I was in my local Target the other day, when my 11 year old picked up a grey, trucker style baseball cap that had a multicolored, rainbow
heart on it, with the word ‘pride’ right above it. She asked me if she could get it, and as I did my best to contain my enthusiasm and glee over her choice (because we all know that the worst thing you can ever do with a pre-teen child is show enthusiasm about anything – it’s a sure fire way to get them to do the total opposite of whatever it was that just brought you joy), I very calmly said, ‘Sure. Throw it in the cart.’ Meanwhile, my inner self was doing a happy dance and a victory lap around the store, so proud of Target for displaying their own message of love by carrying this merchandise, and even prouder of my 11 year old for wanting to be a part of it.
Which then got me thinking about my daughters, and what their reality is, and how that relates to the literature they read. As you can probably already tell, we are a pretty open, liberal family, who also happens to be interracial. Being loving and welcoming to every color of person, and whomever they may choose to love, was never anything my husband and I actively taught to our kids: it just simply was the way it was. I am not naïve in knowing that that is a luxury of living in a major metropolitan city like Los Angeles, and a lot of kids aren’t exposed to the diversity my kids are.
So this is what my kids’ reality is, but the literature they read doesn’t always reflect that.
I know that we’ve made great strides and the world at large is a far more open, tolerant place than it was even 10 years ago, but in literature, particularly in young adult literature, I still feel as though there are milestones to be made. The cardinal rule of writing for writers is to write what you know. I am a proud parent of interracial kids, and I am in an interracial marriage. That is what I know, so that is what I write, and it was really crucial for me to make sure that I kept with that. When my daughters grow up and truly start reading about these heroes and heroines in young adult literature, they’re going to be met with largely Caucasian characters, in a largely Caucasian universe. That’s not what they know to be their reality, and I think that a large part of America would agree. We are deemed a melting pot for a reason. Our country is unique because the fabric that makes us what we are is as diverse as it comes. I would love to see authors start to step up and really embrace this diversity as they create their own imaginary worlds.
Wouldn’t it be the coolest thing if a global phenomenon like Twilight featured an interracial couple? Or a gay couple? Or an interracial gay couple??
I may be getting ahead of myself here, and maybe the world isn’t completely ready to embrace the vision of our future in literature that I see, but still, it’s nice to dream. And maybe someday, for my daughters’ generation of future writers, that dream can be a true reality.