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22 September 2011 @ 23:28
Thoughts on the state of YA  
sarahtales has awesome thinky thoughts on the desperate need of more diverse YA fiction.

The bits that make me happiest are these reading lists compiled by tanuki_green:

YA sci-fi and fantasy books with major LGBTQ characters

YA sci-fi and fantasy with characters of colour: authors from A-L and from M-Z

Because it gives me an awesome place to start. Because I do read MASSES of YA, and since I read mainly from, erm... the local Target, as well as recs from friends, I don't always get a particularly broad spectrum of writing. And I am always looking for more awesome books to read. Always.

Speaking up about wanting more diversity in the form of more awesome ladiez, more awesome characters of colour, more LGBTQ protagonists and supporting casts, and differently-abled protagonists and support cast is AWESOME. We should always do that. We should do MORE of that. We should keep on doing that, because that's how things change.

But one of the ways we can stand up and be counted (particularly when we are invisible) and convince the publishing industry that there is a market for such things is to support the authors and books that are already out there in addition to asking for more, and better.

Too often, fans only speak up to say negative things. But by buying these books--for ourselves, for our friends and families, for our libraries--and writing to specifically thank the publishers for publishing them helps encourage them to keep on making those decisions in the future. We can be positive in our efforts to change the world for this generation and all that follows in addition to demanding diversity in our entertainment that better reflects the world. It's not an either-or. And while you can do one without the other, if you are able, why not try to do both? Especially since you might find some awesome books to read along the way?

No, 1% of the entire YA market featuring characters other than cis-gendered heterosexual protagonists is not enough. But while working to increase that percentage, we can also encourage the publishers to KEEP ON publishing them when they do publish them. Because feedback can and does help. Especially if the sales aren't, say, as massive as those of YA novels with straight white characters, and the publisher might not "take a chance" (and it pains me to even write that, but that's how most marketing departments see it and I'm not gonna gloss that over) publishing YA fiction with more diverse casts of characters the next time.

These days, a book doesn't just rise or fall on its own merits. A LOT of it depends on marketing departments, support from the publisher, support from the buyers at Target, Barnes & Noble, Scholastic, libraries, etc. If those organisations get letters saying "Yay! More please!" it can't hurt--and might help in the long run.
Preserving dead alien corpses since 1995!cschick on 23rd September 2011 15:38 (UTC)
The YA fantasy market has been where many authors have been quietly pushing a pro-LGBTQ viewpoint for a long time. Lackey's series have always had references to same-sex couples, and one of her trilogies is focused around it. Tanya Huff: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanya_Huff is an author that doesn't even appear on the list you linked to, and I recall she has quite a few same sex couples in the books she was writing during the late 1980s/early 1990s.
Sarah Rees Brennansarahtales on 23rd September 2011 16:44 (UTC)
Tanya Huff is awesome, but insofar as I know (I've only read two of her serieses, so I may well be mistaken!) not YA. Which is not to say there doesn't need to be more representation in the adult market, because there certainly does.

Thank you for the linkage, Tara!
ljc: the middleman (book)taraljc on 23rd September 2011 16:45 (UTC)
No problem! I'd commented on the original article, but hadn't really done anything here at my ElJay, and I added a SLEW of books from tanuki_green's lists to my Amazon wishlist last night so I can track them down.
Preserving dead alien corpses since 1995!cschick on 23rd September 2011 17:49 (UTC)
Tanya Huff was kept in the YA section of the library I had access to as a teen, but so were the first five-ish Anita Blake novels.

I'm more amused that Lackey seems to have become considered YA, she was not in the YA section back then.

I think there are a whole group of fantasy novels that kind of hug the line between YA and adult fantasy, because they generally attract teens in the say 12-15 range BUT contain concepts or come to contain concepts which prevent them from being labeled YA even though the young teen market is their primary readership. I was quite confused (as an adult) when I read Obsidian Butterfly and then attempted to find the earlier Anita Blake novels at the library and discovered they were shelved in the YA section. According to the librarian the first was marketed YA even though later ones were not, and they'd kept them in the YA section up to that point because that was their primary readership. I think Lackey, Huff, (McCaffrey) all fall into that type of mislabeling.

Edited at 2011-09-23 18:07 (UTC)
Preserving dead alien corpses since 1995!cschick on 23rd September 2011 18:18 (UTC)
I get into all these types of discussions because my mother is a 7th grade English teacher in a Catholic school, and she is not a big fan of most "popular" type YA novels, thus I end up reading and evaluating them for her. The YA versus adult fantasy divide simply mystifies me at times. I have no idea how the Alanna series (for example) with its vague sex positiveness is still labeled YA. I think it is YA but my mom was looking at stocking it in her classroom and I told her to skip it but put Pierce's other series in (Pierce has become more conservative over time I think). Because all it takes is one really uptight parent, unfortunately ...
Sarah Rees Brennansarahtales on 23rd September 2011 20:24 (UTC)
I, uh, think quite a lot of YA is sex positive! Including Tamora Pierce, of course. Though being sex positive does mean you face more challenges and less popularity, as you say, as does including gay characters, because the world is dreadful sometimes.

Generally YA-labelling is down to age of protagonist and other main characters, though naturally all marketing categories can get a bit fuzzy. I've never heard of Tanya Huff or Hamilton being called YA before, but I have heard people say Naomi Novik's books are YA, and the protagonist is in his thirties.
Preserving dead alien corpses since 1995!cschick on 24th September 2011 00:14 (UTC)
Sex positive may not have been exactly the term I should have used. I love the Alanna books and personally see no issue in allowing 7th or 8th graders to read them. But the way that sex is handled in the Alanna books, when she starts sleeping with Jon, her struggles between Jon and George; it's all pretty much laid out there in non-judgmental terms, with a degree of clarity and honesty I don't think that Pierce gets to in her later series (she goes a lot more 'fade-to-black/assume-what-comes-next'). Unfortunately not something a 7th grade English teacher at a Catholic school may be able to risk having in her classroom library.

The Anita Blake thing is just strange. As I said, it was a librarian who told me that when initially published, the first novel was published as YA. Searching online, I see a lot of people shouting that it's not YA, apparently because the series has sometimes been recommended to the Twilight crowd ;)

Edited at 2011-09-24 00:15 (UTC)
hiddencaithiddencait on 23rd September 2011 18:28 (UTC)
Tamora Pierce has an entire series with a quartet of protagonists (why can't I spell that word today??? sheesh) in a variety of colors as it were and one of them does end up being a lesbian by the end of it. It's the "Circle of Magic" quartet, and it actually has a follow up quartet and one last novel too!

Seriously, for strong female protaganists, Pierce is my fave young adult fantasy author for sure.
misspamela: Book Heart - colorvarymisspamela on 24th September 2011 01:13 (UTC)
Thanks for the reminder! I just picked up a few of those.

Observed behaving suspiciously in Strasbourgh: Vincent Price -Shall we dancebendtothesun on 24th September 2011 06:21 (UTC)
Seconding the Circle Of Magic books and all it's sequels. I've loved those for years and years. They fit a lot of the categories you are looking for there.

Also Ash & Huntress by Malinda Lo are HIGHLY recommended by me. Ash especially is a favorite of mine, although it's not really a love story so much as a story about grief and I thought it was especially well done.