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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.
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)