UPPING THE DIVERSITY
Jenny Han on YA Literature (link to Huff Post article)
I haven't been reading YA for that long so I am by no means an expert... but in this digital age, knowledge is no longer a prerequisite to opinion so eh, I will go ahead and throw in my two cents.
I was reading an article on Huff Post about YA author Jenny Han. The article primarily discussed her novels and her writing process, but it also covered Han's perceived representation of Asian-Americans (and other minority social groups) in YA fiction, and the positive effect her YA stories have on her readers (particularly Asian-American readers).
It got me to thinking that as I reader, what better experience is there than to enjoy a novel where you feel deeply connected with the characters? To whoop with joy or lament in despair, to feel like you've been there, done that, and know exactly how it feels? From Han's comments, it's evident that her stories speak strongly to a young Asian-American audience, presumably because Han can draw from her experiences and create a narrative containing themes and situations that feel authentic to Asian-American teens. I haven't read any of her novels, but I am guessing that Han might touch on themes such as interracial relationships, eastern and western cultural misunderstandings, subtle and overt racism, and other experiences that are particular to her understanding of an Asian-American upbringing. Stuff that I know nothing about other than the appreciation I gained through reading.
And this is the crux of why YA literature needs to as totally diverse as it can be. The beauty of stories about minority groups and cultures is that they help to make the members of those groups feel like they're not alone, and help the majority to understand the experiences and the challenges they may face. It's a win-win all round, really. As our society crawls towards greater acceptance and understanding of the vast tapestry of cultures and lifestyles that make up "being human", quality YA literature has a prime role in leading the movement of understanding and acceptance of these realities. So I totally agree with Jenny Han, we need diversity, we need quality, and we need school libraries that aren't afraid to promote these texts.