Young Adult literature, or YA, has been a genre dominated by white authors and characters, but this is changing. In the past couple years, two debut novels by African-American women have taken the YA world and bestseller lists by storm: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017) and The Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (2018). If you haven’t read them yet, you should.
The editor must help the author express their art as truly as they can while balancing the vision of the publisher, and by extension bring the truth of the community back in the form of a published work. And, like any intimate relationship, it is not always easy, nor quick and painless.
The saying is “don’t judge a book by its cover,” but the truth is, we all do—and we’re actually supposed to. Someone designed that cover with specific intentions for you, the reader, to pull the book off the shelf and take a closer look. If I think about it too hard, I realize how shallow and materialistic I am as a reader and how hard a cover has to work just to get me to pick it up. My recent interest in cover design has to do with a challenge I’m undertaking this year to read at least thirty books with a main character who would be classified as a minority in America. Finding books that show this diversity on the cover is actually a lot more difficult than I expected.
For most of my life, the majority of books I’ve read have been written by white men, from the picture books I grew up with to most of my favorite childhood series, and then almost everything I read as an English student throughout high school and college. It’s not that books by white men are all the same, or that they’re all bad. It’s that these books share a similar perspective. I had become so used to the white male viewpoint that I subconsciously recognized it as the standard.
There is no clear benchmark one can use to determine what is appropriate representation in global-minded nonfiction.
The entire purpose of young adult literature is to connect with the unique experiences of preteens and teenagers. Successful authors seek to uncover the raw, emotional reality behind these tumultuous, angst-filled years and tell a story that resonates with readers in an organic way. The problem with YA novels, however, is that it is impossible […]