At the moment it feels like every man, woman and dog are talking about diversity and representation in novels. Specifically YA novels. It’s true that a lot of young stories are being improved by own voice authors, and authors who are willing to put themselves on the line to talk about a character that might represent a minority. However, that’s not always the case.
There is a lot of talk at the moment about diversity being represented. People from different ethnicities, cultures and backgrounds are being pulled in to the forefront of novels now, and what a great thing this is (i actually have a lot of thoughts on this, that’s a whole other blog post). And we rejoice at the representation on our bookshelves now.
Finally people are being given a voice who should have a long time ago. A lot of representation has improved, just one example is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and Starr’s background, that would have never been on shelves ten years ago. However, people are still missing a trick.
It’s wonderful that so many people can identify with characters and find themselves in a book these days, however people like me, still cannot find anyone. Most would say that i’m over-represented in novels as a white (British) female. That’s so far from the truth. I’ve found people with my skin tone as far as my eye can see in Waterstones, but i’ve never found a character who has a similar upbringing or background to me, a character with my personality and most of all a character who is pansexual and bi-gendered.
Whilst representation seems to be the main focus of the YA world at the moment, it’s difficult to fathom whilst all these wonderful novels about minorities are being published (which is a WONDERFUL thing, so many people are now finding themselves in novels that they would have never before), there are still no representations of different LGBTQ+ groups and people like me. It’s a shame that LGBTQ+ people seem to have been forgotten about, and as long as it’s white characters in a female/female or male/male relationship, that’s us represented. It’s not. Not at all.
I think that more LGBTQ+ novels need to identify with more of the LGBTQ+ letters, along with the world becoming a lot more friendly to diverse novels and representation of everyone. At YALC this year there was a lot of talk that everyone deserves to find themselves in a book at least once, to find a character that you truly connect with. It seems to be that as long as you’re a white male or female, you are represented. I think this idea needs to change that we all fit under this category, because i have NEVER found a character that represents me like that, and i imagine there are plenty of people in the world who identify just as i do that could benefit from some form of representation in literacy.
There are probable novel’s with pansexuality, asexuality and bi-gendered characters, however they’re so few and far between and difficult to find it’s not truly being ‘represented’. In the world of literature there is so much more to fix than this problem, but the journey of representation in YA novels is far from being over.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever found a character that you truly feel represented by.