So for some reason, I’ve noticed a trend in YA books regarding diversity: it’s mostly the contemporary books. There are a few speculative fiction books/series with diverse protagonists. Like these ones:
(the fact that I can only name two off the top of my head may also be due to the fact that I don’t read that much speculative fiction…but still!)
First, here’s a list of possible reasons why there’s quite a bit more diversity in contemporary:
1) Less emphasis on plot
A BUNCH of contemporary YA books focus on identity, discovering yourself, path to adulthood, all that philosophical stuff. When characters are marginalised or not “normal,” this creates conflict – and without having dragons or Dark Lords to battle with, this conflict is what creates a major part of contemporary books.
2) Characters are the main focus
This ties into the first one, but I think a lot of the time there is a stronger emphasis on character development in YA contemporary, because there HAS to be – otherwise there’s no story. While speculative fiction stories can have character development just as good, or much better than in contemp, by and large I’ve found this to be a trend.
3) Issue books
Some books focus specifically on “issues” like eating disorders, mental illnesses, racial struggles, sexuality or the like. They’re often meant to inform, or instruct, or show young adults that they’re not on their own in what we’re dealing with. For example, Ellen Hopkins’ writes these very well – her books are confronting, they don’t condescend to teenagers, and they feature a whole host of different diverse characters.
So how come this isn’t the case in speculative fiction?
I don’t have a definitive answer for this. Most protagonists in YA speculative fiction seem to be able, cisgendered, heterosexual and white.
So here’s what I would like to see.
I’d like to see diverse characters who are not defined by their race/sexuality/disability/mental illness. I want to see gay characters in stories that aren’t just about them being gay – stories that are speculative and focus on issues that aren’t just part of their sexuality. I want to see some badass chicks in wheelchairs. I want to see diversity normalised, so that people from all different situations can find themselves in YA literature.
And a bit step in that, I think, is having more diversity in speculative fiction.
Not that I’m bashing books where the “diverse” aspect is a major part – those books have their place too, and it’s an important place. But I’d also like to see books where being gay or black or disabled is no different to being heterosexual or white or able.
There IS diversity out there – there is, but it’s hard to find. If we want more diverse books to be published, we also need to champion the ones that already exist.
Have you noticed the lack of diversity in YA speculative fiction? How do you think diversity should be portrayed in YA books? I would actually love to hear your comments because as a cishet, able white girl in Australia, I may be wrong about a whole bunch of things. I’m willing to admit that. I’d love to hear your thoughts 🙂