Two years ago at Book Expo America 2014, there was some concern about the lack of diversity in an all white all male diversity panel. The We Need Diverse Books movement formed after BEA 2014 and because of the movement, there has been a steady rise in diverse authors and characters.
Since its start in 2014, We Need Diverse Books has seen support from the publishing community, libraries, authors, and book bloggers. Book bloggers are a unique group because they volunteer their time and money to promote literacy to the masses. Over the past two years, many bloggers have hosted diversity reading challenges, Twitter chats, and author interviews to spread the importance of diversity in children’s/ young adult literature. BEA and BookCon is the event YA bloggers look forward to to connect with friends, meet authors, and find new books to promote on their sites. I got a chance to meet several YA bloggers of color and interviewed them on the importance of diversity in YA literature-Steph, Erica, and Hafsah.
Meet the bloggers.
With over 1100 website followers and 7,000 Twitter followers, Cuddlebuggery Book Blog is a leader in the YA blogging
community. Stephanie Sinclair started her blog in 2011 called Stephanie’s Book Nook and in 2012 joined Kat Kennedy to form Cuddlebuggery. In 2014, Meg Morely joined the team that reviews YA lit, adult crossovers and middle grade books in a fresh, inventive and fun atmosphere. You can follow Steph and Cuddlebuggery on the following social media sites: YouTube channel, Google + page, FaceBook page,Tumblr,Twitter,Instagram andGoodreads.
Erica has been reviewing YA fiction since the start of this year and she hosts a regular feature on Mike the Fanboy called Book Beat. You can follow Erica and her 1,200 followers on Twitter at @Cambear.
Hafsah began her young-adult book review blog, IceyBooks, in late 2010 because she was homeschooled and had no one to share her love of books with. Over the years, she befriended countless people in publishing, other bloggers, authors, agents, editors, and found some of her dearest friends all because she started blogging. She now blogs on IceyBooks with her sister, Asma. You can follow Hafsah and her 8, 000 followers on Twitter and her 3,000 followers on Instagram at @HafsahFaizal.
How do you think the We Need Diverse Books movement has progressed since its start two year ago?
Steph: It’s definitely grown considerably and I’m impressed with how much its accomplished in such a short time. I feel like I can directly see some of its effects as well. There’s been more books being purchased by publishers written by marginalized people and I’m seeing them more prominently at bookish conventions, such as BEA. It’s been a very “in your face” movement, which is exactly what publishing needed. There have always been people campaigning for diverse books, but this just helps us all scream a little louder.
Erica: I haven’t been covering YA books for that long, but I think there is greater awareness across most media. There’s greater awareness that there is a lack of diversity and I think groups are getting more organized on raising their voices. Certainly the internet is quicker to pounce when something happens.
If you look to commercials, the most sophisticated marketers already know they need to feature diversity because they want to connect with as broad an audience as possible. You can see a better mix of races, ages and family units (gay, straight, adopted) in commercials. The ad industry is much further along than the media companies. They have to be or they can’t sell their product.
So there’s a proven business model out there. We need more opportunities for blockbusters (books, movies and TV) with diverse casts to prove this in other industries as well.
Hafsah: I think the WNDB movement has grown tremendously because of what it represents: the innumerable amount of people looking for themselves in the world of fiction, between the pages of a book. We need diverse books, and the WNDB movement is pushing for just that.
Why do we need diverse bloggers in the YA world?
Steph: Simple answer is that it’s important to see and hear voices of various backgrounds, no matter what field it’s in. Having marginalized voices at every level of the publishing industry is essential and allows people to get more familiar with what they don’t know. It causes everyone to be more socially aware and tolerant.
- Written in The Stars by Aisha Saeed
Naila’s parents want her to marry a man that’s been arranged for her but when she meets Saif, she doesn’t want to follow tradition. In an effort to get Naila to appreciate her heritage, she travels to Pakistan with her parents. Naila soon discovers that her parents planned a marriage while in Pakistan and the only person to save her is Saif.
- Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (2016 Morris Award)
Simon isn’t quite out of the closet and neither is Blue, his anonymous email friend. When Martin accidentally sees Simon’s emails, Simon finds himself on the other side of blackmail and is forced to hook up Martin and his friend Abby.
- Little Peach by Peggy Kern
When Michelle runs away from a drug addicted mother, she finds herself in NYC alone and out of money. She meets a nice looking boy that offers her a place to stay but she soon finds herself in the world of child prostitution.
- American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (2007 Printz Winner)
Three unrelated stories come together with an interesting twist.
- All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Riely
This is the story about Rashad and Quinn, one black and one white, and their experiences with racism in America.
- To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
Lara Jean writes her crushes love letters because she’s too shy to tell them in person. When her secret box of letters gets mailed, Lara Jean must meet her crushes face to face.
Erica also recommends Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda.
Hafsah been reading a lot more diverse fiction these days, and she’s especially drawn to fantasy set in the Middle East and Asia, because the majority of fantasy is set in Europe. The ones she most recently loved are:
- The Wrath and The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
This is a retelling of A Thousand and One Nights. King Khalid kills all his brides by dawn. When Shazi’s best friend dies by dawn, she vows to avenge her death by becoming Khalid’s bride and killing him.
- Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Inspired by Indian Mythology, Maya’s future life of love is cursed with death. When Maya is forced to marry for political reasons, her new reign as the queen of Akaran soon becomes marked with magic and mystery.
- The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye
Vika and Nikolai are enchanters and they are being sought by the Ottoman Empire for political gain. In order to find the best enchanters, the Tsar announces a duel where the losers must die. Vika and Nikolai see this as an opportunity of varied reasons but what will happen when they fall in love knowing that they both can’t survive?
Dawn is currently reading – The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater