Countering the White (Straight) Girls in Dresses

Good Afternoon Readers 🙂

Book cover image

(super excited for this one)

I’ve always been taught that if you have a problem with something you should first look to yourself to make sure you’re making an active change so that you’re not another hypocrite.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love my “White (Straight) Girls in Dresses” books.  I love reading books, and I used to not care the race of the main character but I’m getting older.  As a person of color who is a writer and book blogger and industry intern who plans on writing and working withing the book industry forever (at least a while), I know that I have to make an active change to do better. I can’t expect other people to do better if I’m not going to.

I’ve always been the one to argue that you shouldn’t just buy a book because it’s written by a person of color or features people of color, etc…because it’s whether the book is good that should decide whether you buy it, support it…  But times are changing, and I plan on being the change (cliche right?).

The Solution (not really…baby steps):

I’ve created a ‘Diversity in YA’ book list!

It will be a permanent feature this blog’s menu.  As a short disclaimer, this is not a comprehensive list, and most of the books are YA Sci-Fi, Dystopian, Paranormal or Fantasy because I read a lot of that growing up and I could always find contemporary books featuring poc or queer characters or authors but never/rarely the other genres.  That being said, I have and will continue to include contemporary books that I feel have been especially moving to me or that I really want to read/think others should read.  Also like I said it’s not a comprehensive list, meaning you should comment on the page if you have any suggestions (remember, I’m just getting started).

Below are some questions I figured people might ask, if you have others post them in the comments 🙂

Why are you doing this?

Haha, as one of the many loves of my life, Josh Whedon likes to say “because you’re still asking”

No…but really?

Fine, grumpy pants…because I’m black, I’m queer, I’m a woman, and I’ve been reading & writing YA since I was a little girl and not much has changed (diversity wise).

See the post that started it all: White (Straight) Girls in Dresses

Have you read all of the books?

No, I have not, yes, I plan to.

Are all the books YA?

They should be right?  But they’re not.  I have a couple NA books & a non-fiction book (still for teens though) thrown in there.  Couldn’t resist, sorry but it’s close enough.

Does this mean you’re never going to feature non-straight or poc books/authors?

1. Would it/why does it matter if I did?

2. Haha no.  I’d never have any books to feature if that were the case.  Okay, joking (mildly true) but no, I love to read, what kind of avid reader/writer would I be if I did that?  My “new” motto is story first, if the story isn’t good, no matter how diverse the cast or author, I’m not going to give the book high ratings, I will however support the book  because just because I didn’t like a book, doesn’t mean someone else won’t.  (This has really always been my motto, which is why I rate & talk about the books I review.)

What if I want suggestions on diverse books, want to know your thoughts on a book, etc…

1. You can contact me, always, anytime…I respond within 1-2 days.

2. You can check out this amazing resource: Diversity in YA Tumblr & Diversity in YA Website (website is no longer updated but has a lot of great information/author interviews) – founded by authors Malinda Lo & Cindy Pon (who are some of the first “diversity in ya” authors I’ll be reading)

Be the change 🙂  As, one of my favorite authors, Holly Black once said:
“As someone who is not a person of color and who worries about messing up myself, I am probably the last person who should be giving anyone advice.  But I think that we as writers have an obligation to tell the truth about the world — and diverse world is a true world.  I also think that we have to be conscious of which stories are ours to tell, which stories we have points of identification with and which stories we need to do more work if we want tell responsibly.”

What’s the last book you’ve read by a non-white author or featuring non-white characters (supporting ones count)?

Whimsically Yours,

PnC

P.S. This blog post series on ‘Do Girls of Color Survive Dystopia’, is great, echos my sentiments exactly, and is where I got at least 1/3 of my books for the list from.

-Patrice

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20 thoughts on “Countering the White (Straight) Girls in Dresses

    • LOVE your blog, twin ninja turtles…what a great idea for a book blog. Let me know if you ever need anything, I’d love to guest post…you’re right we should definitely support writers like us it’s the only way progress will happen. Thanks for sharing it with me 🙂

      • Awesome I’d love for you to do a guest post!!!And I’d love to do a guest post on your blog too XD That’d be awesome, I’m really interested in your pov since your interview was so informative and I’ve always been really interested in your particular community 🙂 Please let me know when you’d like to be featured. We can definitely set something up 😊

      • Sweet 🙂 Feel free to contact me at patricecaldwell(at)gmail(dot)com and we can figure everything out. If you don’t end up applying to be a part of the Operation diversity blog we’d still love to have you for an interview or guest post. Send me an email, I’d love to set something up, thanks for reaching out!

  1. I love that you’ve started this list. Question though: how do you feel about white people writing people of color as their protagonists? I am writing a book and wanted to make the family biracial just to mix it up. My great grandmother is black, but I’ve always been considered (and considered myself “white” (whatever that means!), and I just felt like a fraud. So I gave up the idea.

    • Thanks Allison! So I personally don’t care (I’ll elaborate though). I know some people do, but as you probably know there will always be naysayers however if we only write exactly our experiences, nothing would ever get written & change would (at the very least) be slow to come…also, what’s the fun in that 🙂 I believe in the saying write what you know but in a looser way. For instance the main character of one of my WIPs is multiracial, she’s bisexual, and she’s the descendant of an Egyptian god. Now some of those don’t fit me at all, especially the last one but I do know what it feels like to be out of ones element, etc… So I focused on that. It would be different if my story way solely about her experience as a multiracial person but it’s not, it’s part Fantasy. To me the story is more important, how the character grows, overcomes obstacles, gains her self-confidence. Those are themes I think all people especially teens can relate to. So I say write honestly, and craft the best character you can…if you need to know more about a certain culture do your research but I think a lot of it comes down to how much a focus you’re placing on your character’s color. Holly Black, one of my favorite authors always has a multitude of people from various backgrounds in her stories because as she says in the quote below, that’s how the world is.

      “As someone who is not a person of color and who worries about messing up myself, I am probably the last person who should be giving anyone advice. But I think that we as writers have an obligation to tell the truth about the world — and diverse world is a true world. I also think that we have to be conscious of which stories are ours to tell, which stories we have points of identification with and which stories we need to do more work if we want tell responsibly.”

      I think because I’m a person of color, race has always been something I’ve thought about however I’ve also always wondered why it divides us so much so especially in my stories not set in this world, I do as I please to paint it how I wish it was. Let me know if there’s anything else. I’m definitely no expert (no one is really) so I can only speak from my POV but I’d love to answer your questions if I can.

  2. I like Michelle Cornwell-Jordan’s YA Night School novella series. And she wrote a lovely gothic romantic tale set in New Orleans called Tourmentin, which I read a few months back. Michelle runs a blog where she reviews indie books. She’s a great supporter of writers.
    One of my favourite books this year is A Different Blue by Amy Harmon. The main character is a Native American girl.

  3. As far as my reading other books by non-white authors, try The Color of Water by James McBride. Amazing memoir. I wrote a YA novel called Refugees, and one of the main characters is from Afghanistan.

  4. You might like Chaste. The heroine is black. I don’t know if she is stereotypical. She does have some bad habits but I thought that was b/c she was trying to hide that she’s a preacher’s daughter. Her family is well off. She’s not from “the hood.”

  5. You will be happy to know that even of all my unpublished manuscripts, I only have one book w/ no PoCs and I think that’s probably appropriate for the setting. But I’m weird anyhow. I’m a white girl married to an Asian and I consider myself Mexican. 😉

    • I’ve loved both of what I’ve read from you so far Beth 🙂 I think books should be appropriate for their setting, that’s why I have such a big problem with dystopian, and sci-fi, fantasy books with only white straight people because they literally have the opportunity to make any kind of world.

  6. I would also take a look at how people of color are often supporting, secondary, side kick characters aka the “best friend”. It is an important note to bring up because all stories convey a subconscious message whether we know it or not. Okay I’m done 😀

    • No, you’re fine 🙂 You’re right…probably 1/3 of the books on my list (maybe less) have the “best friend” person of color aspect which isn’t really helpful at all. Young girls need to know they can be more that just the sidekick.

  7. Well, I would propose to change the question. Which books have I read with black female protagonist that isn’t perpetuating a stereotype? None…and the only author I know of is Octavia Butler and she’s on my reading list 😉 Thank you for this.

    • Haha, nice…I LOVE Octavia Butler, I can promise she won’t disappoint. And yeah, sadly there are a lot of books with black females (even ones written by black women) that only talk about teenage pregnancy or sex the character up 😦

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