We readers of young adult novels fall in love with tales of friendship and romance in the backdrop of a dystopian world. We are thrown into stunning worlds with a multitude of fascinating scenarios and are captivated with the gripping and at some points, suspenseful, stories. The only, major downside to YA novels is the lack of diversity- across the board.
Think of the most successful YA novels: The Hunger Games, Twilight, Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars. The list goes on. The most striking aspect about these popular YA novels is that the main characters are all white. Rarely do you uncover a YA novel that has gained international success and even a movie deal with a minority character as the lead.
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With the international success of Harry Potter, and a white Hermione in all of the movies, when Noma Dumezweni was cast as Hermione in the stage production of Cursed Child, people couldn’t believe it. J.K. Rowling faced backlash against casting a black actress for the role.
A study done by the Children’s Cooperative Book Council shows how shockingly low the numbers are with books that have people of color.
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Out of 3200 books published in the US in 2015, only 326 were authored by people of color and only 456 of those books were about people of color. That’s less than 15% of all of the books published for children that year.
Justina Ireland of Book Riot conducted her own study showing just how low the numbers were. She made a list of all of the YA Novels scheduled to be released this September; 59 out of the 75 had a white lead character. The chart below shows her study as a pie chart.
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The disparity is disappointing. As a diverse country, we need an accurate representation of the people in it, especially in books that target kids and young adults. We can’t all look up to white heroes and heroines, not that there’s anything wrong with that. We need role models for people that are diverse across the board instead of just one image that the entire society needs to identify with.
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