Disclaminer: I am a privileged white female living in Australia
Diversity is super important. Our world sort of rotates around that fact that there are people who are/have different religions, races, ethnicities, religions, heights, weights, skin colours, sexual orientations, genders.
Australia is (mostly) great on that front: we have many many different people from many many different places in the world, who look/sound/think/believe in different things. But then, what about our literature?
Australian YA is pretty awesome: we have rad authors and people who support it. But we’re missing diversity on the whole. We need more LGBTQI+ books; more f/f and m/m romances; more characters with disabilities, and who are of a different background – religion, country of birth (or country of growing-up). WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS. We need more books from people with mental health issues; more books from the point of view of Aboriginal men and women; we need more books on the topic of Black Lives Matter; more books from POC.
And as the old saying goes, write what you want to read. In my current WIP, one of my characters has moved from the Guizhou province China (with her parents) to Australia. Her parents are at different stages at assimilating, i.e. her dad does, and her mother does not. But I’m terrified of writing them because despite me wanting DIVERSE YA, I am a white female living in Australia (i.e. privileged), and I don’t write to write diverse YA at the expense of offending someone, or an entire religion/race/country (not that my novel will even be that big – or is written past the 5th page).
But, as my friends discussed in their podcast two weeks ago – on the topic of Fiona Wood’s Cloudwish, it all comes down to research (and she did it damn well). Basically: I need to research the shit out of my character and her background, and her parents and how their childhood was growing up. The Internet is so good for all this stuff – but then again, I’m a lil terrified of stereotyping (and also tokenism).
At the moment, diversity in books is A THING. Whenever books with characters with different/a religions/sexual orientations/mental health issue/a physical or mental disability/background/ethnicity etc., we hear about it. At the moment, this is what we need because it’s still growing.
But I think the #Weneeddiversebooks movement needs to get to a place where it seamlessly fits into the movement of other YA books. Like Diem and I were discussing, it needs to model Shonda Rhimes’ shows: Cristina (Yang) just happened to be Asian – no-one mentioned it because IT WAS NORMAL. Same as Bailey/Webber/Jackson/Callie; and in HTGAWM – Wes/Annalise/Laurel. We need to get to a point in YA literature where diversity isn’t A THING, it’s NORMAL, and the only way to do this is to write about it so it becomes as apart of YA as, say, m/f romances.
But, as Diem says, diversity is not a trend. It’s not something that is just there for a hashtag, or as something, like when people buy puppies for Christmas and then decide they don’t want them – that is there for a little bit of time. Diversity is here to stay as apart of our lives as people living in this world.
What do you guys think about the diversity in YA books? Aussie YA? If you’re a writer, and are/want to write diverse characters, how did/are you/going to go about it?