African American YA Authors & Protagonists are Missing in our Culture!
When I went to college for my undergrad I was fortunate enough to attend a university that was very diverse in regards to all the ethnicity and cultures. I would have to say that at the time (which was within the last 10 years) the majority of most of my classes were filled with African Americans and 99% of them were women. Not too often would I find an African American woman in my class that was not shy of expressing her opinions. I say this with much respect because in my line of studies I have found that the African American Women, or at least the ones I have been around, often have a firm foundation with regards to their self-identity. Coming from someone who struggled with establishing my own self-identity I am fond of seeing women who are strong, and even opinionated (whether I agree with them or not!)
These women in my class often announced during whatever conversations were occurring how there was a lack of smart, educated, African American men available for them and if they were around they were already taken. Now I honestly can’t say whether that is true or not because I’ve no experience in that field of research. But I can say with some degree of experience as a reader as well as a popular and avid book store pursuer that there is certainly a strong degree of frustration at the lack of African American YA Authors. Even worse than that, and more troubling is the lack of YA novels that showcase African American protagonists. I don’t think I’ve picked up many YA novels in the last ten years that showcase a teen who is African American. The ones I have picked up are often stories about life on the streets, drugs, ect.
While those stories are awesome to see I find it troubling that there aren’t any strong minded characters that have leading roles in adventure stories. I decided to go beyond the idea and look at what others have to say about this. I was not at all shocked to find tons of resources to scour through. One source, which I’ll share the link to studied the book cover diversity and noted that only 9% featured girls of color. Years later she did the same study and there had only been a 1% change! Even in the babysitters of (which was my generation) there was only one Asian and one African American but that was after the series had been established for a while.
Why is this significant to me? Well I WANT to know about other cultures. I WANT to know how a story is unwrapped from the mind of an African American because whether people want to admit it or not…the minds, experiences, and stories told are different! Their unique perspectives are NEEDED on the bookshelves, especially from the teen’s perspective. Even fiction is often written with a side of truth to it, no matter what you think. And more families today are inter-racial. I loved what This Site had to say with regards to the remarks made on the subject. I was pleased to come across This Article by Debra Lau Whelan who wrote about a new online community devoted to promoting YA by African American authors and illustrators. Perhaps, with enough voices, there will be a better change over the next few years. Hopefully a more drastic number than 1%. For a fresh new look here a link for some YA novels available. I’ve not read any yet…but they are on my list!
Another Link If You're Interested
Another Link If You're Interested