Not Your Mother's Market

One of my pet peeves is when a gatekeeper doesn't represent, publish, promote, or buy a great teen or tween novel featuring a nonwhite protagonist because "that's such a small slice of the market" or "we just don't have that population in our community."

That's old school, people, for two reasons.

(1) Do YOU read only those books featuring protagonists who share your particular mix of class, ethnicity, and educational status? Oh, so you're reading your autobiography again and again, then? Compelling reads are supposed to take us across borders, and that's why we adult readers love them. Why should young readers be any different?

(2) Checked the youth market lately? Tune into MTV or the Disney Channel and do an ethnic survey. Or watch the movie version of Twilight. When Ms. Meyer set her story in the small town of Forks, Washington, were you picturing the multicultural group of high-schoolers who appear in the film version? A cast like that is fairly standard for young Hollywood these days, and teens and tweens in urban, suburban, and rural North American communities expect it on the big and small screen. Why not on the page?

We can write race all we want, but until excellent, entertaining fiction with a mosaic of protagonists, antagonists, and sidekicks are sent from the publishing houses into the mass market, the book industry is stuck in a last-gen world.