The next few days will be on the happily crazy side, children's lit-wise. Tomorrow night, I'm attending the Cambridge installment of the Diversity in YA tour, and this weekend, I'll be at Celebrating Milestones, SCBWI New England's 25th annual conference. I'm sure I'll have a lot more to say after the events, but this seems like a good time to look around at some good changes that have happened recently on bookstore shelves.
I'm not saying we've run out of room for improvement, but ethnic diversity among characters for young people is steadily increasing. Better yet, the books aren't always about race or ethnicity; there's certainly a place for discussion of people's heritage, but characters like Gonzo in Going Bovine and Hassan in An Abundance of Katherines are memorable for other reasons, which helps send the message that their ethnicities are something "normal" about them. (I'd love to see this happen more among main characters, but there certainly are examples, like the work of many of the authors speaking tomorrow night.)
I made a reference list this week of books that portray characters with disabilities, and it was longer and more varied than I expected. From light-ish realistic novels dealing with MS (Sean Griswold's Head) to fantasies with physically disabled characters (Eon and Eona), YA is doing well at making disability part of the landscape. So is middle grade, but that's another post.
A customer came in recently and asked if we had any YA fiction with transgendered characters. I was able to hand her Almost Perfect and I Am J, and tell her to keep an eye out for the Stonewall Award, an ALA award honoring books for young people with LGBT characters. All of that is new within the past year or so, and our list of LGBT-related books has burgeoned in that time.
I'd say we've hit a milestone worth celebrating.