Hey everyone! It’s been a really hectic month so sorry about the hiatus – I’ve moved house (twice!) and started a new job so things haven’t really settled yet, but I’ve been inspired to finally write this post and would love to hear your thoughts and opinions.
So, this week I started my new (first proper) job, and part of my first week was an induction – a few days of talks about working for the company and its values. One word that was constantly floating around was ‘diversity’, and, to be honest, it made me feel a little uncomfortable.
‘Diversity’ seemed like it was being used as a buzzword, and all this talk about diversity often feels a little empty. It’s great when people point out that something is not diverse, that we need to be targeting and including different groups of society, but without action, pointing out diversity (or the lack thereof) can be a bit pointless. Diversity is also talked about A LOT in YA at the moment, and yet, diverse books are still difficult to find.
At the event this week, one speaker said that the room was overall, not so diverse. Here’s the problem: diversity is often invisible, and it’s often used to mean racial diversity. I’m not saying that we don’t need more racial diversity (especially in YA, this is something we need to be seeing), but we need to remember other ways people can be diverse.
Disability is close to my heart – I have an invisible illness and I’d say that no-one knows I have it unless I choose to tell them (sidenote: I’ve had friends in the past telling anyone and everyone about my disability without my consent, and you should know that this is NOT COOL). Some forms of disability are visible, and these are the forms of disability people often think of and expect when somebody says they’re disabled. In fact, I’d say a large proportion of people classified as disabled don’t have mobility issues – so many of us are affected by autoimmune diseases and/or mental health issues and often physical, visible disabilities get more attention and sympathy than those which are not so easy to see. Disabilities in YA are often miraculously cured (often by a hot teenage boy with a rebellious streak), and we need to see more accurate depictions of disability.
Class/socioeconomic background is an aspect of diversity that is often forgotten – social mobility really is an uphill struggle, and not everyone can see themselves in a white, middle class character. It’s not always easy to tell which class a character belongs to – personally, I have a very variable accent which isn’t always so Northern (although I am from Lancashire), and so people often assume I come from a more privileged background than I do. I’d love to see more class issues explored in YA, and it’s definitely one aspect of diversity that is often forgotten.
Political and religious views are often left out of YA – I’d love to see more of them but understand that they can be a problematic subject and a character with wildly different views to your own can be more difficult to understand. If anyone has any recommendations for books that explore these views, I’d love to hear them.
LGBTQIA+ is an aspect of diversity that is becoming more featured in YA, but I want to see more diversity still – so many YA books of the LGBTQIA+ variety are the stories of the coming out of gay men, which is great, but there are so many stories to be told. A book featuring LGBTQIA+ characters doesn’t have to be about ‘coming out’, and it doesn’t even have to be about romance. There’s still so much to do here – I’d love to read more about intersex and/or asexual characters, for example.
If I’ve left out any aspects of diversity you think we should be talking about, please let me know – and again, if you have any recommendations, please post them down below or message me on twitter (@annalisebooks).