One of my goals in 2017, and I think a lot of people would have a similar goal, is to read more diverse books and to be more aware of marginalised people in the books that I read. In addition to my reading goals this year, I also want to start reading more books by Australian authors and support OZ YA.
It would be cool if I could combine these two together, right? I could read diverse books by Aussie authors and I’d be able to smash two of my goals. When I think of the Australian YA books that I’ve read, a few of them stand out as being diverse. Just by looking at my book shelves, here’s what I can see;
When Michael Met Mina – Randa Abdel-Fattah (refugee from Afghanistan)
Our Chemical Hearts – Krystal Sutherland (grief/mental health)
Breathing Under Water – Sophie Hardcastle (grief/mental health)
Looking For Alibrandi – Melina Marchetta (Italian culture/ racism)
The Pause – John Larkin (mental health)
The Yearbook Committee – Sarah Ayoub (a wide range of diverse main characters)
Before You Forget – Julia Lawrinson (eating disorder)
So even though there is quite a few mentioned here, there are so many other marginalised people that are being under represented in Australian YA literature. How many books include LGBTQ+ main characters? How many are told from the perspective of Indigenous people, and specifically Indigenous Australian’s?
And then I thought, what if there are plenty of diverse OZ YA books, but I just haven’t read any of them, or heard of them? So I send out a tweet asking people to send me their diverse OZ YA recommendations and I did some further research myself. A lot of books that people mentioned I had already written down and read, so below are some that I haven’t read yet;
The Sidekicks – Will Kostakis (LGBT)
The Things I Didn’t Say – Kylie Fornasier (mental health)
Nona and Me – Clare Atkins (Aboriginal MC)
The Flywheel – Erin Gough (LGBT)
Hate is Such a Strong Word – Sarah Ayoub (Lebanese culture)
One Would Think Deep – Claire Zorn (grief)
Ida – Alison Evans (GLBT)
My favourite diverse Australian book is ‘Looking For Alibrandi’ by Melina Marchetta which I only read and watched the film at the end of last year. Yes, I loved it because there is drama, humour, emotion, and I bawled my eyes out. But, that’s not why it’s my favourite. It’s my favourite because I have never read a book that I have related to so much. Being an Italian-Australian myself, I could see myself in Josie and the culture that was portrayed in the book was so accurate to my own. Being a straight, white female, I can easily see myself represented in plenty of YA books, so that’s never a problem. But to see an Italian culture so real to my own made me feel something completely different.
And this made me think; if finally finding a book that represents my culture so well made me feel like this, imagine how marginalised people feel when they finally read a book that represents them? And that’s why diversity in all books, including Australian books and Young Adult books, is extremely important.
So basically, there are diverse Australian books, and there are actually more than I thought. But there is still not enough. Even when I googled “diverse Australian books”, a lot of discussion posts like this came up, but there weren’t a lot of recommendations – there isn’t even a Goodreads list!
I have so many diverse story ideas in mind that I would love to write about, and hopefully one day they will be published for people like me, and others, to find a real connection to. And as diversity is growing in Australian literature all across the world, I hope that it continues to develop here in The Land Down Under as well.