Diversity in Books
I think this is a great topic and one that book bloggers should always be aware of. We each have a platform and it’s important that we are cognizant of how each of us use that platform. As a reader, if you are only reading and promoting books that fall into the white, cishet, old male tradition, you help an industry falsely believe that diverse books by diverse authors aren’t wanted or needed. And in the year of 2021, we need to move way beyond such gatekeeping.
Next week’s “Let’s Talk Bookish” topic will cover how bloggers (and the book industry) can be better at promoting diversity, but this week, we’re talking about what diversity actually means, so let’s dive in!
What do you think is the meaning of diverse?
Unfortunately, white supremacy and colonization created an industry where white, male and straight was the expected look of not only the author, but also traditionally the protagonist and the cast. So, diversity looks like breaking that mold, both by welcoming and supporting diverse authors by the industry and allowing them to write characters that match their identity. This can be in terms of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, mental health, bodily ability and more!
Who do you think is qualified to write a diverse book?
This is both complex and simple, in my opinion. I am a white woman. I don’t think I should write a Black POV protagonist, because to me, that’s not my lane. Instead, I should be amplifying and creating space for Black writers to write about Black characters.
Yet, I also never want it to be mistaken that my fantasy worlds aren’t diverse or inclusive, because I always want to create worlds that are both. So, while my POV protags are white, not all my characters will be. While I may write about straight characters, that isn’t always the case within secondary characters. So, while my worlds are diverse and welcoming, I think it is also important to recognize areas I will always fall short and what I shouldn’t be writing about, and instead, helping carve the way so writers with those identities can tell those stories.
Also, any character who has an identity I don’t personally share requires careful work on my part, extra work that must be done (and paid for, if I’m asking help from others who don’t share my identities) to have any chance of not only doing it well, but any “right” to attempt it. More importantly, however, is *always* doing the work to make sure there is room for all identities at the table, with a voice that is heard, respected and amplified.
Yet, I think it is very important that a writer isn’t forced to diverge, reveal or disclose a part of their identity as a “stamp of approval” to write about those stories (see the #ownvoices tag’s evolution in meaning discussion on Twitter for reference), nor do I think that a diverse author has to limit themselves to their own identities (e.g., a gay writer can only write gay characters) or what publishing “expects” from them (e.g., a Black writer can only write Black pain, not Black joy).
A diverse writer can write about the “standard” in ways that I could never write about identities that aren’t mine.
It’s also important to recognize that any one identity is NOT a monolith and each writer always bring a unique and different perspective that cannot and should not be viewed as the voice for an entire identity.
How do you find diverse books to read?
Honestly? Book bloggers! Whether it’s themed-recommendation lists (like sapphic reads, upcoming releases by Asian authors or books with great Muslim rep) to simply following reviews or seeing what other bloggers are reading, following book bloggers who have different identities than myself has helped immensely in not only helping me realize how narrow my own reading scope used to be, but also helps me discover amazing books!
Just a few bloggers to follow and support (seriously, there are SO many amazing book bloggers who help promote diverse books, if you ever need more blogger recommendations, I could rec for DAYS!!):
What are some diverse topics/POVs that you specifically look for when you’re finding books and why?
Ever since I started diversifying my shelves and my own reading habits (which I still have a lot of work to do!), I find that books that only follow the “traditional” approved parameters of publishing to be…not enough anymore, honestly. So, I love to find books that feature characters of a different race than mine written by authors who share that identity. I also very much crave more than just female and male romances. And, if we’re having a larger cast, if that cast is all white, all straight and all able-bodied, it now feels unrealistic to me.
How do you decide if a diverse topic/POV is done well?
I don’t. I’m a white, able-bodied woman in a relationship with a man. I don’t think I have a say on whether a diverse read is done well, because I share more identities with the books that publishing labels at the “standard” that diverse books are comparing against, than I do with diverse reads. I don’t think it is my place to judge them in that way–though, I DO think it is important to call out problematic content I see, in both diverse reads and non-diverse reads. I based my ratings and reviews on whether I enjoyed the book or not (and try to recognize how my identities affect that reaction) and then listen to diverse reviewers on whether the book was done well, in terms of its representation.
What about you? Do you agree with the above or do you have a different definition of diverse reads? What are your favorite diverse reads you’ve read lately? Do you need to diverse your shelves more or is your reading already spread out well? Let me know in the comments below!