Diversity and Children's Literature

Monday, April 2, 2012

I don't like to write about politics or current events on here. There's a place for that, and sadly, its not here. This blog is for my thoughts about books, literature, and art. I have things to say about current events, don't get me wrong, but I don't like to mix the two together.

Having said that, there is a current event that deserves to be discussed. Diversity in literature, especially YA literature. I just read a The Millions (a news website covering literature) article titled "Race in the Hunger Games". In it, the statistic, "only 9% of the 3,400 children’s books published [in 2010] contained significant cultural or ethnic diversity.". 

I'm not surprised. I really am not. I've read so, so many children books, and I still do. The first Asian character that I encountered was Cho Chang in Harry Potter. Cho Chang however, was one minor character in the sea of Caucasian characters. 

I recently wrote a review on a book, where a Asian character is featured as a main character. (Post will be out this week.) I was at first excited at the prospects of reading such a book, but I was disappointed. The character was so, so... There are so many things to say, and feeling a connection with the Asian character was not one of them. 

Earlier this school year (because everything I do is measured in school years), I wrote a play. I wrote the play mainly for myself, as an effort to discover  who I was as a person, and as an Asian-American. It was nice getting all my thoughts out, about the duality of things. I am an Asian, but I live in the U.S. The ideals and opinions for both these differ. I had an discussion with my teacher about the lack of diversity in plays, and it opened my eyes. 

It's a harsh world out there (not that it wasn't before). We can't just write about whatever we want to just because we want to. I could write a book about a person of Asian descent in Western society. Would I make money? Probably according to publishers, no. 

If we really want diversity in literature, it starts with the publishers. There is a market out there for books with cultural diversity, as this country becomes more and more diversified. Dear Publishers, it's pretty boring to just read books about one culture, especially as a teenager... Hint, hint. 


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