Hello beautiful humans, it’s time for book club!
A humorous, debut novel about a Korean-American teenager who accidentally lands her own column in her high school newspaper, and proceeds to rant her way through the school year while struggling to reconcile the traditional Korean values of her parents with contemporary American culture.
Fantastic. I decided to move this book to the top of my to-read list yesterday when I saw it posted on the very excellent Diversity in YA blog, which was founded by YA authors Cindy Pon and Malinda Lo, as a way celebrate & promote books that feature characters that reflect the true diversity of this world– whether it be through race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability.
(Coincidentally, I just finished reading one of Malinda Lo’s books, Ash, which I would recommend to anyone who agrees that the Cinderella folktale could be improved upon with the addition of fairy circles, horseback riding, and lesbians.)
A lot has been said and written on the topic of diversity in young adult fiction, including by me, in RLB’s first book club feature. In short, that post discussed the rage-inducing practice of “white washing” book covers. That is, book covers that should feature a person of color (PoC), but instead end up either obscuring the model’s face, showing them in silhouette, or (my favorite) just straight up featuring a white person.
It happens way too often to be a chalked up to coincidence or artistic choice, especially when you can see a plethora of pretty white girls staring back at you (full faced) from the YA section of any book store. (Let’s save gendered book covers for another conversation entirely.) Publishers are doing this on purpose because they think these books won’t sell.
So, what can we do? Do we boycott these books? That seems wrong, because the books themselves reflect the diversity we want, and we don’t want to lend credence to the publishing industry’s idea that books about PoC/LGBTQ/etc don’t have an audience. These authors need our support to change that.
We do have a few hopeful signs of change. Perhaps because so many authors and readers have been pushing back publicly about this issue that over the past few years, several white washed covers have been retracted and replaced. To see some great book covers that don’t have a problem presenting their main characters accurately, check out this Pinterest board, One Hundred+ YA Book Covers of Color!, which is like a fabulous book rainbow of diversity.
With all this in mind, and also just because it looks like a great book, let’s read Since You Asked by Maurene Goo, and meet back here to discuss. If you’re living on the same half of the planet as I am, it has been frakking hot and you weren’t going to do anything but stay inside and read anyway, right?
First book club question: What do we think of the cover? I have an opinion (shocking) but I’d like to hear yours.