CNN posted an article about the lack of diversity in young adult literature a few weeks ago. I have posted the link to the article so everyone can read it. I am still angry about this article. I am not angry that the article exists – I am angry about why this article exists and some of the ridiculous comments attached to it.
In elementary school I remember coming across a book called Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor. I didn’t realize until awhile later the book was written in the 1970s. Rosa Guy wrote The Friends which was one of my favorite books at 14. The Friends was actually published in 1973, several years before my birth. Sadly, I don’t recall a lot of other books by black writers during my middle school or early high school years other than older works by Maya Angelou. Thanks to my teachers, I was immersed in Mark Twain and Shakespeare by my late teens. I wish I could say more about writers of Asian, Native, or Latino descent but I wasn’t introduced to any until college.
My early college years, I do remember titles like Monster by Walter Dean Myers (published in 1999), Miracle’s Boys by Jacqueline Woodson (published April 2000), and Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis (published in September 1999). This seemed to be a great time for black authors that wrote YA books. The late 1990s and early 2000s were filled with books by diverse authors. Yet, by the late 2000s, these authors seemed to disappear for the first time in my memory.
The article explores the new reality that fewer YA books are being published with characters of varying ethnic backgrounds (non-European ethnic backgrounds). 2014 is not producing more writers of black, Native, or Latino cultures. Apparently, based on the article there are more books being published about the Asian culture. Yet, where is America’s melting pot when it comes to books – especially books aimed at our future generation?
The article isn’t the best written, but does pose a great question. Why can’t there be a Mexican Katniss (title character of The Hunger Games)? I do have an answer to this question. I have my “take” on what I believe is what now exists in publishing.
I will start with the controversial part of my answer first. I believe fewer black and Latino children are readers. The publishing industry is not going to cater to a declining base.
The industry cares more about the color green above else. Publishing is a business. Today’s young people are not readers like the generations that came before them – Latinos and blacks make up even more of that “non-reading group”. It is sad and it hurts me that this is the truth.
The second part of my answer is that the publishing industry has to watch out for trends. Since young black and Latinos are the least likely to read – writers of these cultures are kind of out-of-luck if they hope to publish their books with characters of brown skin. Who is going to read it? Well, the truth is most whites read books by other whites. Therefore, you have a small market to sell to and that isn’t good for business.
Please check out the link and read the article for yourself and leave a comment for me. I would love to hear what the rest of you think (and tell me if you think I am way off base).