YA multiculturalism is a topic that’s near and dear to me. My personal specialty is speculative fiction with Asian influence, but I love all multicultural YA.
I’ve seen multiculturalism explored several ways in YA fiction. Here are some examples I’ve found:
Direct: The author reveals the ethnicity of the character and weaves the experiences of that ethnic identity into the story. The Direct method is generally found in stories with a contemporary aspect and portrays “real” ethnicities. (As opposed to fictional ethnicities, like elves and orcs.)
A great example is Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles. The two main characters, Sadie and her big brother Carter, are half black, half white. Sadie shares the experience of being raised by her white grandparents and never feeling like she fit in.
It’s been a while since I’ve read the first book in the series, The Red Pyramid, but I remember feeling a connection with Sadie’s experience of being mixed. I appreciate the fact that the author tackled a multicultural subject in mainstream fiction.
Indirect: Multiculturalism and ethnic minorities are portrayed in fictional worlds with fictional races.
The example that comes to mind here is Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. Again, it’s been a while since I read this book, but I do recall that the main character, Tally Youngblood, is not white. Ethnicities and races as we know them today do not exist in this world; instead, the world is divided between those who are Ugly and those who are Pretty.
In this fictional world, the fact that Tally isn’t white doesn’t matter to the story at all; the fact that she is Ugly is what matters. I enjoy the indirect approach when it’s done well. With this story, I think many readers can identify with being Ugly. But if one is looking to connect with a character because she’s non-white, this isn’t the book for you.
Passing: When a character has a multicultural or minority background but essentially passes for being white.
I first learned about “passing” from my college roommate. You can read an in-depth article on it here. In a nutshell, “passing” is when a person from a minority or mixed heritage attempts to pass as part of the main “white” majority.
In Marie Lu’s Legend, the main character Day is primarily of Mongol descent. But he has blond hair. This rings true to me—in my own family, I have cousins who are 25% Chinese, yet they have blond hair and blue eyes.
I have to admit, I was personally disappointed that Day doesn’t “look” Mongolian. For me, it strips away the coolness of having a minority main character. Even though the way he looks is realistic, I would have loved for his ethnicity to have been more apparent in either his looks, tastes, or actions. But that’s just my personal preference. This isn’t meant to be an insult to Lu’s book, which I enjoyed.
What are some multicultural YA books that you have read? Have you encountered any of above-mentioned multicultural examples in other YA books?r
About Sulan, Episode 3: The Dome
Sulan, Episode 3: The Dome
by Camille Picott
Publication Date: January 2017
Genres: cyberpunk, Dystopian, Young Adult
After escaping the League, Sulan and her friends are granted entrance into the Dome, a utopian biodome in the wilderness of Alaska. Sulan soon finds herself a pawn in Global Arms’s political maneuvers to secure the national mercenary contract. Forced to put on a public persona that makes her skin crawl, she must charm Vex media moguls to further the cause of Global. Should she fail to embrace her new role as company spokesperson, the consequences will be deadly to everyone she loves.
Meanwhile, the League unleashes a new deadly threat on the United States. When Sulan and her friends stumble on the trail of a League mole within the Dome, they set out to track him down. Will they be safe in their new home, or will they find themselves trapped among enemies?
Book 2: https://www.amazon.com/Risk-Alleviator-Sulan-Episode-2-ebook/dp/B00EK6KSXE/
Grab book 1 for FREE: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/227331
About the Author
Camille Picott is a fifth-generation Chinese American. She writes science fiction and fantasy books with Asian characters and/or Asian settings. Camille grew up reading speculative fiction stories largely devoid of Asian characters and culture. This, coupled with a passion for her heritage, is the reason she strives to bring some aspect of Eastern myth, legend, culture, and ethnicity to all of her writings.