Nothing can equate to the feeling of cracking a new book wide open. The feel and smell of the pages, the sound of the spine cracking, the endless possibilities. Books are by far some of the most influential things on this planet, but many young adult novels greatly lack diversity.
As a young child, I loved to read, and I still do to this day. However, the difference now is that I can see the lack of diversity. As a kid, I didn’t pay attention to the ethnicities of the characters or “how they looked.” I didn’t like the characters for their physical features, rather I fell for their personalities. As wonderful as that is, when I grew older I began to notice how all of my favorite characters were depicted as white, whether it was in the actual novels or in the Hollywood adaptations.However, diversity goes beyond race, it also has to do with sexuality and gender.
Harry Potter was a huge part of my life growing up. While reading the novels, I really identified with Hermione Granger. Just like me, she had the crazy uncontrollable hair and she was “the smart kid.” As a child, I felt that I could really connect with the character and her struggles. When I fist saw a Harry Potter film I wasn’t very surprised that a white actress was playing Hermione. Don’t get me wrong, I love Emma Watson and she greatly inspires me, however, I always subconsciously saw Hermione as black and seeing her depicted in another way completely affected how I saw and related to her character. After that, it became a really long time before I read a book that had an immensely diverse character list.
At the beginning of the school year, I read the book Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older. This book totally flipped my world upside down. Reading it had been on of the only times I had read a book with a woman of color was the main character.Not only that but the whole book had a completely diverse cast. There were people in the story that depicted real people in the real world (there was even a biracial lesbian couple which was amazing). The book and the story have become really important to me because they show how that YA genre is adapting. How the books are beginning to challenge societal norms. Books like this are so important, now more than ever. They allow for a wider range of people to connect on a deeper level with the character, while still being inclusive for all. Books are very important to many people and they have the ability to change lives, that is why we need to continue to create and publish more diverse novels. To be able to effect and change many young kids live’s.