diversity

On Diversity

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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

annalsie

Review: London Belongs to Us by Sarra Manning

London Belongs to Us
London Belongs to Us by Sarra Manning

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Seventeen-year-old Sunny’s always been a little bit of a pushover. But when she’s sent a picture of her boyfriend kissing another girl, she knows she’s got to act. What follows is a mad, twelve-hour dash around London – starting at 8pm in Crystal Palace (so far away from civilisation you can’t even get the Tube there) then sweeping through Camden, Shoreditch, Soho, Kensington, Notting Hill . . . and ending up at 8am in Alexandra Palace.

Along the way Sunny meets a whole host of characters she never dreamed she’d have anything in common with – least of all the devilishly handsome (and somewhat vain) French ‘twins’ (they’re really cousins) Jean Luc and Vic. But as this love-letter to London shows, a city is only a sum of its parts, and really it’s the people living there who make up its life and soul. And, as Sunny discovers, everyone – from friends, apparent-enemies, famous bands and even rickshaw drivers – is willing to help a girl on a mission to get her romantic retribution.

 

London Belongs To Us is the fourth Sarra Manning novel I’ve read – my first and favourite being Unsticky – and the first YA novel of hers I have read (although she has written loads).

LBTU is the story of Sunny, a mixed-race working-class seventeen-year-old Londoner, who has decided she’s going to lose her virginity to her boyfriend Mark – tonight. It’s the August Bank Holiday weekend (the last weekend in August for all of you non-UKers), and her mum is out of town, and Sunny has the house to herself (although she’s not allowed any of those wild teenage parties that get out of hand!).

Sunny is hanging out with her best friend Emmeline when she gets a text – a photo of her boyfriend, Mark, kissing another girl. What ensues is a 12 hour chase around London landmarks, meeting interesting characters and doing crazy things Sunny would never have dreamed of doing – all so she can dump Mark and get her dignity back.

What I really did like about this novel is the fact that for every London area visited, there’s a little history to really set the mood. What this novel was missing however, was a map. If in doubt, add a map in the front! This is really common in fantasy novels, but I’d also like to see maps in contemporary novels like this one where the story takes place all over a city.

The absolute highlight for me was the characterisation and diversity in this novel. I loved how Sunny was mixed-race and in an interracial relationship and she did encounter racism, but it wasn’t the main arc of the story. So many stories about non-white characters focus on stereotypes – often featuring gangs, drugs and murder. It’s refreshing to see a non-white character who isn’t defined by their skin colour.

On the topic of diversity, there’s a whole host of diverse characters here – the LGBTQ spectrum is well covered, we see characters from a range of different class backgrounds, and, as mentioned earlier, we see characters of different races. The diversity in this novel doesn’t feel forced – it feels natural, as does the characterisation of London.

This novel introduces lots of characters for such a short book, but it’s done well – they are each unique and memorable, as well as being well-developed.

Overall, this is a fun, short novel which is itself an ode to the culture of London. If you’re looking for a quick summer read that gets diversity right, check this one out.

This book reminded me of another recent YA release, You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan, so if you enjoyed that, this would be another great read.
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Annalise x