and read diverse books.


Did you know that:

  • Among the 65 YA fiction titles on the best seller list, 10 featured main characters of color; that’s 15%.
  • Among the 65 fiction titles on the YA list, eight titles include LGBT main characters, at 12% of total.
  • Only two titles on the NYT YA Best Sellers list featured main characters with disabilities: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (cancer and related disabilities) and Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan (depression). 
  • Out of 76 total young adult authors on the YA list and the Children’s Series list, one author’s race is unknown (Morgan Rice), and seven are authors of color, or 9%.

The result of the campaign was amazing, as people reached out on facebook, twitter, tumblr, and Instagram to highlight diverse books and authors. The hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks was seen almost everywhere with people submitting their own person reasons why they needed diverse books. I even took up a banner and shared why I needed diverse books.


Even though today ends the campaign, awareness still needs to happen. So tell me, why do you need diverse books? 



3 comments:

  1. It kind of boggles the mind about the Kid Lit panel. I was under the impression that most authors who wrote for that category were women! I know that I still find it surprising when I see a male author's name on children's, middle grade, or young adult titles. (I'd like to give BEA the benefit of the doubt and think that, maybe, they were trying to bring more "diversity" by the panel by choosing authors from the underrepresented gender; unfortunately, I suspect it was just plain old sexism, since they didn't include any women at all.)

    Those charts by Malinda Lo are kind of interesting. "Characters of Colour" is a bit too low. It's certainly not representative of a lot of geographic areas in the Western world (like mine, where more than half the population is a visible minority). "LGBT Characters" was a bit of a surprise. At 12%, it might not be that far off the percentage of people who identify that way (depending on what statistics you look at). I'd guess that growth in the number of LGBT characters is a rather recent development, though; I can't recall reading (or even hearing about) books with LGBT characters when I was a teenager. "Characters with Disabilities" is woefully low, especially if you're including things like illnesses (cancer, etc.) and invisible disabilities (depression, bipolar, fibromyalgia, etc.). Some estimates put rates of chronic illness at more than 50% of the population. So a 3% representation is kind of pathetic.

    I was looking through a list of the books I liked the most (and thinking about a few other favourites that weren't on the list). Quite a few of them have characters of colour. A number are set outside the United States (which I count toward "diversity", especially since much of YA fiction is so heavily skewed toward the U.S.). A couple feature characters with disabilities. Only one of them has any LGBT characters, and it was an adult title. (It's not that I haven't read more books with LGBT characters. I just haven't found many that I really loved.)

    I need diversity in books because I'm white and heterosexual. I already "get" that point of view. I want to see the world through the lens of other cultures and sexual orientations.

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    Replies
    1. I love that you were thoughtful enough to give this post a response! Thank you!

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    2. Ahhh that came out wrong. Haha. I meant thank you for leaving a thought provoking response! I think that regardless of whatever background we come from we can all use some diversity in our lives. Awareness is key.

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