Today we have a post from YA Author Kelley York discussing why forcing diversity isn’t diversity. Hope you all enjoy the post!
About the Book
Modern Monsters by Kelley York
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Vic Howard never wanted to go to the party. He’s the Invisible Guy at school, a special kind of hell for quiet, nice guys. But because his best friend is as popular as Vic is ignored, he went…
And wished he hadn’t.
Because something happened to a girl that night. Something terrible, unimaginable, and Callie Wheeler’s life will never be the same. Plus, now Callie has told the police that Vic is responsible. Suddenly, Invisible Vic is painfully visible, on trial both literally, with the police, and figuratively, with the angry kids at school. As the whispers and violence escalate, he becomes determined to clear his name, even if it means an uneasy alliance with Callie’s best friend, the beautiful but aloof Autumn Dixon.
But as Autumn and Vic slowly peel back the layers of what happened at the party, they realize that while the truth can set Vic free, it can also shatter everything he thought he knew about his life…
About the Author
Kelley York was born in central California, where she still resides with her lovely wife, step-daughter, and way too many cats, while fantasizing about moving to England or Ireland. (Or, really, anyplace secluded.) She has a fascination with bells and animals and Disney. Her life goal is to find a real unicorn. Or to at least write about them. She occupies her spare time with video games,designing covers, playing on Tumblr, and watching anime.
Kelley is a sucker for dark fiction. She loves writing twisted characters, tragic happenings, and bittersweet endings that leave you wondering and crying. She strives to make character development take center stage in her books because the bounds of a person’s character and the workings of their mind are limitless.
Forcing Diversity in YA
There’s been a lot of talk lately about upping the amount of diversity in young adult fiction. Or, hell, in all forms of media. Rightfully so. We’re all looking for ourselves between the covers of the books we read, for characters like us, characters we relate to. Situations, families, struggles that resemble our own.
More than that, diversity isn’t simply sexual orientation or skin color. It’s heritage. It’s having a main character whose family has a religion not commonly portrayed in YA fiction. It’s the main character having gay dads and showing their family dynamic. It’s a character with a mental or physical disorder that changes how they deal with day to day life. It’s characters with learning disabilities, characters who face prejudice, racism, bullying, from their peers because something about them is different. It’s mixed race or religion families. Characters whose first language isn’t English.
Diversity is all of these things. But let me tell you…it doesn’t work if you have to force it.
This extends beyond tossing a gay, black, Hispanic, what-have-you character into a story. That isn’t representation. And often you can tell when an author has done this as a means of saying, “Look, my story is so diverse, it has five side-characters who are minorities!” And, sadly, I think this is largely a result of may authors feeling cornered, as though books that aren’t diverse can’t be good, which simply isn’t true.
You can’t force a story to be something it’s not. Writing diverse stories isn’t easy. If you don’t have first-hand knowledge of another race, culture, sexual orientation, etc., then you have a lot of research ahead of you to do it justice. And that’s scary. I’ve seen authors who genuinely tried to be diverse in their stories only to be ripped apart after the fact because they got something wrong. I imagine those authors aren’t going to be willing to attempt that again.
As a writer, try to expand your writing horizons to include a wider array of characters in your stories! No, it’s not easy, and yes it is terrifying. But it’s also important for the teens we’re writing for.
As a reader, if you see an attempt is being made and maybe it’s falling a little short, don’t lash out! Gently critique, explain what was good and what could use work in the future. Plenty of authors are looking to you guys to tell us where we can improve. I know I do.
What did you think of this post? Let’s discuss in the comments!