In 2016, Lyn Miller-Lachmann of The Global Literature in Libraries Initiative wrote that, “Somewhere around two percent of books published for young readers in the U.S. are translations.” A quick Google search did not show me any more recent results, but my own experience reading YA suggests that the number of international authors being published in the U.S., in translation or not, has not greatly increased when it comes to children’s literature. Despite calls for diversity in publishing, U.S. readers of YA are not hearing much from the rest of the world. But international authors offer both a unique perspective to readers and a refreshing variety in their stories.
International authors, quite simply, can bring the world closer to U.S. readers. Books published in the U.S. often seem to contain similar perspectives on life, values, history, and more–even despite the multiplicity of voices and perspectives present in the U.S. Perhaps this is because of how the market works. Publishers guess as to what will sell and often what will sell seems to be all of a kind. But bringing international authors, who go through a different publishing process, and who have different life experiences and perspectives, can bring fresh new views to U.S. readers.
Furthermore, publishing more international authors in the U.S. would give readers more variety in the stories they are able to consume. The U.S. YA market tends to follow trends very heavily; one book becomes a bestseller and a number of other authors use similar elements in their own works. For years we had a paranormal trend and then a dystopia fad. Now heist novels and grey characters are in. Elements such as the love triangle, popularized by The Hunger Games and Twilight, proliferate across YA. The Chosen One, the betrayal by a lover, and more have become so common that most avid readers of YA could probably predict at least 90% of every YA book they read. YA fans are basically reading variations of the same story over and over.
But international authors do not follow YA market trends. They are able to be more creative, sometimes bringing in elements such as older protagonists or more overt religious depictions, sometimes daringly choosing to write a YA novel without a romance. They are not writing for the U.S. market, so they do not cater to it. Publishing international authors would immediately open up for readers a world of stories practically inconceivable to U.S. publishers.
There is room for all kinds of perspectives and all kinds of stories in YA. Publishing more international authors in the U.S. would help bring those perspectives and stories to new readers. And it would broaden their reading experience in the process.
Look for our upcoming post on excellent international YA authors! In the meantime, which non-U.S.-based authors do you recommend?