At That Hapa Chick, Julia has a great post about why diversity is important in YA. She talks about discovering Lisa Yee’s books, many of which feature Asian characters:
“Everything about those books hit so close to home; the humor, the characters, the Asianness of it all. These books made me realize how much I was connected to my Asian culture and how much I really appreciated it.”
I love that Julia found a deeper connection to her background through Yee’s novels. Books like these don’t just reflect many readers’ experiences; they can help those readers form a deeper appreciation for their own history and culture.
Obviously literature in general could benefit from more diversity, and young readers in particular need to see that their backgrounds are valued. But I’d also argue that it’s important to write books with diverse characters that aren’t just about those cultures. Kids from various cultures participate in sports, get in fights with their friends, laugh at inside jokes, try to get their homework done five minutes before class. I think that balance of cultural background and modern teen life is something most readers can understand.