Celebrating the Multifaceted, Multicultural, and Multicolored World of YA Fiction

Diversity in YA Fiction (DIYA) is a website and book tour founded by two young adult authors, Malinda Lo and Cindy Pon, to celebrate diverse stories in YA. From the site:

“DIYA is a positive, friendly gathering of readers and writers who want to see diversity in their fiction. We come from all walks of life and backgrounds, and we hope that you do, too. We encourage an attitude of openness and curiosity, and we welcome questions and discussion. Most of all, we can’t wait to have fun sharing some great books with you!”

Cindy is the author of Silver Phoenix (Greenwillow, 2009), which was named one of the Top Ten Fantasy and Science Fiction Books for Youth by the American Library Association’s Booklist, and one of 2009′s best Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror by VOYA. The sequel to Silver Phoenix, titled Fury of the Phoenix, will be published in April 2011.

Malinda is the author of Ash (Little, Brown, 2009), which was a finalist for the William C. Morris YA Debut Award, and named one of the Kirkus Best Young Adult Novels of 2009. A companion novel to Ash, titled Huntress, will be published in April 2011. Cindy and Malinda will be joined on tour by a marvelously diverse array of award-winning authors across the country; with the launch just days away, Malinda took the time to answer a few questions for The Brown Bookshelf.

Where and how do you see the biggest changes happening regarding diversity in children’s literature?

I think that in recent years there has been a huge growth in books that feature diverse main characters but don’t focus on diversity as an issue. I really welcome that development, because while I know there’s a place for the issue novel in children’s literature, I personally am not drawn to those kinds of stories. I like to read books that focus on story, and in that story, it’s wonderful if the characters happen to be black or Asian or gay. I think that sometimes race and sexuality can be better understood when experienced sort of sideways, via a broader story that isn’t specifically about race or sexuality.

What would you like to see “gatekeepers” such as booksellers, librarians, educators, etc. do to support more diversity in children’s literature?

I know that gatekeepers are already encouraging readers to try out books that feature diverse characters, and I thank them for that! One thing I don’t want is for these books to be seen as chores, you know? I think that gatekeepers should consider booktalking these books without emphasizing the educational or politically correct aspect. Kids don’t want to read books that are good for them — at least, I never did! — they want to read books that excite them in some way. So many of the books I’ve seen from authors on our diversity tour are full of adventure and thrills and romance. I think it would be great to position these books based on those hooks.

Along with the blog and tour, can we expect other initiatives from DIYA? What are your goals for the project?

Although the majority of our tour will take place from May 7-14, we’ll definitely be around for the rest of 2011. This summer we’re launching a Diversify Your Reading Challenge for libraries and readers everywhere. Our goals are to challenge readers to read novels featuring diverse characters, and to invite librarians to focus on these books as well. We’ll have some great prizes!

Later this year in October, we’ll be doing some events in San Diego during the World Fantasy Convention. Our website will be going strong all year, so be sure to stop by and see what we’re up to. And we hope to see lots of folks out on the road during our tour in May!

The tour begins in a few days — find out when DIYA will be in your neck of the woods. And those great prizes? You can win one now! Leave a comment on this post for a chance to receive a book from one of the tour authors. (Winner and book will be chosen at random; giveaway open to U.S. residents only.)

5 thoughts on “Celebrating the Multifaceted, Multicultural, and Multicolored World of YA Fiction

  1. I don’t know if the giveaway’s still going on, but if so I’d love to be entered!

    I’m so disappointed that I couldn’t make it up to NYC for at least one leg of the tour. I did follow along online through social media, though!

  2. Great post! I will check out your books. You should also read My Soul Fainted Within Me by Shonda. It’s a great book for teens!

  3. I always tell my students that books are a way of living other lives. They can go to any point in history, any country in the world, or be any person who has ever been written about. Why read about people who are exactly LIKE you all the time?

  4. As a teacher and a parent, I can’t express enough how reading helps us grow. Reading helps us grow intrinsically, building our base of knowledge, putting ourselves in other peoples’ shoes helping us to become more empathetic, learning about other cultures and traditions helping us become more understanding and less judgmental, helping us understand our emotions, feelings, life goals, values, and virtues by reading about others’ experiences. Reading is great to make various types of connections, but it’s also a great opportunity to learn about something we have no idea about and search inside ourselves to find some sort of connection we may have had no idea existed…Reading is a very good reflection tool.

    A book I can connect with on a superficial level as well as on a deeper level is “Nappy Hair”. I have the book and I used to read it to my children often because of how they describe the main character’s hair. That’s the superficial side of it. On a deeper level, I can relate because when I was younger, I didn’t like my nappy hair, but then I realized that is what God gave me and that should be a good enough reason to enjoy my hair. Another way I connect on a deeper level is, the characters in the book are depicted just like people in my family….their comments are just like what my family members would say. Years ago I heard that the book, “Nappy Hair” was taken out of school libraries. I haven’t checked to see if it is true or not, but I can’t imagine why it would be banned from school libraries.

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