Where Are the International YA Authors?

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?

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10 thoughts on “Where Are the International YA Authors?

  1. aquapages // eline says:

    A YA novel without a romance! WHat a new thing that would be, haha. I haven’t really thought about how few YA authors I know of that’s not american or english. I always feel that books get better when you incorporate other cultures and beliefs, in good ways, because you learn more while reading. Absolutely should there be more translated texts. I think maybe it would need to come with less of a “cancel culture” though, because right now it seems like with good efforts to not have blatant racism in books and such it has come with extreme nitpicking and it seems safer to just have books that aren’t by very religious people etc.

    My fav international authors that are considered YA would be Jostein Gaarder and like germans like Kristen Gier and Cornelia Funke, but that’s just what I had access to in norwegian growing up and is definitely within the same type of culture. Oh, and Carlos Ruiz Zafón (spanish)

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    • Krysta says:

      Yeah, I do think publishing YA books has become a bit risky in some respects. Publishers could definitely lose money if they pick a title that gets cancelled and I’m pretty sure most publishers aren’t in a place where they can easily lose money. But it would be nice to see more inclusion of international titles in the U.S. market.

      Cornelia Funke is a good one! She’s definitely really popular in the U.S. I never could get into her books, though, I tried quite of a few of them, always hoping I would connect with one finally! Carlos Ruiz Zafón is a good one, too! I’m still trying to finish La sombra del viento, though. Maybe the fifth time’s the charm?

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  2. Stephanie says:

    I haven’t read a YA novel in translation for a long time (although my library stocks Beartown by Fredrik Backman’s in the YA section, but I don’t know if that really counts), now that I think about it. I have read some Australian authors (most recently, Alice Pung), but…you’re right. I’m definitely interested in learning more about YA authors and publishing in other countries, so thanks for bringing this topic up! Can’t wait to read more!

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    • Krysta says:

      I hadn’t heard of Beartown before! It looks like an adult novel, maybe with YA crossover appeal? Looks like it could be good!

      I think Australian authors count! I don’t know many Australian books offhand, though–only Illuminae. I suppose, however, I could have read some and not known it.

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  3. Kelly | Another Book in the Wall says:

    Awesome post, Krysta! I definitely agree that the YA publishing industry needs to shine a brighter spotlight on international authors. What you brought up about these authors deviating from widely used trends and tropes in YA, is such a valid point! I would also love to see the unique experiences and perspectives international authors can share through their works. Especially with the ongoing efforts in the community to be more inclusive of marginalized groups, I believe many readers would enjoy reading own-voice stories.

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    • Krysta says:

      Yeah, I think that’s a good point. Having people from other countries write from their perspective can be very different than an American author writing about that same country. It does seem that the push for more diversity ought to include international voices, as well!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku says:

    Hahaha– a YA novel without romance?! Gasp! 😉 I’d love more books sans romance plots in general, YA or otherwise.

    I see a lot of YA come from the Australian book market, but that’s about it. After speaking with Evelina @ Avalinah’s Books (Lithuanian) and Annemieke @ A Dance with Books (Dutch), I get the impression that the market for YA books is limited elsewhere in the world. Both of them share experiences where books progress from children’s (6-16ish) to adult. There isn’t really a space for YA books as it’s dominated by US authors in translation. Evelina’s reflections are that this is a cultural thing — Lithuanian culture is quite different from American, and the expectations of young people wouldn’t resonate well in an American market when those books do exist. A fascinating perspective.

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