Diversity seems to be a hot topic in books now. Go back a few years and it was rare to see a book that featured a LGBT relationship, or a book where a POC character was the protagonist. Yes we’ve come a long way, but I think there’s still a long way to go. Diversity is important in books, I don’t think anyone would say it isn’t, so why isn’t there more of it?
Maybe it’s simply a case of slowly introducing it into the market, maybe in another few years there’ll be more books on the shelves that feature characters and relationships that aren’t focused on now. However, is it so bad to say that I’d like to see more diversity now rather than waiting for it?
Diversity in YA Books
In recent years I’ve seen more and more books that discuss different sexualities. A lot of the time it can be secondary characters, like Magnus and Alec from The Mortal Instruments series or Rhy and Alucard from the Shades of Magic series, but there are also plenty of gay characters who have their own stories, like Simon from Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda and Seth from More Than This.
The only thing is, it’s rare to see other sexualities represented as much. As many gay characters and relationships I’ve read I haven’t seen books that feature lesbian relationships nearly as much. In fact the only one I can think of off the top of my head is Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour. That’s saying nothing of the other sexualities there are, asexual, pansexual, demisexual, transsexual, where is there representation?
There are plenty of books that feature gay characters and relationships, but where are the books that feature characters of other sexualities? Gay is only one part of the LGBT spectrum but I rarely come across a book that features a bisexual or asexual character.
There are also plenty of books that feature POC characters, even in fantasy as well which I can admit does seem to be lacking diversity when compared to the contemporary YA genre. There’s Cinder, Kai and Winter from The Lunar Chronicles and Maya from The Star-Touched Queen. However what about the different religions? At the end of last year I took part in the Diverse Books Tag and while some of the questions were easy to answer, I even had a couple of books I could have featured for some of the questions, there were a few that I struggled with. A book starring a Muslin protagonist? A book set in Africa? A book set in South Asia? Can anyone answer those questions?
One thing I do think YA books are currently doing well is discussing mental health. There are more and more books that feature characters who have mental health issues, some as big as Solomon in Highly Illogical Behaviour who suffers from agoraphobia, and some more manageable like Autumn in By Your Side. Reading about both character’s struggles allows readers to see that they’re not alone if they’re suffering from the same thing. If you’ve got a young teenager reading a book like this seeing someone else going through the same thing is incredibly helpful.
Diversity is important. People like to see themselves represented in books be it through their heritage, their religion, or their sexuality. It gives us some level of support to see these characters struggling with the same issues we are, and it allows us to connect with them when we see them go through the same things we are.
Now Onto the Discussion Part of This Post:
Do you think diversity in YA is positive or negative?
Do you think there’s enough diversity in YA books at the moment, or do you want to see more?
Is there any particular type of diversity you’d like to see more in books? Are you struggling to find books that you feel represent you?
Are there any diverse books you can recommend that you feel are must-reads? Bonus points if they focus on more obscure diverse topics that aren’t discussed as much.
Let me know in the comments below.