Lately, I’ve noticed the sudden burst of diverse books being published. It’s such an exciting time to read about characters who are just like me in one way or another. When I was young, I don’t think I ever had such an advantage to my writing, and now that I have I’ve been devouring one diverse read after another. However, as much as I wanted to celebrate this revolution in the publishing industry, there was something that troubled me deeply.
This troubling feeling grew deeper as I would read certain reactions from the book community, feeling a bit in the minority. I didn’t feel comfortable voicing my opinion because I, honestly, wasn’t sure if it was because I was reading the wrong books or misunderstanding.
But, of course, how can I understand if I don’t talk about it?
So, here I am, messy hair and messy thoughts.
But firstly, what I write is not based on research but is simply my experience. My opinion does not make it a fact. What I’m looking for are intelligent discussions to help me have a better understanding.
A person’s race, religion, sexuality, disability, mental illness, and so on is not the entirety of their identity. However, it does play a part in shaping the choices they make and their personality. I come across many books whose character when stripped of their diversity is indistinguishable. We’ve got authors tooting their trumpets about how diversely rich their books are but once I get a read, there is a glaring lack of research.
Seriously, why even write a diverse book when you don’t respect your diverse characters?
Culture falls back on harmful stereotypes and the “diverse character” is as bland as cardboard. It troubles me to know that authors can get away with this?
This is why it’s SO IMPORTANT for authors to invest in sensitivity readers. Not being a part of the diversity but writing about it puts your work at a risk of being harmful. It won’t save an author to say it was unintentional.
There should be a proper term for this. Firstly, diversity isn’t an exclusive club for skin tones. Many of the new releases book celebrate diverse ethnicity but sorely lack in transgender representation, people with disability, gender-fluid people, characters who have autism, characters with vitiligo, characters with tourette’s, and so on. I’m not asking authors to include all of these in a single novel or in future novels, in fact, what I’m saying is that we need to recognize how limited the resources are. Diversity should be inclusive of all. It shouldn’t be a label for what we consider acceptable right now.
DIVERSITY FOR THE SALES
This is my own perspective and you may not feel this way at all, but I have come across so many diverse books with terrible writing. Whether it’s with their treatment of the diverse characters or the simply bad writing, I really don’t think “diversity” should be enough of a reason to have a book published.
GLOSS OVER PROBLEMATIC THEMES
In our rush to celebrate diversity, I find there’s a tendency to turn a blind eyes if there’s anything problematic in the book. Either that, or we’re too excited about our representation that we don’t even notice it.
Representation matter, yes, but not at this cost.
KNOW YOUR SPACE
If you choose to write a diverse novel, firstly, take into consideration whether you are the right one to be telling that story. Authors may unwittingly take up space that could be given to an own voices writer. In this way, readers also have an obligation. I’m not saying that we should boycott non-own voices writers but, instead, seek out own voices authors and support them. As a blogger, we have the most resources at our very fingertips.
THE DIVERSITY BLANKET
This one irks me the most! It annoys me when authors, out of blue, claim that character X or Y is AB ethnicity – all this without making it clear in the novel!
This literally boggles me. Why is it that hard to have it shown in the book? I hate it when authors throw a diversity blanket over their novel and then – radio silence. For me, this comes across as a cheap ploy to boost sales. I’ve seen a few authors do this and it has put me off from reading their works ever.
Whenever an author writes in diversity, it’s always assumed that this means they support the community. It’s not enough to write the story and be done with it, because the story is a promise. It’s a promise that you, as an author, will work to help the community. If not, don’t write it. Don’t exploit cultures to get your book into more hands.
It may seem like I have high expectations of diverse writers. It’s not perfection that I expect but an accountability from them. Diverse books are not a fad or something to be taken lightly; it’s a hard theme to write on. One book can change a child dramatically.; so how do you, as an author, want your book to be remembered?
Have you felt the same as I do? Or are your thoughts more different? Do you hold diverse authors to a higher standard than the majority?
Let’s talk more