This is week #6 and this week we'll focus on genre- YA fiction. Last week I shared at length my observations regarding cover art featuring black characters. Some responded that readers have been conditioned to make narrow assumptions about African American fiction. Another reader said librarians and teachers need to expose students to a greater variety of authors. Your assignment this week is to inform readers what they are missing. With your help, maybe we can begin dismantling misconceptions and introduce readers to a more diverse pool of writers.
I opted to answer question #1: provide a recommended list of lesser known works.
Recommended YA List
Life Is Funny by E.R. Frank – a novel of interconnected short stories. Multicultural. Realistic fiction.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi- graphic novel. Coming-of-Age. Set in Iran.
When Kambia Elaine Flew In From Neptune by Lori A. Williams. Story of friendship and molestation.
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichia. Coming-of-Age. Abuse. Set in Nigeria.
If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson. Teen Romance. Race.
A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliott. Time Travel. Social Commentary.
Down To The Bone by Mayra Lazara Dole. LBGT teen fiction. Realistic fiction.
Parable of The Sower by Octavia E. Butler. Dystopia fiction. (technically, not YA)
Looking at my list I realize how heavily I lean towards realistic fiction and dark themes. I also realize my YA reading choices today are not much different from when I was young. The absence of fantasy and mystery today is consistent. As a teen I didn’t read funny stories or the zombie stuff either. Today, I would read more in romance, fantasy and mystery, but I don’t know any works written by writers of color or with characters of color and honestly, while I don’t need characters to look like me, I’m not motivated to read genres outside of what I prefer if there isn’t an additional draw. Moreover, I think I lean towards realistic fiction and the dark themes because I prefer YA that mirrors the same qualities I look for in adult literature: solid character development and quality writing. I don’t read chick lit or romance in adult fiction so I don’t look for it in YA either.
I want to address the gaps, mainly fantasy and mystery. While these genres are not likely to become regular reads, I am very interested in being aware. It's good to know what's available. Suggestions?