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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Absolute Whiteness (note: lots of parentheses here)

Maybe it’s my fault. Maybe I should go out of my way to read more YA books with people of color in them. After all, I understand how important it is to show racial parity in literature (parity meaning equality in this instance, not the amount of times a woman has given birth or any of the other varied definitions). Definitely. But the truth is, I don’t consider Race/Ethnicity of Character when choosing what I read. If anything, the font the book’s set in has more impact on me deciding to read it. (Okay, bad metaphor—people who know me know that I’m obsessed with fonts and typefaces. This is the main reason I haven’t read The Dark Divine yet—what were you THINKING, Egmont?)

Now on to the story.

Earlier today, I was looking through all the books I’ve read this year (70 so far) and I started to notice something. So I opened a Notepad, clicked ‘Show side by side’ and started typing the names of the main characters of all the books into the text box.

This is what I found:

Of the seventy books I’ve read this year, seven had at least one main character (meaning a person who narrated the story if it was first, or who the story centered upon if it was third—I’ve yet to read a second person story this year) that was stated to not be white. This includes biracial, Hispanic, African-American, Asian, etc. I guessed on one of the seven (The Eternal Smile—I think Janet is Asian, though if she’s not make that six), and a further two were unstated (Grace, though I’m fairly sure she’s white, and Girl Coming In For a Landing, which actually told us nothing about the MC, not even her name). Three of the books were in the same series (Magic or Madness by the brilliant Justine Larbalestier). Two were graphic novels (one a Printz Award winner, American Born Chinese). One was a National Book Award finalist (Jumped), and the last (And Then Everything Unraveled—I believe she’s half-Indian [as in FROM INDIA, not Native American] with somewhat darkish skin, though I read the book in May so I kind of forgot some parts of it) doesn’t really have any defining characteristics other than that it’s quite good. Additionally, Katniss Everdeen (if you don't know what book series she's from, go buy The Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsNow read it. Now read it again and come back and TELL ME HOW AWESOME IT IS, AND HOW, BY PROXY, THE WORLD HAS A BIT OF HOPE IN IT AGAIN. Or something) has a rather ambiguous race/ethnicity, though it's noted she has . . . not darkish skin, but . . . brownish? Olive was the word I heard used once. You hopefully know what I mean, because if not I'm seriously probably going to get massacred by the blogosphere. *gulp*

At any rate . . . the rest were white.

If I made a mistake, I made a mistake (I most probably did--I'm not too good with listmaking) but still. Seven out of seventy, give or take a few.

Just something to think about.



  1. There are not a lot of protagonists that were people of color or ethnicity, personally, this doesn't bother me much, because I can pick up a manga and read about asian characters so that doesn't bother me. But other people of color are something you have to look far and wide for because there aren't really much. And out of all the best-selling books, only one from YA that I can name is just Katniss because she's olive skin toned, not white like some people depict her >.> But ethnicity or skin type doesn't bother me, but it would be nice to have some more characters of it I suppose. (Oh and Perfect Chemistry has Mexicans. Remember? Alex, Paco, etc.)

  2. Me finding you was fate! I am the Chica Latina! And it doesn't really surprise me that most of the books you read had main characters that were non-ethnic. You have to look far and wide to find a book with an ethnic character. I just went to the Latino Book Festival this month, and I just launched a new site called Livin' la vida Latina. I just wanted to help get the word out and say, "hey, we exist and we can write too!"

    check it out if you have time.