Before you start throwing rotten mangoes at me, let me explain.
I don’t think diversity in books is WRONG. NOT AT ALL. I just think that the way some authors and readers go about it is wrong.
NOW THAT THAT’S CLEARED UP, hello! Welcome to yet another discussion in which I am more rambly and ranty than ever. (I can’t help it with topics I’m passionate about.) I also tried to be witty but horribly failed, because passion and wit do not go hand in hand apparently??? #rude
Anyways, before I explode with a burst of words, I’d like to say: THANK YOU FOR 600 FOLLOWERS!!! This is the BEST “gift” ever before I leave on vacation tomorrow, and it makes me SO SO HAPPY to have hit another milestone this month! ❤
(And now begins the rant.)
the meaning of diversity (TO ME)
I need to take care of this first and foremost.
To me, diversity means the representation of ALLLLLLL people.
If your book has a cast of all Indians—IT’S NOT DIVERSE. I know some people* think that diverse means “not white”, since white is the “default” (to take the words of the GLORIOUS SIMON VS.). BUT IT’S NOT. It’s representing alllllllllll people.
Also note that in a lot of historical fiction books, you can’t be AS diverse since ’twas different in the olden days. Sadly.
ALSO NOTE THAT THIS IS MY OPINION. You may think that having a cast of all Indians is diverse—great! Have your own opinion! I won’t shame you!!! *gasp*
But theeeeen there’s the fact of #ownvoices BUT I WON’T GET INTO THAT BECAUSE IT’S #COMPLICATED.
*Or maybe NO people??? I don’t know what I’m saying at this point honestly.
diversity as a reader
A touchy and very difficult topic. I’ve been wanting to talk about it on my blog because I have SOOOO many thoughts on it. Being a POC myself (#AsianPride), I am definitely all for diversity in books!
My thought is: If you’re talking about people in books, represent ALL people. You can’t make every character white, cis, straight, and Christian and have a realistic book. While a lot of people ARE white, cis, straight, and Christian (and I have nothing against them!!!), there are also other races, genders, sexualities, and religions.
BOOKS DEFINITELY NEED TO BE MORE DIVERSE. We readers need to read about other characters who are not similar to ourselves. Or we need to read about characters who ARE similar to ourselves.
I have yet to read a book about a Thai character. Is that a problem? UM, YEAH.
BUT. I’ve also yet to read books about characters from Kazakhstan, Mauritania, French Guyana, Guinea-Bissau, Kyrgyzstan, Fiji, and more. And you know it’s bad when I had to use spellcheck on almost all of those countries’ names.
I’ve yet to read books about characters who are asexual, pansexual, demisexual, or genderfluid. I STILL HAVE NO IDEA HOW MANY LGBT+ TERMS THERE ARE. THAT’S NOT GOOD.
While diversity in books has become better represented and shown up more, we still need MORE diversity and BETTER represented diversity.
diversity as a writer
“But May,” you may or may* not be saying, “what if I MISREPRESENT them??? That’s an even worse crime than not having diversity!”
True, true. Having diverse characters in books is HARD.** All you can do to make sure you represent them right is research research RESEARCH.
You’re probably not going to email someone you know who has a mental illness and say, “Hey, tell me all about your mental illness!!! It’ll be all fun and games!!!” While approaching people with personal experience is the best way to go about diversity… it’s PERSONAL.
However, I’d be happy to answer any questions you have about Thai culture!
What I know of it, at least. So it really depends on the person.
*HA. HA. HA. GET IT.
**Not in a bad way??? Like, it’s hard to create characters that are “out of the norm”, you know??? Also just a note that diverse characters should definitely NOT be hard to write… but we’re getting there. Ish.
why/how diversity is “wrong”
I am NOT calling out anyone for this, but I’ve seen people judging books for how diverse it is. I’ve seen people choosing NOT to read a book because it doesn’t have diversity.
Diversity is supposed to be naturally incorporated in the book. Sure, if a book doesn’t have diversity, it’s not realistic. But it doesn’t mean it’s poorly written anything.
It’s lacking diversity, and that’s an issue.
But you can’t judge a book based on that.
I see writers struggling to put diversity in their book because they’re afraid it won’t fill some “quota”. It’s like diversity is a checkbox, and if you don’t check it off, your book will be shunned.
I’m sorry but no.
Diversity is supposed to be NATURAL. In my current project, I have a character who’s Middle Eastern, who has a cousin who’s Asian. (I’m actually not sure if this is accurate oops.) But I’m not making them that way because I think they HAVE to be diverse.
I’m making them diverse because I naturally imagine them that way.
I’m talking about appearance in this case, but it’s not only in appearance. When you naturally imagine your characters as diverse, you can’t think of them anything but that. It’s like when you’re trying to make a character, for example, straight, but you feel they’re gay. Or vice versa.
If you’re forcing diversity into your book, that’s wrong.
IN MY OPINION!!!
So that’s why I think a lot of YA books are portraying diversity in the wrong way. They’re practically forcing themselves to make diverse characters, just to please an audience. Diversity should be natural in your writing.
And then YA readers are making it worse by criticizing how much diversity is in a book or isn’t.* Of course, books should be as diverse as possible, but you shouldn’t have to FORCE it into your writing. Because then do you want diversity in your book just to check a checkbox or because you truly believe there should be diversity???
*Misrepresentation, however, is a WHOLE other topic.
how to fix this “problem”
Well, there’s really nothing you can do… except start seeing diversity as something that is natural. Start writing diverse naturally. Make diversity natural. Use the word natural a lot when describing diversity.*
As a reader, you can also NOT criticize books for not having a certain amount of diversity. (I’m a full believer that there should be at least SOME diversity, though.)
As a writer, start reading more diverse books so that you become familiar to it, enough that you write diverse characters into your stories. Naturally, of course.
*But make sure to use the word natural very naturally.
BASICALLY DIVERSITY IS AMAZING AND IT IS VERY MUCH NEEDED.
Buuuuuut it is also something you can’t “measure”—you have to have at least SOME diversity, but there is no amount that you have to (or SHOULD) aim for.
We have to be careful that we’re not expecting books to be diverse “just to be diverse” or “just to fill the diversity checkbox”. We need to expect books to be diverse, simply to represent all people.
But again, that’s just MY OPINION.
(And thus ends the ranty post.)
i thought that my discussion were getting less ranty/rambly but NOOOO. anyways, what are YOUR thoughts on diversity? do you feel that sometimes it’s forced? do you think we need more diversity? why? and how do you write about topics you’re passionate about without being ranty??? #struggles #plshelp