Mar 22, 2016
To be a black YA reader || Wesaun @ Oreos and Books
March is gradually coming to end, which also signals the end of the first season of Diverse Reads 2016 - ethnic diversity! So far, we have discussed on various aspects of the concept, and today, we have Wesaun from Oreos and Books over, who's here to give a perspective of a black reader of YA
And I'd just like to give a reminder before I'll give the post to Wesaun. Don't forget to add the links to your diverse book reviews and discussions in the first seasonal link up!
The young adult category is a category that is dominated by snow. White people in the media are seen as the primary and black people are the best friends and the funny sidekicks. We are the sassy black woman who don’t need a man. When I was younger, I read little to no black main characters because even when they were in stories written by black people, it was written through the eyes of white people. The black people did not love their culture; they only suffered and did not experience joy, and they wanted to be white. The problem with that narrative is that it is not a realistic for the majority of blacks. We do experience joy, love our culture and our skin, no matter where we are. To set the record straight, no black person with a shred of self respect wants to be white. Don’t get your panties in a twist, now, this is not saying that black people hate white people, it is just to say that we respect ourselves enough to be proud of who we are.
If you ask a black person on any given day where I’m from if they want to be white, the immediate reactions are laughter, incredulity, and/or a strong dissent. With my experience in YA, I have not really read about black MCs whom I could genuinely relate to. Whenever I have read about a black character, they have been a “crucial” side character or maybe their perspectives were accompanied by a white perspective and their importance wasn’t as emphasized as the white character(s) in the story. Because of this, I have consumed a plethora of white media and I have become nauseated with constantly seeing things through the privileged perspective. This year, I am choosing to focus as much as I can on marginalized perspectives in YA literature. Fans of The Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa’s Mira was the first time I saw part of someone I can relate to in a book. Although I am not biracial nor heterosexual, I was able to relate to Mira and that meant a lot to me.
Every black lesbian I’ve ever read is a side character. Although I was happy to read about these characters, it was slightly frustrating. The only place I have seen decent representation that has satiated my desires is television which is steadily increasing as time progresses. Because of the absence of books, here are some shows that were a great replacement for me and brought me joy because black people were/are the main characters: The Proud Family, My Wife and Kids, That’s So Raven, and Everybody Hates Chris being my strongest influences especially the latter. The shows today are How To Get Away With Murder, Grandfathered, The Fosters, and Black(ish). There are a lot of good black books out there but they either aren’t always well recognized or free of white people campaigning against them. I’m going to continue searching for these books and writing them, and I hope that you will do the same so that the kids in the generation after me won’t have to depend on television to see themselves accurately.
Thank you for the wonderful contribution Wesaun!
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