YA Reading Trends: What’s Up With African American Fiction?

If I told you of a really, really great YA book and it had a dark skinned girl on the front cover, would you still read it?

I have read and promoted books about all races and sexuality and even religions and loved the experience from each one. So why aren’t black novels as popular as mainstream books?

Does Diversity Stifle Creativity?

It all began last year as I was watching The Hunger Games on Netflix. Soon after, reruns of Twilight aired on cable television and earlier this year my husband and I was amazed at Mazerunner. We truly enjoyed it.

But in the back of my mind a small voice said: “Where are the black folks in mainstream media? Are there no black teens in America at all?”

Hey.

I did not like the question any more than I liked the answer which quickly followed on its heels. Yes, there are black teens everywhere and there are black authors, but none of these books are made into film. Why?

A couple of weeks ago, I read an interesting article on xojane.com which touched on this subject and even listed great and I do mean really great YA books written by black authors:

…for black teens, it can be tough to find people who look like them in the literature they read, which is beyond awful. We need to help build a world where it’s easy to find great books with characters of color — and not just black characters.”[source]

Another reason is that black readers purchase and review mainstream books too, further increasing the sales of the most popular YA we see in film.

Last year, a blogger mentioned that no one should force him to write or buy books by people of color. That could stifle his creativity. And I must say I do agree. As a writer, I don’t want to be told what type of characters to put into my work either.

Paying Attention to Diverse Reading Trends

One author(a white author) has broke the mold already. Her name is Emlyn Chand, author of the Farsighted series.

Pitch, Book #3 in Farsighted Series
Pitch, Book #3 in Farsighted Series

When I saw the chocolate girl on the cover looking like the singer, Brandy Norwood I gasped. Not only was the cover model gorgeous, but it was a dark girl on the cover of a fantasy sci/fi series and she was not “mixed” or blonde.

Very rare indeed.

My thing is, I don’t care who writes the books, but as an avid reader of all kinds of books I do notice trends and I try to figure out why.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Like I said, serious bookworms would read a good book no matter the cover.

Will you step out of your world, just for a minute?

And I do think if many of us would step out of our comfort zones, just a tiny bit and read, review and promote books that reflect diversity, many more authors would get the attention they deserve- and maybe some movie deals in the making?

As you can see I love books about anyone and will continue to promote them. These are just my thoughts.

What do you think?

Let me know your thoughts! 😀

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4 thoughts on “YA Reading Trends: What’s Up With African American Fiction?

  1. Followed you here from your comment on Mike Duran’s blog. Wow, what a gorgeous and eye-catching cover for PITCH!

    I would love to see more non-white characters clearly and unabashedly portrayed on YA covers, instead of the shadowy half-face or silhouette portrayals that have become code for “the protagonist isn’t white but we don’t want to make that obvious in case white readers don’t buy it”. I think the more books that are written about racially diverse characters yet which are not “about” race in a heavy-handed “After-School Special” kind of way, the more open readers will be to checking them out. I’m certainly starting to see more diversity in YA fantasy and SF, and hopefully that will open the doors to contemporary fiction and other genres with brown protagonists as well.

    I’m so thankful and relieved that both my UK and US covers for ARROW clearly portray the heroine as brown — especially since I know other YA authors with non-white characters who had to fight their publishers to get a cover that was even slightly accurate. I think things are changing, but slowly.

    1. Hi R.J.!

      Thank you so much for reaching out 🙂
      As a reader of all kinds of books, I enjoy books with characters from all walks of life. To be perfectly honest, many books that are my all time favs are written by whites with white characters. Although I am a huge fan of Octavia Butler’s speculative fiction.

      As a writer, I write multicultural fiction, not really to “appeal” to anyone. I just write what is on my heart. I would like to think that in this day and age we wouldn’t need to beg publishers to put certain models on book covers. What is wrong with the color brown? You made a good point there.

      Your thoughts are refreshing! Thanks,
      Ericajean

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