Wednesday, February 18, 2015

"The Danger of a Single Story" Young Adult Style

This is perhaps already familiar to some but I recently found a blog called A Year of Reading the World. I cannot recall how I stumbled upon this but I found it very interesting. In turn, I also watched a TED talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie called The Danger of a Single Story from TEDglobal 2009.

I love reading books from various places because I believe this helps us become more well rounded, empathetic individuals who aren’t caught up by stereotypes or media representations. This also got me thinking about YA books. I read a lot of YA both because I enjoy it and because it is a necessary part of being a middle & upper school librarian. I make sure to include books from various and diverse perspectives trying to hit all major identifiers but at the same time how many books do I purchase that are actually from other countries by authors from these countries?

Yes, I have books depicting Asian American characters and books with African American characters. I also have books originally published from the UK, Canada, and Australia. How many books do I have originally published from Kenya or from Laos? How many of these books are written by Kenyan or Laotian authors? How many contemporary books for young adult populations are published from these places? Clearly the United States publishes quite a bit, especially with the recent surge in films based on Young Adult novels but does the rest of the world follow suit? Perhaps they do but because I mostly read reviews from North American magazines and blogs have I developed a Eurocentric or North-Amerocentric (is this a thing?) view of young adult literature? Obviously, teens can read international fiction marketed to adult populations but is that the same thing?

I will note though that since 2006 USBBY has provided an Annual Outstanding International Book list which has great international reads for all ages. It is definitely a good starting point and we are mindful of including these texts in our collection.

Well what are your thoughts? Do you think it is important to include young adult perspectives from around the world? Is it sufficient to include literature about being Asian American, Latin American, etc? Is it sufficient to provide adult titles with YA appeal? Would our students be interested in YA books published and written elsewhere? Would our faculty members?

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