Diversity in YA, Take 2

I can’t read fiction right now. (I hate when this happens, but it usually means my brain is working on my own creative projects, which is a good thing.) I can barely read non-fiction, which makes my hour-long commute bo-ring.

So instead I’ve been pondering.

And one of the things I’ve been pondering is why I liked the Diversity in YA panel so much.

First, it’s a subject near and dear to my heart: diversity among the authors of fiction (especially YA and scifi/fantasy, the genre I read the most) and diversity among the characters in fiction. And the diverse panelists were there to talk about this very subject to a sympathetic audience. I say sympathetic because this topic can become very fraught with accusations of white-washing or intolerance and racism. Because of the nature of the panel and the questions asked by audience members, the audience was filled with fans, people of color and allies; sympathetic.

Many of the panels of authors I’ve been to have had one or two people of color, or none at all. Ditto on the gay or queer, or gay or queer friendly authors. So to have a whole panel that was diverse was a joy, a validation, and an exciting mirror and window, as someone said. As best I remember, three of the panelists identified themselves as Asian Americans (one South Asian and two South-East Asian), three as black and one as Latino. Among them, three said they identified as biracial as well, one as a lesbian and one as queer.

Second, they were all awesome authors. Ok, I admit, I have only read the books of two of the seven, but they sure came across as awesome.

Third, the moderator, Cheryl Klein, from Arthur A. Levine Books, who is white (I assume, although you know what happens when you assume. However, since she didn’t say, I have to), was everything you want a moderator to be:  prepared, a good speaker, a good timekeeper, had excellent questions and of course knew her stuff.

Fourth, I think everyone is curious about race, ethnicity and sexual diversity. Oftentimes that curiosity gets constricted by notions of what it is acceptable to speak about, discomfort with the topic, racism, lack of ways to express it, etc. So to have a panel on the topic — and one where, at least to me, it didn’t seem like the authors were being asked to or expected to represent for their entire group —  was fun. More, it satisfied a deep seated need to think about and explore these topics with like-minded people in a very specific context: the YA reading and writing context.

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