Diversity 101: Gay in YA

Contributed to CBC Diversity by Adam Silvera

When writing diverse books, we’re writing about choices—and the things we can’t choose. Harry Potter could have chosen not to go to Hogwarts, but spending the rest of his youth with the incorrigible Dursleys would’ve sucked for all involved—Harry, the Dursleys, and the readers who became readers because of the boy wizard. Katniss Everdeen didn’t have to volunteer as tribute in The Hunger Games in place of Prim, but life in District 12 was bleak enough without watching someone act like her younger sister’s name wasn’t announced for a battle to the death. There are choices characters—and people—make because the alternative is simply unspeakable. But then there are the ones who don’t have a choice at all. They don’t choose to be Latino, they don’t choose mental illness, they don’t choose their sexual orientation. Who gives them a voice? I, along with many others, volunteer as tribute.

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Everyone Wants to be the Hero Sometimes

Contributed to CBC Diversity by Sara Farizan

When I write a story, I often don’t think about diversity. I don’t think about how many characters I should have of a certain ethnic or cultural background, or about whether I meet a quota on how many different types of people I have on the page. I don’t think about if what I am doing is unique or perhaps not as mainstream. If I thought about all of those things, I probably wouldn’t have written the books that I have, or will hopefully, continue to write.

When I do write a story, I think about people I know in real life. I think about issues I would like to explore or think need more attention. I think about books that I wish I had as a teenager and think about the books I appreciated from that period of my life. I think about how I still have so much to learn, not just about writing, but about the world, and people that make the world complex, interesting and beautiful.

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Gene Luen Yang Praises Diversity in Comics at National Book Festival Gala

Acclaimed cartoonist and author Gene Luen Yang delivered a slam dunk with his speech at the National Book Festival gala, singing the praises of diversity in comics and literature at large.

Yang leapt this high oratory hurdle with the seeming ease of one of his superpowered characters. And when he stuck the landing, the room of venerated guests erupted with applause.

Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist…

As proud members of the CBC Diversity Committee, we—Wendy Lamb and Dan Ehrenhaft—volunteered back in March to write a blog post, scheduled for this week. It was to be about unacknowledged, unconscious racism in YA. Our idea at the time was to make the blog post funny. Well, maybe not funny, but lighthearted. Sort of in the vein of the song “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” from Avenue Q. We wanted to laugh at the truth as a conversation starter.

That’s the future. Right now is no time for a joke.

What’s going on in our country is deadly, and dead serious. 

We love this song, but this is no time to relax.

Giraffes, Robots, Books, and Bullets

Contributed to CBC Diversity by Tracey Baptiste

I have an eight year old son. He is funny, and charming, and clever. He likes giraffes. And robots. A lot. I think if there were a giraffe robot somewhere his heart would explode from joy. Based on the debris in his room, he may be building one. He likes to build things. We made a lab in his closet so our parental need for a clean room wouldn’t impinge on his creativity. (I’m sorry to say it still does sometimes, but I’m happy to say his lab is seriously awesome.)

There’s one other thing I’d like to tell you about my son. I fear for his life.

Young black men are a target in this country. Make no mistake about it. No matter what their personality traits, or their achievements, or their virtues, for some people they represent only one thing: a threat.

Timothy Stansbury

Sean Bell

Oscar Grant

Aaron Campbell

Alonzo Ashley

Trayvon Martin

Wendell Allen

Jonathan Ferrell

Michael Brown

These are only the most recognizable recent deaths. There are many others. It has been going on since before Emmett Till.

The publishing industry seems very far away from the incidents in Ferguson and other places where young unarmed black men were killed for no reason. But there is something that we as book creators can do about it. We can make more books by black writers that feature black protagonists. I don’t have to tell anyone reading this blog that reading builds empathy, that books can bind us together. But I do want to say that books can stop bullets. Systemic racism can be subverted by systemic acceptance. And it’s up to all of us.

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Let’s start with what we don’t know: the precise circumstances under which a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., shot dead an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown.

But here’s what evidence does strongly suggest: Young black men in America suffer from widespread racism and stereotyping, by all society — including African-Americans themselves.

Research in the last couple of decades suggests that the problem is not so much overt racists. Rather, the larger problem is a broad swath of people who consider themselves enlightened, who intellectually believe in racial equality, who deplore discrimination, yet who harbor unconscious attitudes that result in discriminatory policies and behavior.

starts his op-ed piece for the New York Times entitled Is Everyone a Little Bit Racist? with the above statements. Read the full article to see how employers, doctors, and the general population playing a video game showcase attitudes that result in discrimination.