When we got a few messages asking us whether we would be doing YA Lit 101 again, we had to think about what we wanted to do. Last summer we spent time introducing teachers and readers to genres and discussing books online.
As fun as it was, it seemed like there might be something more we could do.
Since this all happened around the time when we were watching the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign unfold and grow, it wasn’t surprising that our conversations turned to that for inspiration.
Sarah did a survey to see if her female students in class were finding themselves in the books they read. The results showed that many of her students want to read books with strong independent female protagonists. They want to see girls playing sports. They want to see girls not relying on guys all the time. But many also want love stories. They are diverse readers and want diverse stories that appeal to them. This made us think about our readers as a whole.
Sarah’s girls are not any different from any other readers. Readers are part of all sorts of demographics – gender, age, sexual orientation, race, religion, football fans, people who love cats or dogs or parakeets, people who find Monty Python funny, people who struggle with illness, people who are grieving, people who have been abused, people who play video games or read or write or plan to take over the world. We don’t always choose to read books depending on any one aspect of our personality, but when we never see ourselves anywhere – or worse, we only see the mirrors of ourselves in hazy, token, stereotypical forms – we are missing out.
But so is everyone else who might want to have a window into the world of our experiences.
So in a reinvisioned look at YA Lit 101, we want to not only talk about how and why #WeNeedDiverseBooks of all stripes in YA, but also how we can use these titles to challenge the status quo, to offer both mirrors and windows to our students and to discover truths about each other and ourselves.
On Thursday, we’ll announce the first theme and book pick for August. We’re excited about this book and theme and hope that you’ll add your voice to the conversation.