Within the last few weeks, the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, and CNN have all published articles examining the lack of diversity in children’s and young adult literature — and next month, School Library Journal plans to publish an entire issue devoted to diversity. While all this mainstream interest in diversity is to be applauded for bringing more people into the ongoing conversation about diversity, they still largely fail to tackle the problem of how we can change the status quo.
We at Diversity in YA obviously don’t have all the answers, and we aren’t the first people to talk about these issues. This conversation has been going on for decades. What we do have are ideas for how you can change the status quo right now. If you’re an ordinary reader, you don’t have to wait to show your support for books that show the world as it is. Here are five ways you can help make positive change right now:
1. Look for diversity.
Make a conscious effort to seek out books to read that feature characters of color, LGBT characters, and/or disabled characters. They may not be front-and-center at your local Barnes & Noble; you may have to look around a bit or go online to find them.
2. Support diversity.
Support the diverse books that are published today by buying them, by checking them out at your library, or by requesting that your library buy them.
3. Recommend diversity.
If you use Goodreads, Facebook, social media, or have a blog, talk up the books you love that happen to have diverse characters. Tell your friends! Word of mouth is still key in bringing awareness to books. And remember: You don’t need to recommend them solely for their diversity — they’re great books to enjoy, plain and simple.
4. Talk up diversity.
When discussions around diversity in literature occur online, join in the conversation if you can to express that you do want more diverse books to read and that the issue is important to you.
5. Don’t give up.
There will always be people who dismiss “diversity” as meaningless. They are the reason we must keep fighting for representation. We’re all in this together.
Want a list of diverse YA books you can get started reading right now? Here are a dozen YA books of all kinds (contemporary, fantasy, sci-fi, mystery — something for everyone!) that happen to have characters of color, LGBT characters, and/or disabled characters. (Descriptions are from WorldCat.)
Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac (Tu Books) — In a world that has barely survived an apocalypse that leaves it with pre-twentieth century technology, Lozen is a monster hunter for four tyrants who are holding her family hostage.
Pointe by Brandy Colbert (Putnam) — Four years after Theo’s best friend, Donovan, disappeared at age thirteen, he is found and brought home and Theo puts her health at risk as she decides whether to tell the truth about the abductor, knowing her revelation could end her life-long dream of becoming a professional ballet dancer.
If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth (Arthur A. Levine Books) — Seventh-grader Lewis “Shoe” Blake from the Tuscarora Reservation has a new friend, George Haddonfield from the local Air Force base, but in 1975 upstate New York there is a lot of tension and hatred between Native Americans and Whites–and Lewis is not sure that he can rely on friendship.
Fake ID by Lamar Giles (Amistad) — “An African-American teen in the Witness Protection Program moves to a new town and finds himself trying to solve a murder mystery when his first friend is found dead.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (Simon & Schuster) — Lara Jean writes love letters to all the boys she has loved and then hides them in a hatbox until one day those letters are accidentally sent.
Pantomime by Laura Lam (Strange Chemistry) — Gene, the daughter of a noble family, runs away from the decadence of court to R.H. Ragona’s circus of magic, where she meets runaway Micah, whose blood could unlock the mysteries of the world of Ellada.
Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall (Tu Books) — In an adventure reminiscent of Homer’s Odyssey, fifteen-year-old Odilia and her four younger sisters embark on a journey to return a dead man to his family in Mexico, aided by La Llorona, but impeded by a witch, a warlock, chupacabras, and more.
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina (Candlewick) — One morning before school, some girl tells Piddy Sanchez that Yaqui Delgado hates her and wants to kick her ass. Piddy doesn’t even know who Yaqui is, never mind what she’s done to piss her off. Word is that Yaqui thinks Piddy is stuck-up, shakes her stuff when she walks, and isn’t Latin enough with her white skin, good grades, and no accent. And Yaqui isn’t kidding around, so Piddy better watch her back. At first Piddy is more concerned with trying to find out more about the father she’s never met and how to balance honors courses with her weekend job at the neighborhood hair salon. But as the harassment escalates, avoiding Yaqui and her gang starts to take over Piddy’s life. Is there any way for Piddy to survive without closing herself off or running away?
Rogue by Lyn Miller-Lachmann (Nancy Paulsen Books) — An eighth-grade girl with Asperger’s syndrome tries to befriend her new neighbor, facing many challenges along the way.
More Than This by Patrick Ness (Candlewick) — A boy named Seth drowns, losing his life as the pounding sea claims him. But then he wakes. He is naked, thirsty, starving. But alive. How is that possible? He remembers dying. So how is he here? And where is this place? It looks like the suburban English town where he lived as a child, before an unthinkable tragedy happened and his family moved to America. But the neighborhood around his old house is overgrown, covered in dust, and completely abandoned. What’s going on? And why is it that whenever he closes his eyes, he falls prey to vivid, agonizing memories that seem more real than the world around him? Seth begins a search for answers, hoping that he might not be alone, trapped in a crumbling, abandoned world.
Prophecy by Ellen Oh (HarperTeen) —A demon slayer, the only female warrior in the King’s army, must battle demon soldiers, an evil shaman, and the Demon Lord to find the lost ruby of the Dragon King’s prophecy and save her kingdom.
Far From You by Tess Sharpe (Hyperion) — After Sophie Winters survives a brutal attack in which her best friend, Mina, is murdered, she sets out to find the killer. At the same time she must prove she is free of her past Oxy addiction and in no way to blame for Mina’s death.
Want even more book lists? Here’s a link to all of our book lists.