In today’s guest post we welcome, Danielle Binks, editor of a new anthology of Australian young adult (YA) literature called Begin, End, Begin: a #LoveOzYA Anthology. Danielle surveys the YA literary landscape in Australia and calls for librarians to rally behind young readers, revolutionise their YA collections, and embrace Australian authors! Sounds like our kind of movement!
Books are family. Books are community.
Characters come into our lives, and we’re invited to walk beside them. An author welcomes us into the world they’ve created, a view into their mind’s eye.
Any book you hold was nurtured by many hands: early readers, agents, publishers, editors, illustrators, designers, type- setters, printers, publicists, librarians, teachers … the list goes on and on.
Books create communities — bringing together characters, ideas, writers, words and readers. This book was created by community.
In 2015, the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) surveyed public libraries to find out the list of Top Ten most borrowed books. It was disappointing to find only two Australian titles featured in the young adult category, which was overwhelmed by American books, many bolstered by blockbuster lm adaptations.
Our community’s response was the creation of #LoveOzYA — a hashtag coined to harness the conversation, and talk about our love of Australian young adult literature, to champion our stories.
LoveOzYA was born from readers and writers and all who love Australia’s national youth literature. It was not born out of patriotism or a rejection of international voices — far from it. LoveOzYA has been about the inclusion of voices. And it has been a movement, as the name suggests, about love.
This was the spur to create #LoveOzYA — not only an anthology, but an entire movement devoted to the promotion of Australian creators and their stories.
ALIA recently released their Most-Borrowed list from Australian libraries for the May 2016 to April 2017 period and unfortunately, the results for Aussie YA are worse than they were even in 2015.
This time, not a single Australian young adult author appeared on the list, which was again full of movie blockbusters and television adaptations;
- The Fault in our Stars (John Green, Penguin)
- Paper Towns (John Green, Penguin)
- The 5th Wave (Rick Yancey, Puffin)
- Divergent (Veronica Roth, HarperCollins)
- Naruto (Masashi Kishimoto, Viz)
- Harry Potter and the Order Of The Phoenix (J K Rowling, Bloomsbury)
- The Maze Runner (James Dashner, Chicken House)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (J K Rowling, Bloomsbury)
- Looking for Alaska (John Green, Penguin)
- City of Bones (Cassandra Clare, Walker).
The Most-Borrowed list is certainly a tricky one to break down. For one thing – the YA list isn’t sourced from school libraries, which is where most teenagers do the bulk of their borrowing. It also doesn’t tell us if it’s actual teenagers borrowing these YA titles.
But even if we allow some room for these discrepancies, this is still a disappointing list. There are no debut authors, the most recent young adult title is from 2013 (The 5th Wave) and only one diverse author (Masashi Kishimoto) appears.
More than anything though, these ten titles are uninspired. They’re easy recommendations to reach for, and full of books and authors that every reader is already familiar with, thanks to extensive Hollywood and media coverage. There is no discovery here.
Librarians may want to think about the power of proximity for young readers in changing this conversation – and what they can revolutionise, by inviting Australian young adult authors to come and speak at their library, host workshops or Q&A’s and just generally embrace the unique ability of local authors to connect with readers in their communities.
This list also suggests to me that librarians may want to peruse their Young Adult bookshelves, and really think about challenging their collection – and readers, by extension.
The good news is that #LoveOzYA has not only borne great conversations, but wonderful resources supporting the grassroots movement. There’s now an official #LoveOzYA website, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook page. And the website in particular has dedicated ‘Diversity’ and ‘Resources’ pages, which will no doubt provide inspiration for librarians looking to revitalise their YA shelves, and gauge their vibrancy.
Free and printable Book Recommendations posters include;
- #LoveOzYA Readalikes posters ONE and TWO – a great way to gently suggest that readers take their love for American authors like John Green and Veronica Roth, and discover Australians who write in the same genre instead.
- Contemporary #LoveOzYA
- Science-Fiction #LoveOzYA
- Fantasy & Paranoral #LoveOzYA
- Historical Fiction #LoveOzYA
- LGBTQIA+ #LoveOzYA poster ONE and TWO
- Crime and Mystery #LoveOzYA
- #LoveOzYA Classics
- Indigenous OzYA poster ONE and TWO
And – of course, – there’s now Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology.
A young adult short-story collection, featuring original work by some of Australia’s best-loved YA authors; Amie Kaufman, Melissa Keil, Will Kostakis, Ellie Marney, Jaclyn Moriarty, Michael Pryor, Alice Pung, Gabrielle Tozer, Lili Wilkinson, and edited by me, Danielle Binks.
It is a book that was a hashtag that sparked a conversation that became a movement – a book that could help keep turning that conversational dial until we see more inclusion of Australian stories on our shelves, and for our teens. A book that is showing the world exactly how much there is to love about Aussie YA – now, and always.
Because Australian stories matter. And teenagers who fall in love with their national youth literature, will one day grow up to be adult readers who seek out Australian stories, and keep our books community alive and thriving.