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6 Young Adult Protagonists Who Aren’t White

Teen fiction often relegates characters of color to the margins, if they appear at all. These books help broaden the spectrum.

“You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror?” Dominican-American author Junot Díaz once told an audience in New Jersey, “There's this idea that monsters don't have reflections in a mirror. And what I've always thought isn't that monsters don't have reflections in a mirror. It's that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.”

If The New York Times Best Sellers list for youth fiction is any indication, the only reflections in popular teen novels are of whiteness. For example, NPR’s list of 100 Best-Ever Teen Novels, which was voted on by readers, only includes three writers of color. This is nothing new: The most popular young adult writers of yore—Judy Blume, Lois Duncan, S.E. Hinton, Robert Cormier, R.L. Stine—were white, as are many of the biggest contemporaries, like John Green, Stephanie Meyer, J.K. Rowling, and Gayle Forman. As a whole, the category clings closely to narratives of whiteness, centering on white characters and (maybe) sprinkling characters of color in the periphery. In recent memory, the only young adult series that even came close to touching race issues has been Suzanne Collins’ “Hunger Games” books. Many readers interpreted protagonist Katniss Everdeen to be biracial or Native American, but Collins never made explicit reference to her race, allowing the casting of white actress Jennifer Lawrence as Everdeen in the film adaptations.

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If 50 Cent Thinks Bullies Are Bad, Maybe He Should Stop Egging Them On

If 50 Cent is penning a young adult novel to raise awareness about bullying, perhaps he should chill with his own violent and homophobic messages.

So 50 Cent is writing a young adult novel. Yes, for real. The semi-biographical Playground will follow a 13-year-old bully who realizes the error of his ways, and it's coming out in January.

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Food for Thinkers: Food Writing Gets Hot and Heavy

The fiction writer Scott Geiger explores how words take on the texture and sensory richness of food in Thomas Wolfe's novel Look Homeward, Angel.

For writer Scott Geiger, whose short story "The Frank Orison" earned him a prestigious Pushcart Prize, the most exciting kind of food is entirely fictional. For Food for Thinkers week, he dug out the truly "hot and heavy passages about food and the senses" from Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward, Angel, a novel that Geiger admits is "unwieldy, but I love it dearly." Dive in and enjoy "the smell of heavy bread-sandwiches of cold fried meat and butter" and the tingle of "foaming ice-cream soda, which returned in sharp delicious belches down his tender nostrils," while marveling at the way that words can take on the texture and sensory richness of food itself.

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