I read a rather thought-provoking article today. Observe:
I'm not sure how many authors are aware of this problem. I'll be the first to admit I wasn't even aware of this problem until about a year ago, when I started writing SHUTTER, SHUDDER (Ghost Book. Yes, I'm using Ghost Book's real name. SERIOUS STUFF, PEOPLE). In SHUTTER, SHUDDER, the MC, Sophie McKay, is a fiesty, rather loud teenager between her senior year of high school and her freshman year of college. She's a photographer, obsessed with color and pictures. And she's Jewish.
Sophie's Judaism was never a question -- she sprang into my head colorful and loud and declaring quite passionately that she was who she was, and this was her story, and I'd better start writing because she wasn't going to repeat herself. I thought "Hey, cool! I don't know anything about Judaism beyond the Star of David and Hanukkah, so this will be some interesting research." I bought (I kid you not) Judaism for Dummies, did a lot of Google searches, and let Sophie tell me all about her culture.
It didn't really cross my mind that Sophie's Judaism might be something unique until I started seeing articles like the one linked above, and paying more attention to culture in YA, and I realized -- there is very little culture in YA.
Now, I'm still developing this in my head (SHUTTER, SHUDDER is my first book to ever have an MC with a culture different from my own), but it's brought up some interesting questions, and I'd like to hear your thoughts:
1) Have you written a YA book with a multicultural MC? How was it received (if it was published, if it was read by your close family, if it was read by betas, etc etc, in whatever circles it swam)?
2) What multicultural YA books have you read in which the culture of the MC was not the main plot of the story, yet more of a background detail (in other words, where the book was about X and the MC just WAS a certain culture, not a book that is wholly about a different culture)?
3) Do you think (purely opinion, guys) that if Bella Swan or Katniss Everdeen were, say, Japanese or Middle Eastern or Muslim or Hindu, and that fact was woven into the story as background detail (ie, it's a story about a Japanese girl who falls in love with a vampire, not a story about a girl who is Japanese and falls in love with a vampire, if that makes sense), that their books would have sold just as well?
(I hope I'm explaining the background thing well -- when I say "background detail" I mean that the MC is Asian or African American or whatever, and it isn't the focal point of the story. Nothing in the plot changes because they are of a different culture, only bits and pieces of their culture are subtly woven in alongside the major plot, whatever it may be.)
(I realize that bringing issues of race and culture up can be a call for Slimy Internet Trolls -- I mean this as a serious discussion, and want to reaffirm how TOTALLY and COMPLETELY pro-culture, pro-uniqueness that I am. This is something I'm starting to feel really motivated by, and am curious how the rest of the YA community feels, especially those who are in the same "boat" as me -- white, middle class family, etc etc.)