Beyond the Dominant Culture and Good Intentions: Diverse YA Books and Stock Selection

16 Nov

In “the power and peril of prepositions” the YALSA blog addresses an issue very relevant to all libraries:

“With our new age of books that truly reflect, engage, and explore other experiences—those of people in situations and worlds where class, color, gender, sexual orientation, language, religious tradition, and ability matter—we need to remember that these various experiences matter to all of us, not just to readers who identify with the specific demographic depicted in the specific book.

‘Books about teens in wheelchairs aren’t just for teens in wheelchairs or for teens who know someone else in a wheelchair. Books that explore life from the viewpoint of a Jewish Latina anxious for her first kiss from a boy don’t belong in a ghetto where only straight Jewish Latinas get to hear about them.”

I don’t know about everyone else out there, but I encounter this problem a lot in my library: we who order the books assuming that a book about a person of a certain identity will only be read by people who share that identity. The irony is that this is probably not how or why most of us library employees read. In fact, we’re often inclined to reach outside our own identities in the desire to access engaging stories and new experiences.

So when we’re ordering YA book, it’s worth keeping in mind that just because we haven’t identified a local gay teen community, or transgender teen community, or black teen community, or a community of disabled teens, doesn’t mean that buying books that address those experiences isn’t important. Teens will expand their perspectives by picking up these books and connecting will well-drawn characters and exciting stories. You also raise the chances of teens who do identify with the protagonists being able to find books that reflect their life experiences. Regardless, the most important thing is to order these YA books–good YA books–and promote them like crazy.

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