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Heck YA, Diversity!: Pro-Tips Edition

A bonus dose of internet distractions, diversity style!

Heck YA, Diversity!: Pro-Tips Edition

Happy American holiday weekend, y'all! While the struggle for equality doesn't take a break, writers do. (And I could never deny someone's chance to day drink!) Plus, when I was researching for this series, I came across SO MUCH good stuff that I just needed to share with y'all. So for this week's installment of Heck YA, Diversity!, you get links! Lots and lots of links!


Here are some great characters with disabilities in YA, along with a list of Dos and Don'ts.

Need more for your to-read list? UW Oshkosh has TONS of widely-ranging suggestions for you. (Includes picture books and non-fiction.)

An essay on portrayals of disability in YA graphic novels. (She doesn't quite fit here, but this def. made me think of Oracle!)

More links can be found in a later section!

Brush up on your terminology with this cute chart! If you like more words, here's an infographic.

Editors and writers on the current state of LGBTQ characters in YA.

The complete list of Stonewall Book Award honourees, the American Library Association's (ALA) honour for best books relating to the LGBTQ experience. Recognize anyone? (Psst -- it's FYA's own Mr. Brian Katcher!)

If you'd like more book rec's beyond FYA's LGBTQ selection, check out blogs like QueerYA and Gay YA.

More links can be found in a later section!

Here are 30 multicultural books every teen should know. I have depressingly only read one (although it's a really, really good one). 

Speaking of Sherman Alexie: this isn't only about race, but he wrote about the importance of tackling tough subjects in YA.

Lists of American YA and middle grade books about POCs, for 2011 and 2012. (Not comprehensive; otherwise, that 2012 list would be suuuuper sad.) 

News flash: children's books -- still super white! (Oh, did I say "news flash"? Because this has been an issue for almost fifty years.) 

Another news bulletin: there is an ongoing problem of race in YA. (I'm not snarking at the articles, but at the problems that they discuss. Like, the amount of progress that's been made over half a century is so disheartening. We can do better. We NEED to do better.)

The Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) keeps statistics on children's books by and about POCs published in the U.S. The numbers are unsurprisingly bleak; look for my analysis in a later installment of this series. In the meantime, check out the CCBC's annual essays on publishing trends (scroll to the bottom for previous years).

The CCBC also keeps a list of publishers owned and operated by POCs. Including...

Our friends at Lee & Low Books! They've hosted some great discussions on race. I was esp. interested in this conversation on writing cross-culturally. And here's even more on the history and mission of this progressive publisher.

More cross-cultural writing: author Sarah Ockler dispels common misconceptions and fears about white authors writing diverse characters.

Author Ellen Oh on why being a POC author sucks sometimes.

From the brilliant mind of Hannah Gómez: an essay on biracial identity in contemporary YA, and a related reading list. Hannah's blog also has a series on biracial narratives.

An interview with authors Holly Black and Sarah Rees Brennan, on representation of diversity in YA.

Do you like dystopia? Or even if you're experiencing dystopia fatigue -- how about girls of colour in dystopia?

Or maybe you prefer a different genre? Author Neesha Meminger talks about POCs in fun, light fare, and author Zoraida Córdova explains what drew her to urban fantasy.

Religion & Spirituality

For having such a prevalent presence throughout history and in everyday lives for a lot of people, religion is conspicuously absent in YA literature. Here's a blast-from-the-past essay that explores spiritual themes in YA.

Cover Story
More links can be found in a later section!

Yup, whitewashing covers is still a thing that exists. (UGH.) There are a lot of resources on this, and they're all worth a read.

Cover art for protagonists of colour mostly falls into three categories: whitewashing, racially amiguous, or silhouettes. Sigh.

A round-up of in-depth analyses: 

•  A comparison of different cover art for the same books
•  An analysis of 2011 YA book covers (also includes egregious trends like Fancy Dress)
•  Protagonists of Asian descent on YA covers

An Abbreviated Anthology of Malinda Lo

In addition to writing pretty awesome books, Malinda Lo is a big advocate of diversity. Along with author Cindy Pon, Malinda is a co-founder of Diversity in YA, which celebrates "young adult books about all kinds of diversity, from race to sexual orientation to gender identity and disability".

As if that weren't enough, Malinda has mad skills at blogging. There's plenty of goodness, including writing advice, commentary on As Seen On TV products, and visits to Hogwarts. But here's a sampling of the awesome diversity-related things she writes. (I more or less stopped culling posts older than September 2012, because there's like an embarrassment of riches to choose from.)


A thorough analysis of Publisher Weekly's bestselling children's books of 2012, which looks at main characters, minority supporting characters, and, of course, book covers.

On issues books, awkward descriptions, and heavy-handedness.

So what does "diversity" mean, really? Plus other thoughts on labels for books (and for people).

Diversity and Publishers

On whether or not diverse characters make it harder to sell a book. And specifically, how hard it is to sell an LGBTQ YA book.


Part 1 and Part 2 of an in-depth look into heteronormativity, fantasy, and Kristin Cashore's Bitterblue (spoilers for all three Graceling novels).

How to avoid LGBTQ stereotypes in YA: 

Part 1: Major LGBTQ stereotypes
Part 2: Gender
Part 3: Words to watch out for
Part 4: Secondary characters and gay jokes
Part 5: Resources

Here's Malinda's take on bisexual characters in YA.

In the reoccuring idea that it's possible to write about people who are -- gasp! -- different than yourself, here are some tips for writing about lesbians when you're not a lesbian.

Cover Story

There's a lot of talk about racial diversity on YA covers, but what about LGBTQ romances?

Beyond Books

Way to go, Houston! You're the most racially and ethnically diverse city in America!

Which designer features the most diversity? (In terms of race, not LOL size. But that's another issue.)

We already know that The Legend of Korra and Avatar: The Last Airbender (NO, not the movie. That never existed.) is pretty awesome, but a behind-the-scenes post sparked a fist-pump worthy response from co-creator Bryan Konietzo.

Y'all know about the Bechdel Test, right? Author Alaya Dawn Johnson applies a similar logic to interactions of POCs in TV.

Cheerios recently released a commercial featuring a biracial family. It's a BFD, trust.

Heck YA, Diversity!

Hey, that's the name of this series! This list will be updated with each new installment from our wonderful contributors. 

Mandy Curtis and Mandy Wan: Every Day (by David Levithan) Visualization
Brian Katcher: 'Are You Even Qualified For This?'
Meghan Miller: Obstacles with Diversity
May-lee Chai: Are 'Ethnic' Heroines a Tough Sell?
Leslie Stella: On Writing Cross-Culturally
Hannah Gomez: 'So, What ARE You?'
Hannah Ehrlich and Mandy Wan: A Publisher About Everyone, For Everyone
Hannah Ehrlich and Mandy Wan: Cover Story
Jenny Han: Assumptions and Expectations
Shana Mlawski: Diversity for the 'Cultureless'
Mandy Wan: A Statistical Analysis
Stephanie Scott: A Whole New World
Whitney A. Miller: The 'Standard' of Beauty 
Bryce Moore: Exploring the Unknown: Diverse Settings and Folklore in YA
Mandy Wan: From the Desk of FYA 
Ashley Hope Pérez: Glossed Encounters: What Glossaries Do in Latino/a YA (and Why I Do Without Them) 
Alix West: The College of Charleston Fun Home Saga
Maria E. Andreu: This Land Was Made for You and Me 
Justina Chen: Whose Story Is It to Tell?
Jonathan Friesen: The Death of Normal 
Celeste Ng and Mandy Wan: An Interview with Celeste Ng

Do you have a diversity find of your own? Or a topic you'd like this series to explore? Share it in the comments!

Mandy Wan's photo About the Author: Residing in Edmonton, AB, Mandy unabashedly loves YA lit, frozen desserts, and terrible puns.