Catchy title eh? We also don't have friendship or sibling drama. No instead people of color live intense lives of prejudice, drugs, alcoholism, abuse (but not mental illness because for some reason no one wants to talk about that particular topic. humph). We never have any fun. There are no wealthy people of color, and there are no people of color who happen to be middle class.
I'm so freakin tired of that message that is constantly echoed over and over again in YA contemporary. I can understand the appeal of fantasy, especially the lighter aspects of paranormals. Sometimes it's nice to just curl up with a good book that's FUN. What a novel concept. I've been blogging for about a year and a half and I'm never able to post about my favorite love stories that feature people of color because at most I can think of about ten (well ten that I think are of good quality). I want to post my top ten favorite YA romances but there aren't enough to choose from. Although I would be happy to be proven wrong.
Don't even get me started on the large number of YA contemporary romances that are published (probably ten a week!). I've said it before but I'll say it again, I don't like comparing books written about Native Americans/Latinos/Asians/Black people to books written about white people but where are our Gossip Girls? Who is our Sarah Dessen (no offense to Sarah Dessen but I've read three of her books and I don't recall any of the characters being from different cultural backgrounds)?
Honestly though, about half of this post isn't really about me. Yes I've always mourned the lack of funny YA books about poc, but I never would have noticed how few YA romances there were about poc if my younger sister hadn't pointed this fact out to me a little while ago. She loves to read and I'm always giving her books I receive that I don't have time to read right away. but she ALWAYS asks me if I have any romance YA books for her and the answer 99% of the time is no. Which is really upsetting to me. My sister loves to read, but in the genre she loves most, she can never read about a Blatina like her finding love. I don't normally curse but that infuriates me, WTF. She loves the Perfect Chemistry series. A biracial romance between a Latino and a white girl. I loved it too. The first romance book we've ever talked about. I gave her If You Come Softly, another biracial romance, she really liked it but wanted less of a sad ending. I gave her A Wish After Midnight, she needed more romance (and here I was just hoping she'd learn something ;) Other was pretty good, paranormal with some romance, but again, romance wasn't the main factor same with Silver Phoenix. Perfect Shot also hit the nail on the head, quick read and very cute. She adored the book. But she's still waiting for her Black/Latina Sarah Dessen. Obviously each writer has their own style and so she will (thank goodness) never find a carbon copy of Sarah Dessen. But there has to be an unpublished (or even published) writer out there whose writing smart, funny romances for girls like my sister. Sarah Dessen writes more than romances, her characters are nuanced and they go through some hard times but the hard times are a little easier for her, a middle class girl to relate to, than say the hard times a working class guy faces over whether or not to deal drugs because of the need for money. She swoons over plenty of guy characters in books (too much so for my liking) but is it selfish of me to hope that one day she will excitedly tell me about this really cute Black guy she fell in love with through a book and hey he didn't fall in love with a white girl (because while I'm all for interracial relationships it can be a blow to continuously see in real life and in books, guys only going for girls of the same race and/or body type)? Speaking of interracial relationships, can anyone think of a YA book where the guy is white and the girl is Black? Hmm.
By that same token, why are interracial (interracial meaning Black-white or Asian-white) relationships the main focus in YA books? I NEED more intercultural relationships a la Girl Overboard (Asian-Latino, well a sort-of relationship) or even Wait For Me (Asian-Latino) or even same cultural relationships. It's as if writers are afraid to now only write Asian-Asian relationships for fear of backlash saying that Asians don't only have to love Asians. Obviously that's true, but it's also realistic, that many Asians still fall in love with other Asians (and please realize you could replace Asian with any other ethnic group). Personally I'm still waiting for my Black-Latino/a relationship (Bleeding Violet satisfies me on that end because it's completely awesome but it didn't satisfy my sister on the romance. However it's the probably the only book besides Silver Phoenix that she didn't care as much about the romance). But I'm also tired of the biracial relationships between a white person and Black person being so controversial. I get why it's such a tough issue when it's a white person and another culture, but I think Black-White relationships have been talked about enough on TV that we should all be able to move. Feature the relationships, but race shouldn't be a huge issue anymore. There will of course still be subtle incidents, but it shouldn't be the main focus, in my opinion. Bicultural relationships should be explored too; there are tensions between Blacks and Latinos, there are even intercultural tensions because many cultures value light skin over dark skin. People have been forbidden to date based on the SHADE of skin color. Yea how many times does that come up in YA? Doesn't need to be mentioned a lot, but it's an issue many teens of color may have to face, that should be reflected in books written for us.
And how about the humor? I L-O-V-E sarcastic/snarky main characters. Maybe authors don't want to perpetuate stereotypes that Blacks and Latinas are sassy, but y'know what, I think our people are funny. You have to develop a sense of humor to deal with all the extra stupidity we get. Luckily Mitali Perkins compiled a list of funny books featuring multicultural protagonists, and I definitely recommend Whale Talk, The Absolutely True-Diary of a Part Time Indian, Does My Head Look Big in This? and the Making of Dr. Truelove. But even Mitali's list is rather paltry, I believe there's only 19 books on the YA part and 16 for MG (on that side I definitely recommend Operation Redwood, 8th Grade Superzero and Watsons Go to Birmingham). Not to be greedy, but I need some more. When you compare the number of humorous titles about white people to the humorous titles about poc OVER TIME the numbers of deplorable. My brother and I both have a really good sense of humor and I 100% believe my brother doesn't read a lot of books about poc is because they aren't funny enough for him. He needs a slightly modified poc version of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.
Publishers before you say no to yet ANOTHER chick lit (and not to get off topic but I have some thoughts on all things Jane Austen but that's for another post) with lots of romance, friendship and family dramas or a book with a snarky main character, re-consider saying no, if the main characters are protagonists of color, give that book a chance. Trust me, there are at least three kids in my household who want to read them.
I'm starting Daughter of Xanadu which sounds promising because I could use some good historical fiction and hey, it has romance. As for my sister, I'm giving her Jazz in Love and Fury of the Phoenix to read next. I think she'll really like them both.
Romance (might be a little, might be a lot, there's not enough to choose from to really distinguish)
His Own Where by June Jordan
If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson
Perfect Chemstry series by Simone Elkeles
Jazz in Love by Neesha Meminger
Wait for Me by An Na
The Agency series by Y.S. Lee
Silver Phoenix series by Cindy Pon
Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier
When the Stars Go Blue by Caridad Ferrer (my #1 favorite romance, regardless of race)
Billi SanGreal series by Sarwat Chadda
Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins (if this book doesn't break your heart....)
Mismatch by Lensey Namioka
Perfect Shot by Debbie Riguad
Girl vs. Boy by Yvette Collins & Sally Rideout
Other by Karen Kincy
Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves
She's So Money by Cherry Cheva
Duplikate by Cherry Cheva
It Chicks series
My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger
Jason & Kyra by Dana Davidson
Toads & Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson
A Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame by Brenda Woods
Daughter of Xanadu by Dori Jones Yang
Belle by Beverly Jenkins
Subway Girl by P.J. Converse (the only romance book I've ever been beyond excited for the release)
Please help me add on to this list. I want to have at least 30 books on here so I can eventually read them all and by the time Valentine's Day rolls around next year, I can list my top ten favorites.
PS Now that I'm done rambling, read the much more eloquent Neesha Meminger express what I tried to say.
PPSS Am I the only who always wondered why the S.A.S.S. series never had a book set in Africa or South America?