Ah, the dreaded statistics.
I introduced the 2017/2018 fiction nominees here, with links to my reviews of each title, excepting Sea Change, which will be reviewed by our much-missed Leah, book talker extraordinaire.
- London, England, x2
- Vancouver, BC, Canada
- Kitimat and Vancouver, BC, Canada
- Vancouver and New Denver, BC, Canada
- Point Aconi, Nova Scotia, Canada
- Northern Ontario, Canada
- an unnamed northern town, Canada
- an unnamed city, India
- an unnamed tropical island
- an unnamed city, country unknown
- an unnamed forest, country unknown (magical world)
To reiterate, two of the twelve are set in London, England; six are explicitly set in Canada; one is set in India; and three in places unknown. Of the books set in places unknown, one involves a tropical island and the other two are likely placed in Canada or the USA (albeit, in one instance, a Canada or USA in which magic exists).
Of the six books set in Canada, three take place partially or wholly in Vancouver, BC, two in the rural or urban north, and one in the Maritimes.
- present day x7
This takes into account the starting year of the novel only. These Are My Words: The Residential School Diary of Violet Pesheens, for instance, covers 1966-1967, but in the list above is counted only as 1966.
Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts was tricky to place. I counted it as being set in the present day; however, it might very well be set in the near past: tv exists, but I don’t believe cell phones were mentioned in the text.
Of the five books set in the past, two were set in London, England, and three were set in Canada (Vancouver and New Denver, northern Ontario, and Vancouver, respectively).
Note: in cases where a book as multiple focal characters, I have counted the age of each of them. This is necessarily subjective: I have counted all four child characters in The Case of the Girl In Grey and in Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts, since the narrator focuses on each child at different sections of the narration. In cases where a child has a birthday during the narrative, as in These Are My Words, I have counted only their age when the story opens.
- 9 x3
- 11 x3
- 12 x3
- 13 x3
- 14 x2
- unknown (estimated 14)
- unknown (estimated 9)
- girls x11
- boys x6
All the protagonists were cis. There were no nonbinary or trans characters at all, let alone leads.
Canada, I am waiting.
- biracial (Cuban and Irish)
- biracial (Indigenous islander and unknown*)
- half Italian (other half is implicitly white)
- white x5
- unknown x4
- unstated; depicted on cover as white x2
*Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts again gave me trouble. Kimo’s father is the only parent whose ethnicity is stated. I have counted Kimo’s siblings as unknown. The cover suggests that at least one more of their parents was a POC.
Of the six protagonists who are POC, five are the sole protagonist of their book.
Writing the known ethnicities in alphabetical order makes it look as though there is a lot of diversity in this list, and to be clear! This year was better than others.
But if you look at the list from the bottom up, and consider that the “unstated” characters do not give any suggestion that the characters could be POC – no mention of how colourism complicates getting a medical diagnosis, for instance – the problem is that because cover artists, marketing types, and readers are apt to assume white as default (as happened above), the list now states that eleven protagonists are white and two are half white. Which is a lot in a list of seventeen characters.
- one autistic protagonist
- one protagonist with trauma
To be clear, more than one protagonist could have had trauma; at least half a dozen others had experiences and backgrounds that in a modern context would be grounds for teachers/possible guardians assuming it is likely that the child(ren) have trauma or anxiety to some degree. I have only counted the one protagonist whose suffering is explicitly described in the narrative and is immediately recognizable. (Also, traumatic events do not necessarily cause trauma if the child has a strong support network — which allows for and builds the child’s resilience. All the other potential protagonists had support networks; the one listed above was physically isolated from hers.)
- women x9
- men x3
Three quarters of this year’s nominated authors are women.
Who Wrote About Whom:
- women writing girls: 5
- women writing girls and boys: 1
- women writing boys: 3
- men writing boys: 2
- men writing girls and boys: 0
- men writing girls: 1
This is a very small, very limited sample – any statistician would turn up their nose at drawing any meaningful results from it – but it’s still interesting. 75% of the authors are female (75%), while only about 64% of the protagonists are female; put another way, 25% of the authors are male, while boys make up 35% of the protagonists. Approximately two thirds of the authors chose to write about a single protagonist of their own gender (2/3 men, 5/9 women). Three women wrote stories with a single male protagonist; one man wrote a story with four female co-protagonists. The woman who wrote with female and male protagonists had two girls and two boys as her leads; this is the only story in which the narrator is neither omniscient nor the protagonist.
A sea of white, as far as I could tell from author bios and photos. One Indian woman and one Eabametoong (Anishinabe) woman.
Thoughts, Casual, Because It Feels Wrong To Leave This Post Raw and As-Is
So… this year was better than some years have been, and yet a cursory glance over these most basic of statistics shows a vast need for improvement.
Hey, Canadian publishing industry? Let’s step up our game.