What time is it?? Data time!!
No, not the Star Trek character. This data is all about the racial representation of trans protagonists in YA novels written by trans people and published by independent or Big 5 publishing houses.
This is my second blog post in a series that I hope to make an annual checkup on the state of representation in traditionally published children’s literature by and about trans people. I also hope to eventually expand to include middle-grade works (MG) and beyond. My first post focused on representation in general, drawing on data I’ve gathered through a masterlist I keep on the aforementioned literature.
As I mentioned, this post will once again break down that same data on the representation of trans protagonists in traditionally published YA novels by trans people, except this post will focus on race. Future posts will focus on gender, as well as gender and race combined. My masterlist also keeps data on self-pubbed novels, as well as characters other than protagonists, and additional data. With these posts, I am focusing on traditionally-published YA with trans protagonists because I am curious about how industry institutions are doing with rep where trans kids are front and center in the story, and I hope in some small way to encourage these institutions to do more and better.
So. How are we doing with racial representation?
Given the state of racial diversity in children’s literature at large, it likely won’t surprise you to learn that trans YA, as a microcosm of that literature, is also largely white. Since we currently have a very small pool of trans YA by trans people, and since we seem to be at the start of expanding acquisitions of this same literature, I’m hopeful that publishing can turn this around early. Notably, so far, all protagonists of color are written by authors of color, and all except one are ownvoices for their race/ethnicity.
For this data, I worked with a slightly fine-tuned version of the U.S. Census racial categories. The categories are: Black, White, White – South African, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native/Indigenous/First Nations, Latinx, Middle Eastern, Biracial, Multiracial, and Unknown (for instances where I have not read the book or have not been able to verify the characters’ race/ethnicity through other methods).
For more information about this choice, and the limitations it comes with, please see my masterlist page, under “Some Notes on Categories.” If, after you’ve read this, you have feedback for me on these categories, please contact me! I welcome feedback.
RACIAL REPRESENTATION IN TRANS YA ACROSS TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING
1 latinx MC (3%)
2 black MCs (6%)
3 biracial main characters (9%)
27 white MCs (82%)
33 total books
RACIAL REPRESENTATION IN TRANS YA AT INDEPENDENT HOUSES
1 biracial MC (6%)
16 white MCs (94)
17 total books
RACIAL REPRESENTATION IN TRANS YA AT THE BIG 5 HOUSES
1 latinx MC (6%)
2 biracial MCs (13%)
2 black MCs (13%)
11 white MCs (68%)
16 total books
HOW DO THE BIG 5 COMPARE IN RACIAL REPRESENTATION?
1 black MC (14%)
6 white MCs (86%)
7 total books
1 biracial MC (20%)
1 latinx MC (20%)
3 white MCs (60%)
5 total books
Penguin Random House
1 biracial MC (25%)
1 black MC (25%)
2 white MCs (50%)
4 total books
0 total books
Simon & Schuster
0 total books
SO, WHAT’S NEXT?
I don’t have a grand conclusion for you here. I think these numbers speak for themselves. We need more trans YA by trans authors, and we need more trans YA about trans characters of color, by trans authors of color. There have been more eloquent words spoken on the subject of diversity in publishing by people who are not me. Read, listen, and join the call to change the white-dominated landscape of publishing.
Read author Claribel Ortega’s brilliant words here: We Can’t All Be Caroline Calloway
Check out author Malinda Lo’s groundbreaking work cataloguing LGBTQ characters in YA
Take a look at Lee and Low’s Diversity in Publishing Survey
Donate to We Need Diverse Books, an organization that works to promote and produce diverse children’s literature.
Donate to #DVpit, an initiative that prioritizes helping connect authors from marginalized backgrounds with agents. (This is how I got my agent!)