The YA Revolution – I Volunteer!

Where did Friday go? It’s almost midnight here as I sip my glass of pinot noir staring appreciatively at the total word count of my WIP, which is almost 4, 000 words greater than it was this time last night and now I remember that today’s writing should’ve included a blog post. Better late than never, so here it is…

As many of you know, diversity in YA fiction – particularly in science fiction – is a topic very close close to my heart. It’s something I feel strongly about, a topic on which I have written several articles and even held a talk about at a local bookstore here in Helsinki.

Earlier this week on Twitter, I saw a tweet saying:

I’m Starting A Revolution. Books need more diversity! Join Me.

I didn’t even need to go to the link in the tweet before pulling a Katniss…

volunteerSo off I went to the link and discovered the awesomeness that is Liz Fichera, an author who, like me and many others, are weary of the straight, white archetypes propagating young adult fiction. While there is nothing wrong with being straight and white, that hardly reflects real world diversity and what this revolution is all about is the call to authors and readers to embrace diversity and celebrate it on the page, not by giving the straight white heroine a fabulously gay sidekick, but by allowing the marginalized to take center stage in our fictional worlds.

This is a revolution I wholeheartedly support. If you’d like to join the YA Revolution, you can sign up here to help us support those books and authors that celebrate diversity be it ethnic, religious, sexual or otherwise.



Do you think there’s enough diversity in YA literature? What would you like to see more of?

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  • ruxandra

    Hi Suzanne, it was nice meeting you at Arkadia few weeks ago. I unfortunately could not attend your presentation but I was wondering it were so important to promote diversity purposely in YA. Writing is an artistic act and reflects the values each artist wants to purport “spontaneously”, on the basis of own inspiration. If you want to expressly promote certain values, it seems to me fiction books might start resembling manifesto’s or essays which are of a totally different nature. I find your commitment fantastic as it is quite clear that finding YA literature that reflects their identity challenges is very helpful and relieving for young readers. My question is probably more of a theoretical nature 🙂

    • Suzanne_Writer

      I think the problem has arisen noticeably in YA because of straight washing and white washing, where authors have been asked to turn characters straight in order for the book to be published, and where books are being published with white characters on the cover despite those characters being people of colour in the books themselves. There are certain preconceptions and attitudes attached to books when people of colour are on the covers – in that a black person on the cover must mean it’s a ‘black’ issue book – gosh, I could write an essay! It’s a pity you missed the talk as I discussed these issues at length, and why there needs to be more authentic diversity in YA.

      Why YA? because teens are our future and are so impressionable. If books present straight and white as the ideal to which to aspire, it can promote serious self-esteem issues and propagate prejudice, never mind self-loathing and low sense of self worth amongst those teens already struggling against marginalization.

      Writing is an artistic act, but the values writers have so far spontaneously purported tend to be extremely narrow in terms of ethnic, racial, sexual and religious diversity. I want to know why. What if Harry Potter had been black? What if Katniss Everdeen were transgender? It’s not a problem that they aren’t, it’s a problem that NO major YA role models are anything but straight and white right now. It might make kids think that because they’re gay or black or overweight or dyslexic, that they can’t be heroes, that they don’t have the power to evince change in the world and in their own lives, and that’s a very dangerous message.