Saturday, March 31, 2012

Saturday Discussions: Race and Racism in YA

I'm not going to dig into this one too much. not because I don't think it's a worthy topic but because as a reader, I don't tend to notice race too much in YA. I tend to picture that everyone looks like me in what I read and I am a typical white female. This is no way means that I think everyone should look like me in books, this is just me being honest and honestly, when I read I picture myself.

Now, this topic idea is stemming from all the racist remarks that the African American cast of The Hunger Games is getting. I was reading several articles about it on E! News and was completely disgusted by what people have been Tweeting.

One person wrote "why does rue have to be black not gonna lie kinda ruined the movie". Another tweeted "why did the producer make all the good characters black".

There was another example given too: "call me racist but when i found out rue was black her death wasn't as sad #ihatemyself."

Of course, you know by know that these Tweets were directed at the young actress who played Rue as well as Thresh and Cinna. May I be the first here to say WHAT THE HELL? I've said it before and I'll say it again until I'm blue in the face, THE INTERNET DOES NOT FORGET. Just because you can hide behind anonymity doesn't give you the right to treat people rudely. I mean, you are talking about a 13 year old girl and not judging the merit of her acting talents but making states based solely on the color of her skin.

So here's where the book part comes in. I have to admit that when I read The Hunger Games, I didn't picture Rue and Thresh as African American. I pictured them as either Chinese or Indian. Call me crazy all you want. I'm not here to argue about their race, I'm just here to tell you what I thought. Cinna was a 24 year old white man in my head. But when the movie casting news came out and I saw who they cast in the roles, it didn't bother me. I thought they did an awesome job selecting the right people for the right roles, even if they aren't how I pictured them when I read the books. These feelings were justified when I went and saw the movie.

Rue doesn't have a lot of screen time but little Amandla Stenberg makes every second count with an honest and believable portrayal of Rue. I too didn't feel as sad when Rue died but it is because Katniss and Rue didn't get enough screen time together to make her death have as much of an impact as it was in the book.

Lenny Kravitz Sizzled as Cinna. He brought the quiet yet powerful demeanor that I imagined in the book and I felt his connection to Katniss immediately. He and Jennifer Lawrence has such good chemistry, I really thought that Cinna could be added to the love triangle thing.

Seriously though, to complain about the choices of characters based solely on the color of their skin is complete bullshit and I am shocked that that trash is still around. I love reading articles and novels that highlight different cultures and races. I think that the YA community is changing this with each new story at a time and I'm glad for it.

What do you guys think about this? Do you know any good books that highlight different races or cultures? Sound off in the comments!


  1. I completely agree with you! What the heck people?????

    Thanks for posting this!


  2. A very good point - cant believe all the racist commentary! I dont know if you ever watched Avatar: The last airbender? That was a reverse-situation where the series on TV had asian characters, and the non-animated movie had white/indian actors..

    An old follower, Dee from e-Volving Books

  3. I feel like there are a distinct lack of non-white characters in YA fiction in general - although it's possible there's a whole bunch I'm just not aware of. I remember reading a book review of Karen Mahoney's The Iron Witch where the reviewer got REALLY excited because the character Navin was Indian like she was.
    Completely agree with your points.

  4. I agree too! How ignorant! It's amazing the things people say when they can hide behind an anonymous comment. Their remarks don't even make sense and are pointless. They are just random, racist and hurtful.

    This was a great post and I'm glad you wrote it. Why cause trouble for actors just trying to do their job entertaining us?

  5. I didn't have a problem with the actor (Cinna) I just had a problem with his costume! I always thought Cinna wouldn't wear plain clothes :( otherwise I was fine with the actors

    Krazyyme @ Young Readers

  6. Oh, sheesh, people are complaining? Nonsense stuff. I actually thought the choice for Rue was great; she had an exotic look to her and the fact that anyone has a problem with her is so disappointing. For the few moments she was on the screen, she was wonderful and did a great job. I teared up in the end, only because I kept remembering the book and the scene itself. For anyone to have a problem with African-American actors cast for certain roles is so disheartening. I thought the world was moving past all of that. Sigh. It does prove that anyone nowadays can tweet, etc., you know? So very sad.

    For some reason, I actually thought Cinna was supposed to be African-American. Not sure why, but that's the image I had in my head, so when I heard Lenny Kravitz was chosen, I was doubly thrilled. It certainly shows that books bring different images for everyone! I just saw the movie this afternoon and loved it!


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