I recently read a blog post by a fellow avid reader who complained that the young adult genre is overwhelmed by white female heterosexual heroes, to the exclusion of all other races, genders and sexual orientations. The post was well written and thoughtful, and it inspired me to discuss some of my own thoughts on the question of race in the young adult genre as well as race in literature as a whole.
When you look at the big name young adult bestsellers in the past ten years, it is almost shocking to see how many of the heroines physically resemble each other. Bella Swan, Katniss Everdeen, Lena Duchannes–all pretty, caucasian brunettes. Even heroines like Clary Fray and Tris Prior differ only in hair color or eye color. While these teenaged heroines may have friends–and in rare cases love interests– who inhabit a different racial profile, the diversity is entirely limited to characters other than the protagonist. You hear a lot of talk about diversity in the young adult publishing industry, yet in most of the high profile bestsellers, there is exactly zero racial variation. Why is this happening?