This month, a new online campaign under the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks has taken social media by storm. It seems obvious, of course, that we need diverse books, but there have been a whole lot of things happening lately to remind us how far behind we are. Most noticeably, the lineup for “BookCon” at the huge upcoming publishing event, Book Expo America (BEA), included over 30 authors. And not a single one of them was a person of color. Part of BookCon is a “blockbuster” children’s author panel, and all four “blockbuster” authors included were white straight men.
Add on to this the sad statistics Walter Dean Myers wrote about in the New York Times earlier this year in his article, “Where are the People of Color in Children’s Books?” and Malinda Lo’s impressive number crunching of diversity in the 2013 New York Time’s YA Best Seller List (spoiler alert: there’s not a lot), and it’s clear that publishers, and perhaps the general public, still aren’t getting the message. We need diverse books. Especially children, who need to grow up seeing themselves in media, and knowing they can be heroes, too. We need diverse books of all kinds: books with LGBT characters, with characters of color, with fat characters, with characters with disabilities, with non-binary characters. So author Ellen Oh and others laid down the idea for #WeNeedDiverseBooks. Just search for the hashtag on Twitter, on Tumblr, or on Facebook, and you’ll find some humanity-restoring stuff.
So in honor of #WeNeedDiverseBooks, which is mainly YA based, I thought I’d choose some recent YA for this month’s selections. It’s been far too long since I’ve reviewed YA novels or chosen any for the book club anyway, so here we go!
Fat Angie, e.E. Charlton-Trujillo (March 2013)
Winner of a Stonewall Award last year, Fat Angie has a lot going on. Her dad’s abandoned the family, her mom is distant, her brother’s a jerk, and her sister has been captured in Afghanistan and is presumed dead. And, of course, Angie is bullied, because she’s fat, which led her to attempt suicide in the year before the novel takes place. But this year, when our story starts, a new girl moves to town, a punk rock chick named KC Romance, which is a badass name, and KC Romance herself is pretty badass. The combination of Angie’s sudden relationship with KC Romance along with her newfound dedication to basketball, her sister’s favorite sport, helps Angie come to terms not just with her sexuality, but with everything else she’s bottled up inside.
Far From You, Tess Sharpe (April 2014)
I know Fat Angie doesn’t sound like an overly happy novel, but this one really isn’t. Far From You is about a girl named Sophie who’s a recovering addict, forced into rehab, and oh, four months ago, her best friend Mina was murdered, in what most people believe was a botched drug deal. In fact, a lot of people think Sophie might have been involved in it herself! Fun! Sophie’s on a mission to track down Mina’s real killer, without getting killed herself first. The exciting part of this book is that Sophie is bisexual, and refers to herself as such. While her bisexuality isn’t the main pulse of the book, I can only think of one other YA book that had a bisexual identified main character–Alex Sanchez’s Boyfriends with Girlfriends–and that one was male. Especially after reading last month’s book club selection, this seems really important.
Everything Leads to You, Nina LaCour (May 15, 2014)
This one doesn’t come out until the middle of this month, but I wanted to include it because 1) it looks really good, 2) it seems to include a maybe-happy love story, and I wanted a happy story in the mix somewhere here, and 3) let’s be honest, I normally don’t get around to reading the book club books until the middle of the month anyway. (I just always have too many books to read at once! It’s stressful!) Emi is a young and talented set designer who’s made her way into the competitive world of Hollywood. While her career is off to a booming start, her love life is less than stellar, as she has “desperately gone back to the same girl too many times to mention.” Why, I don’t think any of us can relate to THAT! Nope! Noperoo. But then a mysterious letter leads her to Ava. Ava lives an “unconventional life,” and “is about to expand Emi’s understanding of family, acceptance, and true romance.” Yeah, I’ll wait until the 15th for that.
So which sounds most interesting to you?
I’ll post the winner on Monday, and I’ll also then post my discussion questions for last month’s selection, Shiri Eisner’s BI: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution. Apologies for the delay. I have to admit that it’s taking me longer to read it than I expected, because each page is full of so much to think about! But until Monday, happy weekend, and happy reading.