On this week’s Weekly Tea Discussion, I would like to discuss diversity in books…or in this case lack there of.
When I was young, it really didn’t click with me that I wasn’t reading young adult books that featured black girls. I mean, I was reading great series when I was a kid: The Babysitter Club, Sweet Valley High, Nancy Drew. It just never really occurred to me that I wasn’t reading books with characters that were a lot like myself. However, when the topic of books lacking diversity I started to look back at my reading habits as a child and realized that my childhood reading indeed lacked diverse characters. On the top of my head, I can think of only five books I read when I was kid that featured minority male or female characters (it might be a more but can’t remember that far back).
I wished I read books that contained characters that were more like, well me when I was young. Don’t get me wrong. I greatly appreciate the children and young adult books I read. It shaped my imagination and outlook to what it is today. But I do wish that I read books, not only to be swept away by the amazing adventures, but for the characters to at least resemble myself. It is important, especially for children, to have a real connection with the books they are reading. How are children suppose to get excited about reading and formulate that connection when book characters don’t resemble them in real life?
And this doesn’t stop at just children books. Adult fiction books, including authors have a diversity problem. A NPR article criticized the New York Times summer reading list for not having non-white authors on their list, even though there are many minority authors publishing books this year. Unfortunately, this problem is expanding throughout the publishing industry.
So who is to blame in this situation? Is it the readers for not actively looking to read books with diverse characters? Or is it the publishers’ fault, for not promoting diverse books to readers? I don’t think there is a clear-cut answer here. But let me say this: readers just want to read, just get lost in their favorite book without a care in the world. But as readers we should not ignore the lack of diversity in books. We spend time saying that we see ourselves in our favorite books. But don’t you think it’s time that we actually “see ourselves” in the books we read? This pertain to all genre of books, but I think this really should really apply to children and YA books. We are having a hard time keeping children’s mind focus in this digital age. They might lose interest in reading if they don’t feel that book characters resemble themselves.
Do you think there are enough diverse books out there? How many have you had read?