A great deal of the material in the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag consists of linking to other sites, books, and so on. Fortunately, my extensive involvement in YA literature communities gave me some familiarity with these websites before the project began; I’ve been following We Need Diverse Books’ website on my Tumblr page since December, and followed Disability in Kidlit’s Tumblr page for several months before that for specific diversity-related reasons.
While working on this blog post, I decided to look around at some of the other sites that I knew less about. This took me to the website Gay YA, which is dedicated to the discussion of YA literature involving LGBTQIA+ characters.
Gay YA’s site contains book reviews, posts about LGBTQIA+ related issues in literature, and guest blog posts from writers. The majority of books reviewed have gay and lesbian content at the center (which can mainly be attributed to there not being much YA literature about the other letters). They’ve been running since 2011, but went on hiatus in 2012 and only began updating frequently last year. While I was browsing, I noticed they had a review of a book I picked up at the library earlier in the day, and I was delighted to see that they fully recommended it.
Another site I didn’t know much about before was Tu Books. Tu Books is an imprint of Lee and Low books that focus specifically on publishing books for young readers that are diverse in every sense of the word. (Their official Twitter account began following me at the start of my hashtag study.) I decided to take a screenshot of their page, which contains a mission statement that really brings home the importance of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement.
How cool is that? (I may or may not have pre-ordered some of their titles after reading that…)
After looking at some of these sites, I learned a few things. Primarily, I learned that the #WeNeedDiverseBooks community is, indeed, very diverse. Its members are of all different races, sexualities, disabilities, and more. However, one thing I noticed is that though they all want diverse books, there’s still not much discussion of intersectional diversity.
Since I’ve used this term often, let me explain: A book dealing with intersectional diversity would involve a character who is a member of two or more groups who would be considered “diverse.” (A book with a character who is black and dealing with depression would be intersectionally diverse.) Each site seems to be discussing books about one specific kind of diversity, and they don’t often interact with one another.
There’s probably a good reason for this. This post by Malinda Lo illustrates the problems some reviewers have with books that are diverse. In the third section of the post, she describes the problems that books containing intersectional diversity face in the hands of reviewers. Since they’re more likely to be reviewed in a lukewarm manner, publishers tend to shy away from books with more than one sort of “difference” involved… so there’s not as much to talk about.
I’m a little disappointed by this. There’s so much conversation that could be happening! I guess it’s time for the industry to change…