In February 2016, the YALSA Hub published a booklist, Asexuality in Young Adult Fiction, as a response to teens wanting to see this kind of representation in books. It was a hard list to create as there were very few books at the time with any mention of asexuality or aromanticism, and most of the representation in the books listed is minimal at best. In that list, most representation was of side characters, or the word asexual was never explicitly mentioned. Over the past three years, some exciting books for teens have been published that center the Ace/Aro experience.
Screenshot by Donna Cooner Scholastic Press / Point Publication Date: May 29,2018 ISBN: 9780545903998
Skye, an ambitious and determined teen, is focused on winning a coveted summer internship with a senator. Her social media image has been perfect … until now. One embarrassing video of Skye, posted and quickly deleted, has still been seen. Skye receives a screenshot and a series of anonymous messages threatening to release the photo if she does not follow the increasingly humiliating directions she’s given.
When we talk about social justice, one of the most often overlooked populations are people with disabilities. The 2014 Disability Status Report for the United States from Cornell University reported that, “In 2014, the overall percentage (prevalence rate) of people with a disability of all ages in the US was 12.6 percent.” The National Health Institute of Mental Health reported in 2015, “Fully 20 percent—1 in 5—of children ages 13-18 currently have and/or previously had a seriously debilitating mental disorder.” These percentages are not reflected in publishing trends.
Representation of any marginalized groups accurately and sympathetically can remove some of the prejudice surrounding them, so including books and media with these characters in our collections is essential. Everyone deserves to see their experiences reflected, as well as studies have shown that reading literary fiction improves empathy. People with disabilities experience some of the highest rates of discrimination and microaggressions. Intersect being disabled with also being a person of color, First/Native Nations, LGBTQ, and/or female and the transgressions can increase. Activist and Vlogger Annie Elainey discusses here in a video Why is Disability Representation So White? #DisabilityTooWhite the many issues that people are experiencing because of lack of representation. (Also, be sure to check out her sources.)
Accurate representation can be a tricky thing, especially if it is not a story or experience that is being written by a person with a similar disability. In January, Lee & Low Books reported results of a 2015 Diversity Baseline Survey about the social makeup of the publishing and book reviewing in North America. In the industry overall, 92% identified as nondisabled, so we can assess that a good portion of the writing, editing, and reviewing books with disabled characters are being done by nondisabled folks. Alaina Leary wrote a great piece for The Establishment titled Why The Publishing Industry Can’t Get Disability Right that is also a must read.
I rarely see the movie version of a book before I’ve read the book. That’s because the book is usually better than the movie it’s based on. But, I ended up seeing the movie version of Kody Keplinger’s TheDUFF (2011 Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers) at a sneak-preview last week in NYC. I hadn’t yet read the book. I’d had a copy of the galley for years but just hadn’t had the opportunity to read it and I’d just given that galley away recently, too. I was probably one of the few people at the preview who hadn’t read the book. So, I bought the paperback copy & quickly read it in preparation for writing this blog. But, as I know you’ve all heard too often, as of a few days ago, I could honestly say, “No, I haven’t read the book, but I have seen the movie.”
This year on the Hub we are celebrating the Twelve Days of YA with a series of posts loosely based on the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas gifts. We have converted each gift into a related theme common to YA and paired it with a list of relevant titles. You may use the Twelve Days of YA tag to read all of the posts in the series.
Special thanks goes to Carli Spina, Faythe Arredondo, Sharon Rawlins, Geri Diorio, Becky O’Neil, Carla Land, Katie Yu, Laura Perenic, Jennifer Rummel, Libby Gorman, Carly Pansulla, Anna Dalin, and Allison Tran for their help creating the booklists and organizing this series.
On the seventh day of YA, my true love gave to me seven swans-a-swimming.
Remember when I mentioned that there were a lot of birds in the original song? Yep, we’ve got seven more here with the swans. So, we converted this one into an ugly-duckling-to-swan theme. Rather than focusing only on make overs for this theme, we looked mostly at books that included characters that were non-traditional beauties, but others saw that they were beautiful all along. We hope you enjoy the stories of lovely swans that we picked and encourage you to share your favorites in the comments!