Investigated – Diversity in YA

Posted March 10, 2014 by Emz Chang in Investigated / 2 Comments

investigated

Today’s topic can be considered one of the more controversial topics of reading. Diversity. How many books have you read that feature minorities as main characters? For me, the answer is not as many as I would like. My friends and I were talking about book to movie adaptions which somehow transitioned to talking about what a failure the first Percy Jackson movie was and how the casting seemed a bit… odd. That, of course brought in the question of diversity. It is somewhat common knowledge that filmmakers have to add some sort of diversity into their cast (or at least try). The problem with the Percy Jackson movie was that some of the characters were of a different race than what they were described to be in the book. Which is of course, fine, but it didn’t stay true to the book which can be bothersome to die hard fans. But staying to true to the book meant that almost all the featured characters were of one race, which is also kind of bothersome.

I think that there are TOO many books today that have this same problem. All of the main characters are of one race while there is some diversity between the more minor characters (if we’re lucky). The worst part is that sometimes the race of those main characters aren’t even mentioned. In fact, sometimes their descriptions are pretty vague. She has brown eyes can almost fit any race. But the problem is that we are so used to all the characters being of one specific race that unless explicitly stated, we automatically assume those characters to be of one race. It’s not really anyone’s fault, but I wish a larger effort was made to clearly state the race of characters – not that is completely necessary appearance wise, but it would help to understand where the character comes from and how they were raised. Which also brings another problem, stereotypes, a discussion for another time. I get it, authors and publishers sometimes have to be careful what they include in fear of alienating people and thus hurting the sale and popularity of the book, but seriously? Can we at least try? Or at least include where the family of the character comes from. It doesn’t even have to be said, implied is good enough (for now). So many YA books today are about the differences between jocks and nerds. Between people of different statuses. Between people of different sexuality. What about between people of different cultures? Different backgrounds? Aren’t those important too?

What do you think?
Do you think more diversity is needed?

Emz Chang

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2 responses to “Investigated – Diversity in YA

  1. This is an interesting thought that I hadn’t really noticed before! But you are right. I will have to keep my eye open for more culturally diverse books

  2. Great point! I almost always assume characters are white, because I’m white, in the same way that I’m likely to assume other grad students are my age. It’s like I start with the idea that people are like me until it’s proven that they’re not. In this case. I’m not sure if I think this makes author’s not specifying a race a bad thing or not. It might be nice that anyone can imagine the character is like them and perhaps relate better. But I do like to read books that show different cultures and different races because I think we can learn empathy for people who are different from us by learning about them. Perhaps it’s good to have books that do both, although even with that conclusion I have to agree with you that we need more of the books which clearly include some diversity.