Monday, April 9, 2012

Why I Love Diversity in YA

It's probably no secret to you guys that I'm Asian and that I love my Asian heritage. After all my blog is called That Hapa Chick and I do have a weekly feature called Kawaii Mondays. That's pretty dang Asian.

I may be only half Asian (Chinese to be exact) but I've always felt very close to my Asian roots. Growing up I lived in California near all of my Asian relatives and my mom fed us a lot of Asian food, we shopped at Asian grocery stores, and some of my closest friends were Asian.

The most interesting thing is that even from a young age I longed to see other people like me represented in culture. I remember when Mulan came out it was my FAVORITE movie. Why? Because it had a badass Asian heroine!

I loved that movie because the character was LIKE ME. Mulan was my role model when I was little. Seriously. And I really wanted to marry Shang. Even if he was a cartoon character.... >.<

When I hit Jr. High I moved from California to Arizona and the fact that I was a minority really became clear to me. I didn't have a lot of friends so I turned to books and this made me realize that there was a sad lack of Asian characters in literature. I longed to read books with characters that looked like ME and not just the stereotypical blonde/brunette caucasian chick.

Before I continue let me be clear: There is NOTHING wrong with caucasian protagonists! A lot of my favorite books have caucasian protagonists. But like every reader I think it's nice to read about a character that you can relate to on more levels then just their personality. :)

As I was saying: I wanted to read about characters like me.

That's when I discovered Linda Sue Park. You've probably heard of her before. She's written such awesome books as A Single Shard and The Kite Fighters. I devoured all of Linda Sue Park's books. I loved them. The rest of my family did too. The thing is a lot of Linda Sue Park's books are historical fiction. That's great but I wanted to read about Asian characters who were in the present and living life just like me.

And that's when I discovered Lisa Yee. OH MY GOSH I ABSOLUTELY ADORE LISA YEE'S BOOKS! Reading Millicent Min, Girl Genius and Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time was like reading about the life of me and my family. 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.

After discovering the connection I had with Lisa Yee's books I couldn't wait to find that connection with other books too. At the Library I would check out any and all books I found that were written by an Asian author or happened to have Asian characters in them.

Which brings me to why I love diversity in YA (and all literature/culture really): Diversity helps people feel like they belong. It helps people realize that their little quirks and traits from their ethnicity or upbringing aren't so strange after all. Reading these books with Asian characters made me feel less alone in my Asianness. It helped me to see that there were others out there like me: That I wasn't the only teenage girl who had trouble making friends because she was smart or who happened to LOVE dim sum. When I read these books I didn't feel like a weirdo anymore. I felt like I fit right in. At least in Asian circles. >.<

To this day I still LOVE reading books with Asian characters or themes and there is always a rush of happiness when I find new Asian authors. On top of that I still get giddy with excitement when I'm reading a book and I discover that one of the characters is Asian. There's just nothing quite like having that "Asian connection" with a fictional character!

So what about you guys? Why do YOU love diversity in YA? If you're a minority do you find yourself drawn to books/characters related to your ethnicity or do you hardly notice? If you aren't a minority do you still like to read books related to minorities? And lastly what are some of your favorite books with diverse characters or themes?

Be sure to hit up the All Things Asian event page for all the posts and giveaways! Click HERE to see more awesomeness. (And no, you don't have to be Asian to participate!) And don't forget to check out iLive, iLaugh, iLove Books and My Words Ate Me today for more posts!

Julia :)


  1. "Diversity helps people feel like they belong. It helps people realize that their little quirks and traits from their ethnicity or upbringing aren't so strange after all."

    Yes, exactly!

    What's really sad is I haven't heard of either of those authors that you mentioned. But I'm happy to look them up now. :)

    As a writer I'm definitely committed to bringing diversity to my stories. I feel lucky that as a halfie, my “white side” could always identify with the characters in most books. But not everyone is mixed race, and not all halfies feel able to “split” themselves that way. Nor should they have to. There should be more of us in books. More Asians. More blacks. More everything.

    - Kristan

  2. Thanks for the mention! So glad that my books hit close to home. In fact, this weekend I'm speaking about Diversity in KidLit the Virginia Hamilton Conference!

  3. Um. I purposely left out the word "at" in my prior post.

  4. Mulaaaaaan! Heck to the yesssssss. Lol, I used to think Shang was pretty good looking. He still is. ;D

    I read A Single Shard for school. I thought it was okay, if memory serves correctly, but I was really glad that they were asking us to read an Asian book. :)

  5. The Lisa Yee books are so great! And I didn't even know there was All Things Asian going on! Going to check it out now!


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