Everyone deserves to feel represented in all forms of media. It is a human right.
“We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, Native, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities*, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities.”
Today, we live in a world where we pride ourselves on how diverse we are. We all come from different backgrounds, have different experiences and different tastes and these should all be celebrated in one way or another. We are different, and that’s brilliant.
But, think about diversity as a mirror. Marginalized people only get a small fragment of that mirror while others get bigger and better pieces.
It’s important that we show diversity in popular culture such as literature. We need to show everyone that they have a place in the worlds that they read about. It’s also essential that we read books that include diversity too, as it can help expand our horizons.
By doing so, we can become more informed about the cultures that we read about. We’re open to a world of new possibilities and ways that we can support other marginalized people. I’m not saying that we should all include diversity as a form of ticking something off a checklist because that in itself is harmful. Including something just to get credit for doing it is not okay.
What if the representation is harmful?
Representation that is harmful in literature can be seen as problematic and they should be addressed. This doesn’t mean you can’t like the book (an example for this being my liking of the ACOTAR and ToG series, but I know the lack of diversity and problematicness in these books), but you should at least recognise it’s problematicness pointed out by people who are affected by this. Just because you aren’t hurt but a novel, doesn’t mean it isn’t harmful. It can still hurt someone else.
This also doesn’t mean you should bash an author because they don’t include diversity. Authors shouldn’t be shamed for not including diversity, they probably didn’t intend to not include diversity. If you kindly ask them about why they didn’t include it, things might proceed in a nicer way and they can at least attempt next time to include more diversity. BUT I’d like to mention that in any world, everyone can’t be white, cisgendered or heterosexual.
We are empathetic beings (hopefully) and we should support people who need to see themselves in literature.
We are all human, we’re just different in our own way.
Ways Diversity has helped me.
Biracial people and Black people in literature portrayed in a GOOD WAY has helped me immensely. LGBTQIA+ portrayed as being accepted has helped me immensely.
I hated seeing black being associated with the villains, I wasn’t a bad person yet their mention of black in such a bad way made me feel bad. Another example when people talk about LGBTQIA+ in a bad way. I remember an experience in my younger years of High School. I asked if I was gay and they said it in such a nasty tone that I felt bad for being who I am. (I’m not gay by the way, I’m bisexual)
However, by reading diverse books where I felt represented, I felt massively better. I’m also surrounded by loving family and friends who accept me for who I am. Even so, there are so many reasons why Diversity has helped me through my life, so here are a few examples.
- I became more comfortable being who I am. It allowed me to feel like I was accepted. Like I was wanted.
- Reading diversely helped me understand that some things I could say to people could be considered harmful.
- I’ve met a wonderful community of people who are very accepting <3
- It’s helped me discover that I can share my own stories full of diversity. In particular, A Mirror Of Smoke.
- I have more characters I can cosplay as, and aspire to be.
Now, think about amazing it would be for everyone to experience the same feelings. Think about how much happier it would be to show people that they are represented and they are loved. It would be a pretty amazing world. Writers, you may think that you’re only one person, but your story could affect the lives of thousands of people.
How can I help share diversity?
Recently, I’ve been trying to find more diverse reads to consume since I feel that sharing these stories are vital. As readers, we should promote diverse books and encourage other readers to read them. If a diverse book is being published, we should spread it everywhere! One brilliant example I’ve seen is The Epic Crush of Genie Lo, I don’t go a day on twitter without seeing something amazing being posted about it. Which has me hyped for the book in all honesty. (Less than a month to go!) Promoting diverse authors is promoting their work which allows them to write more diverse books.
I’m a Writer who is thinking of writing diversely…
If you’re a writer who is thinking of writing representation that is different from your own, congratulations! You’ve taken the first step. Now, I urge you to do your research thoroughly and properly because you don’t want to risk misrepresentation. You can ask people for advice, I’m sure there are lots of people who’d be willing to help you.
Also, get the help of sensitivity readers. Sensitivity readers are people who your novel is trying to represent and they point out if any elements of your novel appear problematic to them. This greatly helps you remove any problematicness from your novel and it also shows that you are trying to share a story of diversity.
If you’re a published author and someone finds your novel problematic in any way, do not get defensive. Your best bet is to talk to them and see what parts they found problematic and why. This will show that you respect their opinions and by using the information they’ve given you, you can improve on the representation of that particular element.
If you need a link to some resources, there are some over on WNDB here and also a fantastic site full of interviews of diverse people called DiversifYA here. While DiversifYA isn’t active anymore, the information the site presents is definitely something worth exploring.
So after all of this, what is it that is needed?
Diverse authors need the opportunity to share their stories, and they need the opportunity to share their stories with people. If there’s even a chance that someone will benefit from reading that novel, it’s a chance that everyone should be willing to take. Publishers should be trying to push out more diverse books, and we should be spreading diverse books to every corner of the globe. The more people who read diverse books, the more people who will become more knowledgeable of other cultures.
Diverse books are a way of finding acceptance not only in ourselves but in other people too.
Some of my recent favourite diverse reads have been The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco (review) and Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo! I’ve also got intentions to read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. Other diverse books are a google search away, and I recommend the reading group Diversify The Verse over on Instagram ran by bookstagrammers Alex (The Book’s Buzz) and Belinda (Bookstorm). It’s a fantastic reading group aimed at promoting diverse reads so I definitely hope you go check it out! (this was very link heavy, I apologize)
But overall, it falls onto you as a reader/writer to explore diversity. However, I plead that you do because it is essential for a more peaceful future. And no matter a person’s race, gender, sexuality, religion, culture and disabilities, they should be represented without a doubt.
Do you read diversely? If so, what are some of your favourite diverse books! Let’s trade reccomendations below!