This is the second in a series of discussions that I’m planning based on my experiences at RT 2015. These are thoughts that were inspired by specific panels, or by books from RT, or just by random passing things that happened there. I love that events like this help me to think critically about books, blogging and the publishing world in general!
Today’s topic is diversity. I tend to gravitate toward diverse books, especially books that show interracial couples or characters. My youngest son is black (he’s adopted from Haiti), and I think I like to imagine a world where that isn’t the least bit odd. (I do have to say that, living in the Chicago suburbs, I’ve almost never had anyone look at our family with anything more than mild curiosity, and that is a true blessing. I know that wouldn’t be the case everywhere.)
Anyway, I attended two different panels at RT about diversity in books. Both were geared toward writers, but I thought that they were incredibly interesting for anyone involved in the publishing world and for readers as well. The basic message was:
And, there you go. That’s all I need to say, right?
Of course, the realities of diversity in fiction are more difficult than this one little statement would lead you to believe. I think that all of us want diversity in our books, but it’s never quite that simple, is it? First of all, someone has to write this diverse fiction, and then people need to buy it.
But most authors are English speaking, white people. Is it okay to write diversity if you don’t come from a diverse background yourself? The overwhelming opinion of the people on the panel was yes! The panel members encouraged authors to write diverse characters – to take the chance, even if they fear getting it wrong. Of course, authors should do their research and have people of the ethnic background that’s being represented read the book and give feedback – but hopefully they won’t steer clear out of fear.
One good point that a few different panel members made – everyone has different life experiences, no matter what race or ethnicity they are – it’s not like all African American males live the same life. One of the writers on the panel is Indian and she mentioned that she sometimes got comments that something in her book was “wrong” – she said, “Well, that’s how it was in my family!” No matter what, you can’t please everyone!
Now, once we get people writing diverse books, we need people to read them! Sadly, it’s been shown that books with diverse characters on the cover don’t sell as well. It’s human nature for us to be drawn to what we know and characters who are similar to ourselves, but it’s still kind of sad. I would encourage all of my readers to deliberately pick up some diverse books and expand your horizons!!
Want some suggestions? Here are some great books I’ve read that feature diverse main characters (in race/ethnicity and/or sexual orientation):
- Storm Siren Trilogy by Mary Weber – In this fantasy trilogy, the male lead is black.
- The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer – Takes place in a futuristic world with a diverse cast.
- Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout is a contemporary that takes place in Korea.
- I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson is a contemporary that features a gay main character.
- None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio features an intersex main character (and an Asian secondary character)
- Starcursed by Nandini Bajpai is historical fiction set in ancient India.
- To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han features an Asian American main character.
- The Blood of Eden Trilogy by Julie Kagawa – The main character in this series is Asian American, I believe.
- The Elementals Series by Brigid Kemmerer – You find out in book number four that one of the main characters is gay (and the book focuses on him).
Not the main character, but still major characters who are diverse:
- Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan – In this one, one of the major characters is hispanic.
- Damsel Distressed by Kelsey Macke – Two of the main characters’ best friends are gay.
- Unwind Series by Neal Shusterman – This one has some diverse characters, including Native American.
- The Untamed Series by Amber Hart. These books take place in the jungle in Africa and some of the main characters are natives!
- Anything by S.J. Pajonas (her books all have Asian settings and Asian main characters). She has a NA dystopian series and a contemporary.
- Whisper to Me by Christina Lee features a Native American guy as the main love interest, and Two of Hearts features Kai’s older sister and has an even greater emphasis on the Native American culture. (I’ve read both of these, but haven’t posted a review of the second one yet.) I also just discovered that Christina just released another book in her Between Breaths series that features a M/M romance (I somehow didn’t even know this one existed!)
I know I’m forgetting some!! Help me out!