While the Summer Reading Program is drawing to a close and we have a lot to look back on with fond memories, one of our most poignant events held this summer was Love YA.: A Celebration of Diverse Young Adult Literature. Young Adult authors Alex Sanchez, Shaun David Hutchinson and Jenny Torres Sanchez came together on Tuesday, June 13—a year and a day after the Pulse tragedy—to reflect upon the importance of inclusion in young adult (YA) fiction. The discussion was moderated by library staff member and YA author Lauren Gibaldi.
Alex Sanchez, known for writing about gay youth struggling with coming out and their spirituality, started the event by reading heartfelt emails from fans that had been significantly affected by his novels. One young teen wrote “I cried so many times because I knew how the main character felt. Your book changed my life and I hope, one day, I will be able to tell people about me and be loved.” Lauren asked the group why it is so important for authors to write diverse fiction for young people. Jenny Torres Sanchez responded that “not only is it important for diverse teens to see a reflection of themselves in characters in books, but also as authors and creators.” Shaun David Hutchinson brought his point home by stating that as a teen, he only knew what he saw on TV and in movies. Oftentimes, depications of LGBT individuals ended with outcomes that suggested if you were gay, your life was going to end tragically, either by AIDS or violence. He decided to write stories where LGBT youth could have hope that life can get better and more importantly, that “their lives have meaning.” Growing up as a gay, Mexican immigrant, Sanchez spoke about the prejudices he dealt with every day in school and how that inspired him to create diverse characters in his novels.
The authors also discussed the Pulse tragedy and its impact on the community. They concluded the event and also stayed after to sign books, as well as meet and mingle with fans.
If you have recommendations of YA titles that celebrate diversity, share them with us in the comments below.