Authors Malinda Lo and Cindy Pon teamed up in late 2010 to create Diversity in YA Fiction, a website and book tour devoted to celebrating diverse stories in YA (young adult) lit. They toured the US in 2011, meeting up with other YA authors and enthusiasts to get a conversation going about the need for diversity in YA lit. Lo told the Atlantic that they were happy to have teens show up at their events, but "we were also very much targeting librarians, bloggers, educators, and other members of the book business with our tour. YA books are often delivered to teens via these gatekeepers, so we wanted to make sure that they were part of the diversity discussion."
As we all know, being in charge of what goes through any gate (or classroom, or library door) is a big responsibility that comes with a lot of power, and when it comes to young adult lit, gatekeeping is a very contentious issue. I'm sure you've heard that Judy Blume's books regularly make appearances on challenged-book lists and that queer young adult books have also been pulled from library shelves. While it's important to challenge and have thoughtful conversations about censorship in libraries, it's also essential that we celebrate the people who work really hard to bring characters with diverse identities to the spaces where young adult go to find books.
We're going to be talking with librarians and educators committed to the good fight during this series, but today I'm hoping that you'll share a story about the person who first introduced you to a YA book that changed the way you thought about identity, yourself, or the world. For me, it was my high school creative writing teacher, who introduced me to Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, a YA book that was instrumental in helping me to form a solid understanding of the affects of sexual assault. Looking back, I can see that her book laid the groundwork that I built my feminist consciousness on top of. I think about that book often, and I'm endlessly grateful to my creative writing teacher for introducing it to me during the time in my life that she did.
Who introduced you to your first earth-shattering young adult book? Share in the comments, and we'll be back next week to continue the conversation.
This program was made possible in part by a grant from Oregon Humanities (OH), a statewide nonprofit organization and an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, which funds OH's grant program. Any views, findings, and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Oregon Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.