John Green, Gayle Forman, and J.K. Rowling are all amazing and successful authors of young adult novels, but what do they share in common? In order to fully understand the importance and extent of this answer, we have to think about the people who helped publish them, the characters in each of their novels, and of course, who's reading these books. Who is the audience exactly? We are children and young adults who come from various ethnic, racial and class backgrounds with different sexual orientations and religious perspectives. Yet, knowing this, why do we usually only see one kind of person reflected in the books we read?
"According to a 2013 US study of the 3,200 children's books published that year, only 93 were about black people, 34 about Native Americans, 69 about Asians and 57 about Latinos."
Up until now, I had never given much thought to the fact that who I was reading about in my favorite books could impact how I saw my own potential to break into the world of writing and publishing. When I was younger and basically gobbling up every Junie B. Jones book I could get my hands on, I thought I was reading a fictional story about a character coming into her own and talking about her everyday life. But from a cut and dry perspective, I was actually reading about a white character made up by a white author who found success through white publishers supporting them.
If publishers decided to expand on the kind of writers they marketed and what books they publicized, what impact would this have on readers?
We know that they wouldn't be causing anybody to feel excluded. If anything, they'd be helping to eliminate prejudice thinking and behavior while breaking down the walls on who society normally associates with the title of "successful author".
They'd be eliminating stereotypical labels placed on racial groups such as assuming Latinos don't read because they come from a lower class background where no one seems educated enough to enjoy literature.
The fact that the publishing world is not a reflection of the U.S. demonstrates a huge structural problem within the industry. Diversity isn't a new concept and neither is the amount of diversity among readers. It's time for the publishing industry to stop purposefully keeping attention away from writers who's stories are just as important. And finally, it's time to normalize the idea of seeing a Hispanic or African American author's novel as the #1 New York Times Best Seller.
Even if we may individually care about it, it's about starting a conversation on changing how this little world works. We can hope that one day the world of literature as we know it will have changed, becoming a place where there exists so much versatility among people we read about and that anyone can write and publish a great story without there being prejudice or limitations. It will be a place where everyone and everything involved sees past the differences that have held us back up until now.