And I hope you all entered Adam's and Victoria's book giveaways to support ethnically diverse book covers.
This issue is important to me, too. A lot of you know I grew up in Hong Kong, which was an amazing place to live and grow. Hong Kong is an incredibly diverse city. My best friends in middle school were from all over the world: Holland, Australia, Burma, India, Sri Lanka, Portugal and England. Of course I experienced a good dose of Chinese culture, too, even though my family culture was American.
I grew up as a minority. Maybe that's why I can relate to this struggle and why it makes me sick to my stomach that we would still be trapped in this "covers with white people on them sell books" mentality.
Add to that, my oldest daughter is ethnically Chinese and, at ten years old, she's about to plunge into the world of Young Adult fiction. She's an avid reader. What is she going to find when she gets there?
Middle grade novels have been great. I love the diversity in middle grade. One of my daughter's favorite authors, Grace Lin, just came out with DUMPLING DAYS, and my daughter ate it up (pardon the pun). She was delighted with this book.
But where are the YA books like DUMPLING DAYS? Not that we can ONLY relate to books about people of our same ethnicity, but I find the "white-out" disturbing. And that my daughter might think the only heroines allowed to be Asian have to carry a sword and possess Ninja skills. (I'm definitely NOT against Ninja skills or Asian protagonists having them. It's awesome. Ninja skills are always wonderful.)
I guess I'm speaking to my own genre here: Contemporary Young Adult. That is, realistic stories with teenaged protagonists. Where are the Asians in contemporary YA?
I was racking my brain for YA novels I've read with Asian protagonists. I haven't read either of the books Adam's giving away: Cindy Pon's SILVER PHOENIX or Malinda Lo's HUNTRESS, though PHOENIX has been on my radar for awhile. But neither of these are contemporary YA. Don't get me wrong, I'm still so glad they exist. If anything, I'm just frustrated with my own little section of the book store.
(Note: I love that BESTEST. RAMADAN. EVER. has a Syrian-Iranian American protagonist. That's movement in the right direction!)
Now I'd like to hear from you (really, I do!):
- Can you think of any other YA books, especially in the contemporary group, that feature Asian protagonists? (Let's stick with YA. There are a lot of adult books and middle grade book examples.)
- What can we DO about this lack?
- My knee-jerk answer to this question is, since we're writers, WRITE with more diversity. The covers can't reflect diversity if, in our mind's eye, all we see are blonds and red-heads. Here's my humble attempt: My WiP's main character is half-Asian-- her mom is Vietnamese-American-- and my currently-resting WiP has a Chinese protagonist. Obviously, there's no guarantee either of these books will ever see the light of a bookstore shelf. Still, there's the effort to make a change, right?
- But here's another weird spin-off question related to my last point: I'm not Asian. I may feel Chinese in some ways because of my upbringing, but is there a problem with non-Asian writers writing Asian characters? I've considered using "Lin" to replace my middle name "Lynn" in my pen name, just to give myself some instant credibility ... but I decided that might be slightly deceitful. *blush*