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 Hate U Give
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.