The Conversation about Creating a Space for Diversity and Diverse Books
All art, I believe, is a reflection of our times and experiences within the society. The race, gender, sexual orientation, and able-bodied politics that rule our world are reshaped and recorded, repeatedly, in countless mediums of art.
The art we create today will be inherited by the next generation. The possibility of it, alone, makes it invaluable that we become conscious about what we leave behind and whose voices will represent our generation of creators. The reality is that there’s a lack of representation of ethnicities, sexuality and individuals living with disabilities in the media.
The English-speaking publishing world has tied itself in a knot in the attempt to address the need for diverse books in the last decade. It’s a topic of interest to me, as a person of color, as an avid reader, and as a consumer of art. Honestly, there is something gratifying about picking up a book or watching a movie in which the characters and I share the same culture, food, and stories. It’s the familiarity of the characters’ worlds that makes me feel at home and less alone. Many of us find solace in stories; it’s one of the reasons why stories are important. It is also equally exciting to learn about cultures that are different from my own.
The movement for diverse books has hit a wall of controversy, a small wall, but a wall, nevertheless. When the topic of diversity and books comes up, I’ve heard those of the opinion that pushing diversity in books would only perpetuate the same stereotypes that many hope to combat and that, at the end of the day, the human stories are the ones captivating us and moving us to tears or making us burst into laughter, regardless of the character’s background.
I agree with the later statement, but I also feel that these feelings stem from our personal experiences and fears. It’s also the reason we need diverse books and authors in the first place.
Diversity in books is not the same thing as “diverse books.” Diversity in books refers to diversity in the cast of characters starring in a book or books. I believe there’s value in encouraging authors to think outside of the box and give a thought to the possibility of writing three-dimensional characters living with disabilities, of different sexual orientations, religions or racial backgrounds. It all only takes a bit of imagination and a bit of research.
Nonetheless, it’s not enough to encourage authors to add three-dimensional minority characters to their stories. We need more minority authors to write and publish. And I know they exist because I know a few of them.
The term “diverse books” implies a wider selection of books to read and a bigger pool of authors to pick from. I read all types of books, a myriad of the genres, characters, and styles, and I sense that there is a craving out there for diverse stories and authors. I can feel this craving.
Art holds a lot of influence in our society. As readers and writers, we should also be open-minded about reading books from different authors, genres, and countries in the English publishing world. My heart aches to think about all the great books out there waiting to be read, and yet not translated. We shouldn’t be afraid to get out of our comfort zones. We should write a reflection of the whole world, not just our own.
Note: Writing is a job, and it’s already hard enough. My reason for writing this entry was only to start a dialogue about the types of books we read and the characters we write. I was also happily informed by my fourteen year old sister that changes are happening within YA, and it’s great news! She’ll have more choices than me at her age.
Thanks for reading! Please share your thoughts.
Note: Writing is a job, and it’s already hard enough. My reason for writing this entry was only to start a dialogue about the types of books we read and the characters we write.