Inclusivity in literature seems to follow a predictable pattern, with the marginalized group in question first being ignored or reviled, then appearing as either pitiable victims or righteous heroes, then finally showing up as regular, well-rounded people.
LGBTQ+ characters were long absent in YA except as the gay uncle with AIDS who died a tragic death. The next stage was the tortured coming-out novel, which did (and still sadly does) reflect reality for far too many youths. These books provide important and necessary support.
Presented negatively in classics (consider Narnia), Islam later became the evil from which oppressed girls and women needed to break free. Now we have books that deal forthrightly with Islamophobia and show sympathetic Muslim characters, which is vitally important.
However, there are times when teens, regardless of their backgrounds, just want to escape with a fun novel featuring someone who resembles themselves. The fantasy and science-fiction worlds, in contrast to contemporary realistic and historical fiction, have been slower to diversify. Fortunately, four recent and upcoming fantasy and science-fiction releases do a particularly good job of inclusive representation:
Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody is the first in an exciting new fantasy series featuring genderfluid, bisexual, and racially diverse characters.
The second in an own-voices series infused with Latinx culture, Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova injects an element of ominous magic into our world.
Hullmetal Girls by Emily Skrutskie is an intricate and broadly diverse space adventure that includes pansexual and aromantic/asexual characters and an invented Islam-like religion.
Mirage by Somaiya Daud, another own-voices title, brings to life an outer-space world inspired by Moroccan culture and history, including Indigenous communities.
Laura Simeon is the young adult editor.