Now to talk about something serious.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): We Are One by Cam Clarke/Charity Sanoy/Ladysmith Black Mambazo [Lion King 2: Simba's Pride soundtrack].

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about this post today. It wasn’t something I wanted to write on a whim or rush out without thought or care.

I want you to take a look at my post yesterday, Books That Have Changed My Life. If you look, you will see the common theme for these stories that so powerfully changed me all have to do with changing my view of the world.

There are many ways to see the world differently. The Giver gave it to me by showing me lack in a perfect world. It made me see my imperfect life with wonder and realize what made life valuable. But that is only one way to see the world new.

I have been to Mexico, I have been to the moon. I have been to asteroid B612 where a little boy took care of a small, vain rose. I have been into the heart of the Congo and to South Africa during apartheid. I have been to medieval Japan and seen creatures and places beyond my wildest dreams. I have seen the world. It has come in snatches and glimpses. But there is so much more out there.

I have not been inside a Mayan temple or seen their way of life. I have been to Romania only once, and I cannot even remember the name anymore. And what of Serbia or a thousand other hidden places of the world? I have heard their myths are wonderful, but I have not been there… yet.

I have seen enough of Westerns dragons and castles and medieval knights. I know them. I want to go somewhere I’ve never been before, be with someone new. Every child deserves to see themselves within the pages of a book. I have seen myself there hundreds, if not thousands of times. But I know there are children that have never seen themselves there, not once. So they stop trying. A door is closed then, entire worlds are closed off and the possibility of expansion is broken. It is tragic, and it is wrong.

There are books out there. You have seen it here, you have seen it in other places. But they are like buried treasure. They are wonderful to find, but they shouldn’t be so rare. You shouldn’t be able to count on one hand all the stories of Japan you know. Or of Africa, or of any other place. That goes the same with characters, of any kind, especially of characters. Books reflect life. The world is filled with diversity. It is teeming with it. It is what makes us unique and so beautiful. Books should be a mirror to that too.

I'm sure you can't imagine what it's like to wander through the teen section of a bookstore and only see one or two books with people of color on them. Do you know how much that hurts? Are we so worthless that the few books that do feature people of color don't have covers with people of color? It's upsetting, it makes me angry and it makes me sad. Can you imagine growing up as a little girl and wanting to be white because not only do you not see people who look like you on TV, you don't see them in your favorite books either. You get discouraged and you want to be beautiful and be like the characters in the books you read and you start to believe that you can't be that certain character because you don't look like them. --Ari from Reading In Color.

Ari’s heartrending and beautifully honest letter of what it is like to be a teen of color.

Kristi’s (The Story Siren) letter of how she, as a white person, had her view changed.

An incredibly thought-provoking and thorough post by Bookslut about the many aspects of diversity and representation in YA literature. She says it brilliantly.

Bookshelves of Doom link-filled post to the LIAR and Magic Under Glass cover controversy.

Stacy Whitman’s list of YA fantasy/sci-fi with characters of color/diversity. And Tu Publishing's list of diverse YA SFF she recommends.

Official site of Tu Publishing, multicultural sci-fi and fantasy for YA.

Official site of Lee and Low Books, an independent publishing house of diverse books.

“Transracial Writing for the Sincere” – for those interested in how to authentically write books of a different ethnicity not your own.

Cynthia Leitich Smith’s list of multicultural books for all ages.

Persons of Color Reading Challenge.


Tere Kirkland said...

Your posts are always so heartfelt and meaningful, especially in the books you recommend to others. This is no exception.

Thanks for being part of the solution, Heather!

Heather said...

Great post. I don't think enough can be done to spread the word about the importance of writing multicultural characters. I have one planned for my next book, about a Latina teen, and I'm so excited to start writing it. I honestly don't think it would have ever occurred to me to write outside of my race if it hadn't been for the awareness brought about by bloggers like you and Ari.

Lauren said...

I love everything about how you've expressed yourself here. This is why I believe it is definitively right to make a conscious, public decision to reflect diversity in book blogs. I think we owe it to ourselves and each other, as readers. Thanks for a beautiful post.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

This post is amazing and beautiful and powerful. Diversity is a necessary and vital part of books. Montana is a relatively non-diverse state, and I think it handicaps our kids. The world is such a myriad of color and ethnicity. Books are the perfect way to both experience and learn to appreciate our differences.

Jen said...

This was an absolute fantastic post... brilliant points, diversity is super important in books, I think often times it makes the story complete. It is the perfect way to experience an excellent read!

NotNessie said...

Excellent post.

Kate said...

Meaningful post. It was really interesting to read.

beth said...

I loved reading this.

Beautifully written--and a brilliant topic. Truly a great post.

I am so excited to be in writing and publishing right now. Not only is YA on the rise--and genre YA (especially sci fi and fantasy) are on the rise--but also (I hope) books with diversity are on the rise, too!

Heather Zundel said...

Tere - Thank you. This is something especially near and dear to my heart. There isn't a way to not make it heartfelt in something like this. You are a part of the solution too, by listening and spreading the word.

Heather - That sounds absolutely wonderful. And isn't it strange that you don't notice how much of a disparity there is until it is pointed out? It's like recognizing there is music playing only after you hear silence. You are drowned in it so long, you don't even notice something is missing.

Lauren - Thank you. I tried to compose this post carefully. And it is a conscious decision we have to make until it becomes so accepted that it isn't questioned anymore. Thanks for being a part of the solution too. :)

Shannon O'Donnell - Thank you so much. I agree. I really think it does handicap kids. Like I said, it wasn't until Little Sister that I realized there was a much bigger world that I was missing out on.

Jen - Diversity and authentic representation IS really important, because it reflects life, and a story is the truth hidden within the lie (that's a quote by Stephen King).

NotNessie - Thanks.

Kate - Thanks. I'm glad you read it and that is had meaning for you.

Beth - I'm not sure "great" is the right word. But definitely from the heart. There is so much change happening. I certainly hope YA can be the instigator for a wider view of the world. I would love and be proud to be a part of that. :)

MissAttitude said...

Wonderful post Heather! It's heartfelt and right on :)

I love books because they can take you all over the world and in having more multicultural books, tolerance and education of other cutlures can be achieved. I so agree, every child does deserve to see themselves in the pages of a story and when that does not happen we lose readers, literacy rates go down and the whole world does indeed suffer, a new generation of leaders will come along who don't have an appreciation for boosk. So many of my friends and classmates hate reading, some because they aren't represetned ethnically others because they haven't been intorduced to that one story yet, the book that will change their life and make them love reading.

Psh, I can't take any credit for inspiring you, the idea of having more multicultural books was always in your mind, I'm sure!

BTW a book about Mayans that was just introduced to me is by Chris Epoch, the title is escaping me right now (it's middle grade level).