Ever since I undertook a research project of multicultural literature and its representation (or lack of) in Golden Sowers, I have been interested in exposing myself to diverse literature. For that reason, I was excited to read Camille Picott’s Sulan, which provides readers with a strong Asian teenage girl as the lead character and references to Chinese history. If you haven’t read Sulan yet by Camille Picott, you can win a copy by entering my giveaway contest. In the meantime, enjoy Camille Picott’s guest post on a topic dear to her heart: the need for stories that represent our ethnically diverse society. Thank you Camille for writing it!
I was very excited when Allison asked me to write on this subject, as it happens to be a very personal one to me. I am half Chinese and half Caucasian. As I look back at my childhood, I recognize there was a distinct cultural void in the books I was exposed to. 95% of the books I read starred Caucasian characters in settings largely influenced by Europe and America. It wasn’t until I became older that I became aware of this void and realized that I had very little exposure to anything that reflected my Asian heritage.
Keeping in mind that I read almost exclusively science fiction and fantasy books, both YA and adult, I’m going to say that the majority of the books I read now still star Caucasian characters in settings largely influenced by Europe and America. I go out of my way to read science fiction and fantasy books with Asian influence, though I appreciate any novel in this genre with multiculturalism.
Between the 2000 and 2010 United States Census, there was a dramatic increase the number of minorities in our country. Check out these figures, which you can review in further detail at http://2010.census.gov/2010census/data/.
- Black or African American – increased by 12.3%
- American Indian or Alaskan Native – increased by 18.4%
- Asian – increased by 43.3%
- Hawaiian or Pacific Islands – increased by 35.4%
- Multiracial – increased by 32%
- Caucasian – increased by 5.7%
Even though the Caucasian population does make up the majority of our country, you can see from these statistics that the number of minorities and those of mixed race are growing dramatically. I feel with this growing diversity comes the need for diversity in literature, especially in YA books.
As a child of mixed heritage, the best racial equivalent I ever found in a book was a half-elf, half-human character. The half-elf, half-human character was called a half-breed in the novel. When I was a child, I in turn thought that also meant I was a half-breed since I was technically “half-and-half.” My mother had to explain to me that “half-breed” was a derogatory term.
I think kids always strive to find something relatable in the books they read, just the way I struggled to find a compatriot in this half-elven, half-human character. I always searched for characters of mixed heritage and/or Asian heritage. Since I rarely found it in the books I read as a teen and young adult, I now seek to write stories that embody this. My personal interest is Asian myth and Asian culture, which I incorporate into many of my stories.
Thanks for allowing me to stop by and visit! I’d love to hear what others think about the need for multiculturalism in YA books.