Trend Alert: Diversity in Young Adult Fiction!
Hello bookworms and welcome back to Thursday Ramblings, a weekly feature here at Josie’s Book Corner!
Thursday Ramblings is a casual feature/meme here on Josie’s Book Corner where I pick a topic and discuss it with you. This is a casual post, filled with rambling and chatting! So basically, we are simply having a conversation about the topic at hand!
Yesterday I had a strange thought… I randomly thought: “What if we are overdoing the new trend of diversity that’s beginning to make itself a trend in books today?” Personally, I am loving that authors and publishers alike are realizing that we need books that cater towards and include all the different types of people in our world.
And at the same time, I love how adding diversity to books helps us to realize and learn some of the issues plaguing our society today. But of course, while books are branching out with sexuality, culture and ethnicity diversity, I feel there are still parts of the world that are still being excluded from our beloved books.
So let’s discuss, shall we?
What are the
kids bookworms these days screaming? WE WANT DIVERSE BOOKS. That’s what they’re screaming. And I’m definitely one of them. The time is over for white, perfect-looking, straight characters and (in our best Gough Whitlam spirit) it’s time for a new band of characters to grace the pages of our books. Characters who are ethnically and culturally diverse (e.g. characters who are not all white), characters who are sexually diverse (e.g. bisexual, gender queer, lesbian, etc.) and characters who are not perfect and flawless (mentally flawed, physically flawed, such as those with disabilities or illnesses). And thank God, we are definitely getting the diversity we crave. It seemed like only at the beginning of this year, we were screaming for it and now, it’s coming to us in waves. It’s incredible!
Already we’ve got books starring gay characters such as Simon vs The Homosapien Agenda by Becky Albertalli, lesbian, genderqueer and transgender characters such as What We Left Behind by Robin Talley. I’ve only mentioned two, but gosh, there’s so many books! There’s even an entire Goodreads list on the best YA fiction featuring LGBTQ+ themes and characters!
I really cheer for authors featuring sexually diverse characters because it’s such a big issue in our society today. People all over the world are still fighting for gay marriage to become legal and there is still a bad stigma put upon those who are simply not straight. By including protagonists who are gay, lesbian, transgender, gender queer or other, it’s really helping to normalize the subject. We need to start accepting all people of all sexualities and by including them in books, we are one step to making these people part of our world instead of feeling alienated or separated from our society.
Equally, there is a rise in characters of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Although this may have been happening a bit earlier than the addition of sexually diverse characters in books, young adult fiction has been experiencing an influx in ethnically diverse characters. With books such as The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, and more. Once again, there is an entire Goodreads list on the best YA books with diversity.
More books are introducing characters who are not from white countries, which I am loving. Not only because I crave to know more about all the cultures in our world, but it means books are spreading out and becoming an all-encompassing, accepting form of media that is starting to include more (and hopefully ALL) of the cultures that exist in our world.
Other Forms of Diversity
One of the things we bookworms complain about is characters that are perfect and without any flaws whatsoever. Like, how dare you bring us perfect characters! Haven’t we seen enough of these beautiful specimens that we couldn’t even dream of matching up to, in magazines and television? Authors, please. But thank goodness we’re starting to receive more flawed characters. Flawed both physically and mentally.
Books covering mental illness and protagonists with mental illnesses much more, especially this year. With books such as Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella and Made You Up by Francesca Zappia are some of the many that cover mental illnesses such as anxiety and schizophrenia. I personally love books that tackle characters and protagonists with mental illness because, mental illness is one of the biggest problems that face our society today. Just look up the stats. Books need to reflect these parts of our society and more. As much as we love our prospective novels (e.g. dystopians), we need to see more books that reflect problems and issues in our world today. Mental illness is a big one and thank you authors for seeing it and using it in your novels!
Additionally, we are slowly starting to see more physically diverse characters. Honestly I’m sick of seeing the skinny, perfect skinned flawless females and the well built, gorgeous males (okay no, please don’t take away my gorgeous men, oh gosh I’m so shallow. Just let me keep Rowan. And Aedion. And all the other gorgeous Fae men.)
But seriously. We see enough of these gorgeous people all over our other forms of media. In magazines, in televison and even on the internet! (I spend way too much time scrolling through Instagram accounts of gorgeous girls and boys alike, I know what I’m talking about!) And we definitely don’t need this reciprocated into our beautiful pages. Or at least, we need to challenge this assumption and promotion of skinny, tanned girls and muscled, tanned men. With books such as Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy and A Bridge to Wiseman’s Cove by James Moloney, we’re given characters who are larger than what we see in the media. And we need this! I LOVE that books are slowly bringing this in an incorporating it. We need to include all those who do not fit in to the media’s expectation of beauty.
But here comes the small question in the back of my head: Are we overdoing the idea of diversity in books?
My answer? Heck no! All of these things need to be accepted as normal parts of our world and need to be further accepted as normal to portray in media and entertainment. I hate that media and entertainment end up excluding and even alienating certain people in society because they only focus and promote one certain representation of beauty or normality. This needs to change and it can start with books. IN FACT, IT’S ALREADY BEGUN. YAY!