I know you all know (or at least I think you all know) that I’m black, African, dark skinned, colored – whatever you want to call it – and an avid reader of young adult fiction. I have participated and listened to people participate in the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement but I thought I would share with you guys some thoughts and feels I’ve had about this whole discussion.
I’ll jump right in and say; my problem with this whole discussion/movement is that I’ve noticed a sort of cycle between readers and authors/publishers. From what I’ve noticed plenty of authors/publishers have heard the pleas of the book community for more diversity in young adult fiction – so what do the authors/publishers do? They slowly start to incorporate more diversity into their stories. Now you would think this would make everyone happy but no the book community instead starts to criticize these authors/publishers, picking apart every little thing wrong with these characters. It’s as if this one character in this one book is supposed to represent an entire race. The message that this clearly sends is that if you’re going to add a diverse character in your story then they better be flawless but it impossible to please everyone. For example books like Rebel of the Sands by Alywin Hamilton, Passenger by Alex Bracken, The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout even Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas were all books that were criticized for their diverse characters. I mean we should be commending these authors for even trying to diversify their books. We all know the young adult genre is dominated by white authors and most of the time its really hard not to stereotype a race that is not your own so I say bravo for even trying. No one likes being stereotyped but the more this cycle goes on the less publishers want to publish diverse books.
Now even after all I’ve said I do understand that some authors can be down right offensive when it comes to describing/writing about other races; I particularly hate it when black people are described as having chocolate or coffee colored skin (ugh I cringe every time!) no one wants to be compared to food. Another thing that really sets me off is when black people are described as being “African American” even though the character has never been to either of those places. I mean the book could be set in freaking France and the author would still say African American. White authors need to know there is nothing wrong with the word black – trying to tip toe around the word is just hilarious! If that’s too intense a word for you to with dark skinned or I don’t know person of color?
Lastly I just wanted to mention, diversity in books shouldn’t always be about struggle/oppression. I’m in no way saying that learning about those things isn’t important because it is. I’m just saying as a black teenager I would like to read books that are relatable to me. Some great examples are:
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