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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Minorities in YA

You know how LGBT literature is this big thing right now? Maybe 'big thing' isn't the right way to put it. It's popular. There hasn't been much of it traditionally, then there were a few books, and now there are more popping up all the time.

Well. Did you know that only about 4% of Americans call themselves lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender? Link (This statistic fluctuates. I've also seen it at 2% and 3.5%. I'm using this percentage because I can link to it, and it seems a little more recent.)

Now here's another question. Have you noticed the lack of books about other minorities, such as stories with non-Caucasian characters?

According to this article, in 2010 over 16% of Americans were Hispanic or Latino.

And then we have this data, from this report:

How components of the U.S. population are projected to change by 2050:

Racial/ethnic groups20052050

Note: *=Non-Hispanic
American Indian/Alaska Native not included

The projections show that by 2050:

•Nearly one in five Americans will have been born outside the USA vs. one in eight in 2005. Sometime between 2020 and 2025, the percentage of foreign-born will surpass the historic peak reached a century ago during the last big immigration wave. New immigrants and their children and grandchildren born in the USA will account for 82% of the population increase from 2005 to 2050.

•Whites who are not Hispanic, now two-thirds of the population, will become a minority when their share drops to 47%. They made up 85% of the population in 1960.

•Hispanics, already the largest minority group, will more than double their share of the population to 29%.  Link to source 

Okay, wait a minute. Do you see how off-kilter this is? It seems like everyone is so excited about LGBT lit and adding something to Young Adult shelves that is noticeably lacking. But according to the above survey, LGBT people account for only 4% of the population. That's 4%, while the Hispanic and Latino population is at 16% and growing rapidly. In less than forty years, that population will "more than double."

So then, if we are concerned about including minorities in YA lit, why do I look around and see Caucasian girls on all our covers, and why are only 1 out of maybe every 15 books about a non-White character? Granted, often a character's ethnicity is left ambiguous. But basing by our covers, and the racial descriptions we do get in the text, I think this is a fair assessment. What do you think? Am I totally off base?

It seems to me that we're focusing on the wrong minority. I'm not trying to say that LGBT lit isn't important, or that we shouldn't include them. It's just when you look at the percents (4% vs. 16%) and then look at how those numbers are reflected in YA right now ( I speculate that the number of LGBT characters is pretty even with non-Caucasian) . . .  it just doesn't make sense.

I want to see more ethnic characters in YA. How about you?

Okay, in the nature of full disclosure, the story I am writing right now has a Cherokee main character loosely based on my grandma. Her racial background kind of snuck its way in there, and then I realized how few characters like her there are. Thus: this rant.

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