YA books are often quite good at being inclusive of different identities (or aspects of identities). But there are still some improvements that could be made to the inclusiveness and representation of YA literature. What are some things that I’d like to see more often in YA?
This is something that we’re seeing more and more of in YA, thankfully, but I still think more is needed. First of all, it’d be nice to see people who identify as something other than gay or lesbian. Bisexuality is finally starting to be represented more often (although more bisexual representation is certainly needed and welcomed), but we still need more pansexual, asexual, demisexual, genderqueer, trans, nonbinary, etc. representation. It’d also be nice to see more of these identities reflected in books that aren’t “issue” books. In other words, I’d like to see these identities be more of a character trait rather than a defining feature at the center of the book’s story.
Mental Illnesses Other Than Depression and Eating Disorders
I’ve always been a big, big fan of YA books that tackle mental illness, likely because I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety since I was in middle school (and I’m now 21). But even though I’ve read a lot of books like these, they almost always seem to focus on depression or eating disorders. Sometimes they focus on PTSD (although it’s very rarely actually called PTSD), usually after the main character has been a victim of sexual assault. There’s certainly a good amount of YA dealing with drug addiction, too. But I very desperately want to read and learn more about other mental illnesses. Show me characters with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, ADHD, OCD, etc.
Cultures Besides Mainstream US Culture
This is another area that is starting to be improved and diversified, but I still want to see more of that happen. I have, admittedly, read very few books like this (which I’m hoping to change in 2017) and this is partly because I don’t really know what books are out there that will show me different cultures. Over the past few months, I’ve been slowly but surely taking note of some books that can help with this (largely thanks to Naz at Read Diverse Books) but I feel like it shouldn’t be this difficult to find books that represent other cultures. I shouldn’t have to go searching for these books – they should just be there. So I’d love to see more diversified cultural representation in YA. I’m even (mostly) fine with it happening in the US (for example, if it focuses on immigrants who recently came to the US) – I just want to see cultures that I don’t know that much about.
I could honestly keep going with this, but I think I’ll stop here before this turns into a 2000 word essay (Lord knows I have enough of those to write over the next week). Basically, although I think YA does a pretty good job of being inclusive, there’s still a lot of improvements to be made. These are just a few things that I’d personally like to see represented more frequently in YA.