Last week, blogger and YA writer Kate Hart released a study about teen book covers conducted in 2011… and what she found was a little alarming. In short, minorities in the world of YA fiction are basically non-existent—at least if the book covers are anything to judge by.
Hart studied more than 600 covers of new-release YA novels. Some 90% of all the cover models were white; about 10% of the cover models were ambiguously presented (meaning they were illustrations with no determined race). And the minorities? They make up a total of 4% of YA cover models. (If you noticed that adds up to more than 100%, you’re totally right—it’s not a typo, though. You can read Hart’s explanation for the numbers here.)
What does that mean? That, all in all, teens of non-Caucasian racial background appeared on YA book covers less than ten times per race over the past year. And, to make that even worse, a good portion of those appearances portray the minority models in the background, not facing the camera, or partially obstructed. Native Americans, Indians, and people with disabilities don’t show up at all.
In the wake of the whole controversy over Rue’s race in the Hunger Games movie, this kind of solidifies the point: why are all the YA characters white? Are we even making any racial progress at all? And what kind of effect is this going to have on the teen generation—how can we expect teens to support racial diversity if they never see it?