Today we have another lovely guest post from a librarian from California named Faythe we had the honor of meeting at kidlitcon(we had so much fun there, met so many people!)
There are some topics we readers just blatantly ignore and rather, don't think about. Size diversity is one of them but one thing that rarely gets discussed is the lack of socio-economic diversity. When Faythe spoke about this our ears were open!
My sister and I came from very meager beginnings, so nearly ever word she spoke about being a poor kid living what we'd refer to as normal lives(many think that being poor some how victimizes you or worse that you come a broken home, which is certainly NOT the case!)rang true.
You might ask yourself why the lack of social status in YA is or should be an issue, but we think it's important to also represent characters who live below poverty levels because lots of people have this idea that everyone poor is "suffering". We need more representation in all fields, and socio-ecomonic diversity is definitely a place to start!
The Invisible Poor
Guest Post by Faythe
I have always been aware of money.
I grew up in a struggling household where hand–me-downs is how I got most of my clothes. I mainly received my toys at Christmas or my birthday (a mere 19 days apart).
I remember having one birthday party. Our family vacations were camping. I remember staying in a hotel only twice before my parents got divorced. And then things really got interesting.
I moved seven times in 10 years. My mom and I were always looking for a better place to live – a cheaper place to live. I had baloney sandwiches and a drink for lunch. My shoes were purchased at Payless for which I got teased about in junior high.
That was life growing up. We struggled. Everything had to be worked for; nothing was just given. How many of you recognize a little of yourself in the few memories I’ve shared? Probably more than one. Now, how many of you recognize my type of situation in a young adult book?
Statistics show the middle class is shrinking: 41% of adolescents (ages 12-17) live in a low-income family. This number is higher than it has been and will probably continue to increase.
This is the real world; factual information and yet not reflected in the young adult literature we read. It certainly seems that all teens are able to have a cell phone, a computer, and Internet access at home.
This is simply not true.
I work in a public library with my main focus: working with teens. Three teens of the teens I work with regularly don't have a computer or Internet at home. One teen writes out her papers and her mom types it at work. Two others come to the library everyday to do homework because their teachers put it online. These are kids that have to plan ahead and make a conscious effort to succeed, but we don't see anyone like them in literature.
Several of the teens are applying for colleges and taking standardized tests and each and every one costs. In addition to the stress of applying for college, they have an added ‘bonus’ of having to start earlier in the process than most, because they need a fee waiver. For the SAT you can only use it twice. One of the teens found out late in the game that he had to take two additional SAT subject tests but only had a fee waiver for one.
These are real life issues I know a lot of teens are going through. Yet it's not touched upon in books. It seems (through my reading at least) that when teens are poor they are also in an abusive home or a parent is an addict. Like it's impossible for an author to imagine a teen being just poor as a fact of their life. It's not any child’s fault that they’re victims of circumstance so why is it being left out? Is it because it's easier to imagine teens facing werewolves than it is to think of them going hungry? Is it easier to believe that teens rising up over government oppression than it is to imagine them without a cell phone?
WHY is it so hard to write realistic contemporary fiction where teens struggle with life’s real issues? What are authors and/or readers afraid of? For those of us who have lived on the lower end of socio-economic status or seen it first hand, it’s on us to call attention to the lack of these books. We are the ones who have to advocate for these types of books.
Without them, readers will continue to ignore this growing group of teens.
About the Librarian:
Faythe works as a librarian in the Sunny State of California and blogs part-time for YALSA. Chat with her on twitter @farre