So at the end of the year in my AP English class my teacher decided to make us write a research paper. At first I was a little on the fence on writing it because I didn’t have a topic, then I came up with one. Diversity in YA. I thought that I wouldn’t find a lot on the topic but when I started research I found many shocking truths. And I wanted to share my findings with you, also I got an 90 on this paper. I hope you enjoy it and find it inspiring.
Changing the Face of Young Adult
Whitewashing- to use white representation for a character that is not white– is a huge problem in Young Adult (YA). A blog named Book Smugglers made a blog post named Cover Matters: On Whitewashing pointed out a huge flaw in the publishing world, “In a case 5 years ago Bloomsbury publishing used white models on covers to represent non-white protagonists”. The book that Bloomsbury did this to is Liar by Justine Larbalestier, who has an African-American as the main character but the cover is a white model. Liar isn’t the only one that was affected by whitewashing another book called The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong has a Native American descent as the protagonists but the girl on the cover looks nothing like how the girl is described. We live in a diverse world and the faces of young adult literature should grace book covers with diversity as well.
“775 children’s and YA book covers for books that have been released this year. 80% of them had people on them. A full 25% of all book covers had white girls pictured on them, and 10% had white boys. Only 2% of the titles I looked at had african-American boys or girls pictured on the covers”, Linda Williams from Jacket Whys posted this on July 19, 2009. The statistics says that minorities are not/hardly represented in the publishing world. Whitewashing is a problem for teens who read these books because they have nothing to connect to, like they aren’t important enough to be represented. Like Justine Larbalestier said in Why My Protags Aren’t White “Because teens, both here and in Australia, have written thanking me for writing characters they could relate to. ‘Most books are so white,’ one girl wrote me.”, posted on Justine Larbalestier blog on July 22, 2009.
From Ain’t that a Shame by Justine Larbalestier “Editors have told me that their sales departments say black covers don’t sell. Sales reps have told that many of their accounts won’t take black covers.”, posted on July 23, 2004 on Justine Larbalestier blog. How could this possibly be true when there are hardly any covers with African-American girls or boys on the covers? Another quote from Ain’t that a Shame states “Authors have told me that their books with black covers are frequently not shelved in the same part of the library as other YA and many bookshops simply don’t stock them at all.” Minorities are already not being represented on covers but when they are, they aren’t noticed. Like Larbalestier stated before we don’t live in an all white world, where are all the colors in this genre?
Many people are taking a stand to make Young Adult more diverse.On July 22, 2009 Justine Larbalestier told us why her main covers aren’t white in a blog post called Why my Protags Aren’t White she told us, “because no white teen has ever complained about their lack of representation in these books… Because I don’t live in an all white world. Why on Earth would I write books that are?”. Larbalestier is not a minority and she feels like someone needs to represent these minorities and took it into her own hands to take action. There are two others authors that took action to make a movement, in an article on The Atlantic, Linnea Welsh shined light on authors Malinda Lo and Cindy Poh on their contribution to the movement on How to Make Young Adult Fiction More Diverse “so author Malinda Lo and Cindy Poh decided to do something about it. They created the diversity in YA Fiction website and launched an accompanying speaking tour.” Lo and Poh are taking a stand and spreading awareness on the internet and I read some of their articles and they really know their stuff. An organization called We Need More Diverse Books mission speaks for itself, “is a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.” These are people who making a living or volunteering on making not only Young Adult book but other genres more diverse so teens and everyone can have something to relate too.
Now that we know what whitewashing is we can now recognize it and do something about it. If you see a book that is being whitewashed speak out you can be that voice that starts change. The statistics on diversity in Young Adult is our fault. If we demand more diverse book that’s what we will get. We need to be the spark that starts the flame. There are so many things that we can do to make a change in YA. It all starts with the need and the internet. Volunteer at We Need More Diverse Books or start a blog on diversity it’s all up to you.
Thea. “The Book Smugglers.” The Book Smugglers. N.p., 26 Feb. 2010. Web. 05 June 2015. <http://thebooksmugglers.com/>.
Williams, Linda. “Too Many White Girls.” Jacket Whys. N.p., 19 July 2009. Web. 05 June 2015. <https://jacketwhys.wordpress.com/2009/07/19/too-many-white-girls/>.
Larbalestier, Justine. “Ain’t That a Shame.” Justine Larbalestier. N.p., 23 July 2009. Web. 05 June 2015. <http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2009/07/23/aint-that-a-shame/>.
Larbalestier, Justine. “Why My Protags Aren’t White.” Justine Larbalestier. N.p., 22 July 2009. Web. 05 June 2015. <http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2009/07/22/why-my-protags-arent-white/>.
Welsh, Kate Linnea. “How to Make Young Adult Fiction More Diverse.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 02 June 2011. Web. 05 June 2015. <http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/06/how-to-make-young-adult-fiction-more-diverse/239795/>.
“Mission Statement.” We Need Diverse Books. We Need Diverse Books, n.d. Web. 05 June 2015. .