New Adult books possess tropes. There's the Reformed Bad-But-Not-That-Bad Boy trope, the She's-Way-Too-Innocent-For-That-Explicit-Scene trope, the Falling-In-Love-With-Your-Best-Friend-Out-of-Nowhere trope... you get the picture. And as much as we all see the ridiculous element of each idea, we still love reading about them. Admittedly, sometimes we see the same aspects of NA hashed out again and again. We're ready for something new.

But, amidst the dizzying array of rowdy frat parties and miraculous heroine makeovers, there's one aspect of New Adult books I haven't seen enough of:

Multicultural characters.

When scrolling through Amazon's Best Sellers in New Adult & College Romance, the majority of covers feature white couples. Where are the African-Americans, the Chicanos, the Asians? There definitely are some NA novels with these characters, but they exist as an extremely small percentage of all NA books. How have non-white races somehow failed to materialize among more New Adult literature?

One of the amazing aspects of New Adult books is how fresh and exciting everything about the genre is. We're just that - new. We communicate about books through social media; our heroes and heroines are at an age publishers would never consider before; we finally have a representation of who we are as a readership.

For such a fan-driven genre, the lack of racial diversity among books is startling. I'm not standing on a pillar, pointing at book covers, and crying, "There is no excuse!" Truthfully, the majority of stock images that cover designers work with are ones which feature white models. While my main character (Jane Lu) in my recent novel is Asian, you wouldn't necessarily be able to tell from the cover. Cover artists have less models to work with once they're not looking for a white model.

The issue of a lack of diversity among New Adult book characters is an institutional one. Institutions, however, can be changed. The very creation of New Adult was a result of rejecting the traditional publishing institution. Many early New Adult titles emerged from self-publishing - authors striking out on their own to take the world of literature by storm.

Like I said before, NA is a fan-driven genre. New Adult readers and writers don't have to accept a lack of racial diversity among novels. Our genre is still in the early stages of development. We can be the force to finally embrace multicultural characters and represent all kinds of women and men.

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About the Author:

Pema Donyo is a coffee-fueled college student by day and a creative writer by night. She currently lives in sunny Southern California, where any temperature less than 70 degrees is freezing and flip-flops never go out of season. As a rising sophomore at Claremont McKenna, she’s still working on mastering that delicate balance between finishing homework, meeting publisher deadlines, and… college. Her debut novel, The Innocent Assassins, is signed for publication with Astraea Press in June 2014. Catch up with her latest release information or writerly musings on her blog.


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  1. Thanks for this, Pema! The heroines in the next two books in my series are of Cuban heritage, one with two Cuban parents and another with a Cuban mother and a white father. Both of the heroes are white, and one is a kind of gangly, tall oafish (read: not chiseled like a classical Greek statue) guy with a different hint of diversity: he has high functioning autism. In the stock photo world, these couples will be hard to find-especially since the character with autism has trouble with eye-contact, and so many of the photos are in the eye-gazing clench. I hope to help diversify the world of NA. Though I am white, I have had friends from many multi-ethnic backgrounds and am enlisting their experiences to help me write outside of the stereotype box. I just hope when the time comes for my next book's cover, we can find a young woman with that full, dark curly hair and bright green eyes contrasting with her beautiful light brown skin, next to her very tall, lanky, but sort of aloof guy. It's not too much to ask is it? And then there's the companion novella-with a freckled-faced red-head and her dark-haired, dark-skinned Indian love? I may have made cover designers cringe a little, because I cannot find any stock that works for any of these characters. Congrats on the release, and let's keep the diversity discussion moving forward!

    1. Yes! Loves talks like these. Your main characters sound really unique and awesome. Diversification belongs in all genres, including NA. And definitely, not all heroes have to be "chiseled like a classical Greek statue." New Adult should extend beyond using the same character "types" in every novel. Time for some diverse characters!


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