Minorities in YA

We all think it. We all talk about it. I know you've probably discussed the lack of minorities in young adult books a number of times before but I thought I'd take a crack at it. The majority of the young adult books out there and the ones I read feature main characters that are white. On the other hand if you read picture books you will have no problem finding books with diverse characters. Picture books are swarming with main characters of different colors and ethnicity. As we grow up in age I've noticed how books from elementary school age to middle school age and finally to young adult school age decrease in the size of diversity with its characters. So what's the problem? Is there some kind of disconnect that happens when you start growing up? It's okay to advocate the differences in the world at age two but not at age fifteen? Or is it us readers? Maybe people with different ethnicity and race just don't read as much. I can see why. There are hardly any people they can relate to. Is it because we as readers don't care to read anything other than books with white main characters? Is it because white female authors make up the majority of young adult authors? Because it really seems that way. They are reflecting their main characters off of themselves and who they have grown up with. They are the majority. I have no problem with it because although my background is Hispanic I am still white by race. I grew up in this country. I don't speak Spanish but my family does. It would be nice to see my family's typical Hispanic ways into the books I read and love. I really do enjoy the majority of my characters I read but there is something truly wrong when I've read only three books with Hispanic main characters and one book with a  main character who is black. The black character being someone who was in a juvenile detention. Is it me? Am I not trying hard enough? Am I not searching hard enough? Why do I have to search at all?

One nice thing about reading a book where a Hispanic character has a prominent role was the connection I felt with that one particular character. One of my favorite books is Mexican Whiteboy by Matt de la Pena. Danny doesn't know how to speak Spanish. He's very quiet. He feels like an outsider because he can't speak Spanish with his family and people in his American High School assume he doesn't speak English because he never talks so they ignore or laugh at him. I love this guy. He's part me, part awesome. I was so astonished when I met him too. He was the first young adult Hispanic main character that I've read in a young adult book. Heck anywhere! I don't want to be in awe when I come across characters with different backgrounds that I could relate to or with different backgrounds period. I don't want to read about them being in a juvenile detention even though it might be a great read. It shouldn't be the only thing I've read from that culture. What I really want to do is make a list of young adult books that feature a main character with different backgrounds and I want to read that list. I want to be able to read at least a book a month with characters like them. So what do you think of this topic? Do you have any authors or books you would like to recommend?

Comments

  1. I guess I've never really thought about it that much. It's true though: there are TONS of picture books with minority main characters, plenty of middle grade books, and barely any YA books. There are some authors, like Kristin Cashore, that address various minority issues in their (fantasy) writing, but I can't think of a single YA book with a minority hero/heroine.

    I found an interesting link addressing this: http://www.heroesandheartbreakers.com/blogs/2012/05/race-and-romance-choosing-between-white-off-white-and-beige

    There is a fairly good book called Akata Witch, which is borderline MG/YA. It's set in Nigeria.

    But it's really sad that that's the only example I can think of.

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    1. Hahaha! - "romance is whiter than sour cream" love the link. Thanks! I would consider Akata Witch more MG than YA especially since the MC is a mina character. That's supposed to be a really good book though. I almost forgot about it.

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  2. What a fascinating topic! I agree that in picture books there are lots of different cultures represented. In MG you can read about people with different backgrounds, too. I will have to give some thoughts about YA examples!
    ~Stephanie

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    1. I;m starting to look for YA books with characters with different backgrounds. I actually found one that sounds like a regular book but with Hispanic characters. It's called Girl v. Boy by Yvonne Collins.

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