In 2014, I attended a bookstore event for Shannon Hale—a children’s and young adult author—where she was promoting her newest book, Dangerous. Dangerous tells the story of Maisie Danger Brown, a biracial teenager born with a congenital limb difference who gains superpowers at an ultra-secretive, highly-exclusive space camp. At the event, Shannon Hale described a criticism she’d received from an early reader: “A homeschooled, biracial Paraguayan American girl with one hand who wants to be an astronaut? That’s too specific. Teens won’t be able to relate to her.” As if teenagers who are both biracial and disabled don’t exist in the real world. As if white, able-bodied teens could wrap their minds around superpowers bestowed by alien technology, but not a character whose identity deviated too far from their own experience.
Intersectionality is a term coined by activist and legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, while discussing issues of feminism and race. Merriam-Webster defines it as “the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, or intersect especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups.” Young adult books featuring characters who live in the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and disability have become more common in the five years since Dangerous was published, but as with most issues related to diversity in young adult and children’s literature, there is still plenty of room for improvement and growth.
The following books feature teenage characters who belong to more than one marginalized group:
- Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
- Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro
- You’re Welcome Universe by Whitney Gardner
- If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan
- Little and Lion by Brandy Colbert
- History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
- As I Descended by Robin Talley
- The Storm Runner by Jessica Cervantes