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I must admit there is not much diversity in my reading life and coming from a future educator that is probably not a good thing, but I have come to a point in my life where I am sick of people telling me what to read. My whole life up to this point I have always read what other people have read or what I have been told to read and I am done doing that. I do not read for the purpose of diversifying my reading life. I pick books based off of my personal interests not because someone told me “it would diversify my reading life”. When I read Kira-Kira in middle school my interest wasn’t solely based on the fact that the main character was Japanese-American, no it was because the story sounded interesting to me. I never want to feel guilty for not reading diverse books, because I need “to diversify my reading life”. I have the right to read whatever I want and if that is books by white authors featuring white characters then I am going to exercise that right every chance I get.
I want to reiterate a point. I pick books based off of the story not the author or the characters. When I read Monster by Walter Dean Myers in high school I honestly did not think about the main character being black, or even the author, I just enjoyed the story. That being said I think there needs to be diversity in the publishing industry and in books. I read books about white characters because I can relate to them while black people read books about black people so they can relate to them. I can read a book about teenage black boys growing up in Harlem and probably enjoy it because I learned something about Harlem, but in all honesty I’d rather have read a fantasy novel featuring a strong female lead. I can relate better to a strong female than I can a teenage boy. There needs to be diverse books because we look for ourselves in books. Ellen Oh explains her struggle to find a female Asian protagonist in YA literature growing up in the blog post A Diversity Reading List. Ellen Oh couldn’t find a mirror in YA books so she wrote her own, which is pretty amazing. Teenagers want to find mirrors in books. I need to be able to supply them with those mirrors, but all students need to find windows as well.
I looked through several blogs this week that are famous for promoting diverse YA lit. I think it is great that there are blogs like this, but I was profoundly disappointed to find all the criticisms I did. I read through several book reviews because to me they are a great way to find out what a book is about before reading it. The authors of these book reviews were not gentle in their criticism at all. There will always be critics but I thought these blogs were for the purpose of promoting these YA books but their words say otherwise. I am not going to name names but one post stood out to me. In it the reviewer was saying what a wonderful book this was despite a few inaccuracies. The reviewer said the inaccuracies didn’t bother her at all and yet she went on to list them and devote a paragraph to each inaccuracy and how it affected the book negatively. At the end of the review she said it was a great book but sometimes harsh criticism like that can turn off a reader because if a blog devoted to finding and promoting YA lit says it is a bad book then why should I read it?
I would like to leave you all with a comment made on a blog post about the children’s book A Birthday Cake for George Washington. To give you a little context, the comment was posted on a longer conversation post about the book, why it was racist, and why scholastic pulled it from their book sales. This is the link to the conversation and the book review-A Conversation on A Birthday Cake for George Washington, No Text is Sacred.
When the lights go out we are the same color.