Teens “are hungry for good literature and it hurts me because we’re not offering them enough of what they need,” said Sharon Draper, author of award-winning books like “November Blues” and “Copper Sun.”
In 2014, the movement to publish more authors of color and write multicultural main characters remains slow and incremental.
This is not a new discussion: There has long been criticism about the lack of diversity in young adult literature, books written for readers ages 12 to 18. Experts and authors like Walter Dean Myers point back as early as 1965, when educator Nancy Larrick stirred the conversation with an article entitled “The All-White World of Children’s Books.”— “ Where’s the African-American Harry Potter or the Mexican Katniss?" by Ashley Strickland at cnn.com. (via diversityinya)
More Book Recommendations: THE COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN and CRESS
I’m on vacation, and I’ve gotten into this really great rhythm of reading all the time and eating and then sometimes reading whileeating, which is trickier but still enjoyable.
These two books are good, good in that way where you feel like you have to tell someone about them or else your brain will actually explode.
This book is for people who like vampire books. This book is also for people who got burned out on vampire books a few years ago and have sworn them off forever. This book is also for people who never liked vampire books all that much in the first place. Basically, if you are a person who likes to read good books, this book is for you, no matter how you feel about vampires or have ever felt about vampires in the past.
Personally, if I had a “ship” for this book, it was Tana and Humanity (you know, as opposed to Vampirism). Yes, I had my heart set on Tanamanity in a pretty intense way, because in a world where so many people are voluntarily trading in life for their idealized notions of eternal death, all Tana, who has a more realistic understanding of that “eternal death”, wants is to stay human…BUT not at the expense of the people she cares about, which is why that fight keeps getting harder and harder for her. And Tana is a great character, imperfect and interesting and someone I passionately rooted for all the way through. This book doesn’t romanticize vampirism or have you rooting for it for Tana OR even villainize all those who choose it for themselves (because: nuance!). It’s also written beautifully, with a really rich setting and complex characters, and basically, I can’t do it justice, so you just have to read it, okay? Great.
Here, a quote:
“‘Haven’t you ever thought about it—being a vampire?’
It would be good-bye, Pearl; good-bye, Pauline; good-bye, dream of Los Angeles and palm trees and bright blue ocean. Good-bye, lying on a towel in the backyard under the summer sun, ants crawling across her foot, slippery cocoa butter gleaming on her skin. Good-bye, beating heart and burgers and having blue-gray eyes.
Kill Aidan or die herself. Die and rise.”
(155 in the e-book)
If you haven’t started this series, I recommend it, and basically all you need to know is: fairytale retellings…in the future! With cyborgs, and spaceships, and aliens! And substantially fewer “damsels in distress” than you might be anticipating when I say the word “fairytale.” In fact, generally the damsels are rescuing other people, or themselves.
I don’t want to say much, because this is the third book in what should be a four-parter, but each subsequent book in the series incorporates the characters that came before and new ones, and their stories continue to grow and intertwine in very interesting ways. Can’t wait for the next one (which is called Winter, out in 2015).
And now, to read more things!
lauriehalseanderson asked: I just linked to one of your posts about the John Greenification of the Times bestseller list as part of my response to a question on the topic in my Reddit IAMA (tumblr won't let me post a link in this Ask box - sorry!) If you search the Reddit for the newest post, it should pop right up. Would love your thoughts on this!
I’m answering this publicly because I love this really thoughtful response about the “John Greenification” of YA which came up as part of Laurie Halse Anderson’s excellent AMA over at Reddit.
My thoughts on this mirror Laurie’s: I think that John Green is being called out not because he’s John Green (as I noted in the response she linked, I have no disrespect for Green nor his work in the least and I do think he’s a feminist and that he is trying to be the best member of the YA community that he can be). He’s being called out because he’s what privilege looks like in our society — it’s white, heterosexual, and male. Those are not the whole of him, but they are the parts that give him a tremendous advantage in the world. I do not for one second believe he takes advantage of them. I do, however, believe he has significant advantages because of them.
This, as Laurie points out, becomes evident when you look at how he’s portrayed in the media. He’s “saving” YA. He’s leading a “revolution” in realistic fiction and in realistic fiction being put onto the big screen. He’s held on this pedestal of what YA should strive to be. This isn’t just the mainstream media though. He is being used as a marketing tool in a ton of recently released or forthcoming YA titles, even when it makes no sense why there’s a comparison. Instead of being a useful thing — “readers who like John Green might like x-book, too” — it’s become a means of reducing YA fiction to one thing. It’s reduced YA fiction into “good” and “bad,” rather than a spectrum where books can fall anywhere along the line. Or where a book’s merit and value are with the reader his or her self.
John Green writes good books. He has a loyal fan base. This is GREAT stuff.
But it’s not the only stuff out there.
What Laurie proposes is exactly what I hope comes of this on-going conversation. We need to keep talking about other books. We need to keep speaking up on behalf of long-time authors who deserve the recognition they don’t see as much as they should. We need to keep talking about the books written by new authors.
We especially need to keep talking up books written by people of color, people who aren’t straight, people who don’t identify with those things which are so readily seen and promoted. It’s our job to do that.
And while I think John Green tries — he has done videos highlighting tons of under appreciated titles — the thing about being in a place of privilege is that you can’t always step back far enough to see where and how your voice is being used. I think this is especially true for someone like Green who is likable, good hearted, and DOESN’T intend to do any harm or cause any problems. A lot of what he sees as success he earned by hard work.
The problem is that so many other people have worked as hard — if not harder — and their work never gets that same attention or praise.
Laurie’s Speak was the 75th highest selling children’s backlist title last year, according to Publishers Weekly. Sarah Dessen’s The Moon and More sold over 100,000 copies as a front list hardcover book. If you look at those numbers and the numbers of other titles that appeared on the NYT YA list, there are discrepancies I can’t figure out because the NYT’s system is a broken one. But it’s one I refer to again and again because it’s the quickest indicator of quality to the general reading public (and even the general non-reading public). And I think it’s such a great thing to look at because it shows you precisely what the problem with such a system is — it’s a reflection of our own social systems. It’s primarily white men who dominate in the arena of “main stream” fiction. It’s primarily white men who are seen as “the best” and who continue to make sales and be recognized quickly and easily. It’s primarily white men who, because of this system, continue to benefit from more money, more marketing, and more opportunities that simply are not afforded to others.
It’s not their fault; it’s our fault.
We can help change these things though. And we do that by pointing these things out, by not finding it necessarily to apologize for pointing these things out, and by using our voices to keep talking about the things we love that deserve more attention. We keep conversations going and flowing. We don’t — and we can’t — shut them down.