Most YA authors I know are well aware of this, but it’s nice to see a full-length article in Publisher’s Weekly discussing YA literature and its emergence as a major genre. Several well-known editors are quoted, with no real surprises – although the mention of The Hunger Games’ cover as being a great design – both gender and age neutral – was interesting. More interesting was a comment made that responds to PW‘s idea that no boundaries exist for YA anymore: Tamora Pierce wonders why there are so few LBGT protagonists and protagonists of color – not secondary characters, not characters acting in a stereotyped way or on an identity quest.
I’d like to know that myself, quite frankly. (Although, quests for self-knowledge and identity being a major theme for YA in general, I’m not sure we can dismiss those characters so easily.) A colleague from one of my Gotham classes has a work in progress that would address the lack of of characters of color – it has a distinct message, but it’s a fantasy with a protagonist of color. Her history is interesting, but her color is by the way – she is who she is, and her race has no particular meaning for the story. It’s part of her, but not her reason for being.
Perhaps the reason more of these stories don’t exist is that they’re still being written. Or perhaps too many teens read up – adult literature has several authors who portray characters of various colors and orientations that are beloved by teens. Hopefully, editors and agents are not choosing to ignore stories with this potential. After all, readers aren’t all lily white and hungering for Edward!
I’d like to see this as an opportunity for more children’s authors, instead of a pitfall. Anyone ready to met the challenge?