DISCUSSION: Diverse Rep in YA
*this post includes affiliate links I have with Amazon*
Hello everyone! So these last couple days have been insane, to say the least – half because I’m stressin’ over work and half because the bookish community has become so divided. Why? Because Justina Ireland, an author and diversity advocate, wrote a thread about the racism in The Continent by Kiera Drake and the world thus exploded. Now before we begin the discussion, let’s go over some background info:
- Justina is a POC author who has several books out in the world and another to be released in 2018.
- Kiera is a white, debut author and her novel, The Continent, releases in January 2017.
- As said on Goodreads, the synopsis of The Continent is:
For her sixteenth birthday, Vaela Sun receives the most coveted gift in all the Spire—a trip to the Continent. It seems an unlikely destination for a holiday: a cold, desolate land where two “uncivilized” nations remain perpetually at war. Most citizens tour the Continent to see the spectacle and violence of battle—a thing long vanished in the Spire. For Vaela—a smart and talented apprentice cartographer—it is an opportunity to improve upon the maps she’s drawn of this vast, frozen land.
But an idyllic aerial exploration is not to be had: the realities of war are made clear in a bloody battle seen from the heli-plane during the tour, leaving Vaela forever changed. And when a tragic accident leaves her stranded on the Continent, she has no illusions about the true nature of the danger she faces. Starving, alone, and lost in the middle of a war zone, Vaela must try to find a way home—but first, she must survive.
Okay now, to me, the synopsis itself as racist (and a bit boring tbh) but I thought that could have been poor wording. It seems that was wrong as the book really is racist as Justina points out in a Twitter thread.
It does contain spoilers but, at least for me, once you read all the racism in the book, you won’t want to read the book anyway. After posting this, Justina got a ton of hate for being a bully and someone wrote very brief one-starred reviews of her books on Amazon, stating that Justina herself is a racist. Then last night, after several days of a discussion on TC happening, Kiera Drake wrote a response to the entire ordeal. It’s long, and, tbh everything feels like it’s long, but I’m writing this post as a sum up of my feelings, what I believe the appropriate response is to reading a book that’s racist & being told your writing is racist, what should be done in order to properly include diverse rep in the novels we read and then end with a list of awesome diverse YA that y’all should definitely check out. Here we go….
- It took way too long for people to realize the book was racist; ARCs of this book have been out since BEA and it’s only now, 2 months to release, that people are realizing/talking about how racist TC is
- It shouldn’t have been POC’s duty to call racism out (read more here)
- If someone shows you proof the book is racist and a bunch of other people agree, it doesn’t make sense that you’d say that you “want to read the book and make a judgment for yourself”
- ^ this invalidates/disrespects a lot of voices
- also, why would you want to? There’s so many other things to read and so little time….why read a book that you’ve been told is horrible?
- Overall, be respectful, regardless of what’s been happening. I understand you’re angry/hurt and I’m not saying “don’t feel that way”, I’m just saying, use that energy to resolve the issue(s) present in a calm and respectful matter.
- If you find a book is racist/horrible, see if you can privately inform the author. This could lessen the hate, sadness, and overall insanity. (also applies to really anything)
- If someone says that your book is racist/horrible, listen to them. That’s it. Just listen and promise to do better.
- If you must, maybeeee, ask what they’re seeing that you’re not but handle this very delicately. They’re not obliged to answer you and you ought not to be mad if they don’t answer you. If they do answer you, thank them for their time and promise to do better.
- Don’t call out/blame sensitivity readers, and people in general, for your mistakes.
- First off, the book is under your name – you wrote it – so you are responsible for it.
- Second off, throwing people under the bus is just rude in general.
- Third off, oftentimes, sensitivity readers may not feel safe enough to say everything they’d like to say (read more here).
How To Properly Include Diverse Rep
- use the internet but understand not everything is true and that’s not the full story
- (delicately) talk to a bunch people within the culture(s) you’re writing about and ask for the honest-to-God truth (but know that some people may be hesitant to do so)
- read a variety of books about the culture(s) you’re discussing
- ask a variety of sensitivity readers to read your book and truthfully tell you what’s good and bad about what you’ve written and
- assure them they’re in a safe environment and no matter what’s said, everything will be fine for them
- use the advice they’ve given you
- don’t blame them later for any misgivings you’ve done/made
And do all that a couple times over and know that, you most likely won’t understand everything that happens as there’s too much and sometimes, due to racism/ oppression/marginalization, people may not be willing/feel safe enough to tell you everything. Plus, there’s always gonna be bias regardless of what you read/who you talk to. It’s up to you to still continue in your efforts to learn and, if you make a mistake, listen and do better.
Now for a list of 10 awesome books featuring diverse YA:
- The Hate U Give* by AC Thomas
- Iron Cast* by Destiny Soria
- The Wrath and the Dawn* by Renée Ahdieh
- The Bone Witch* by Rin Chupeco
- Written in the Stars* by Aisha Saeed
- Labyrinth Lost* by Zoraida Cordova
- An Ember In The Ashes* by Sabaa Tahir
- The Star-Touched Queen* by Roshani Chokshi
- Flame In The Mist* by Renée Ahdieh
- When Dimple Met Rishi* by Sandhya Menon
Also, because I love this series so much and they’re actually comics (so a quick read!), I suggest reading the Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan* comics by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona!
And that’s all for today folks! That’s my entire mini guide! I hope you enjoyed and learned something that you’ll use and pass on! There really needs to be more diversity in books but it needs to proper representation so please take my advice to heart. Thanks for reading, happy reading & writing, have a great day/night and tata for now!
*This is an affiliate link I have with Amazon 🙂