I’m waking up from my blogging slumber because I’ve read this wonderful article on the Guardian and I think you should read it too and then I think we should talk about diversity in books.
First, head over here to read the article written by Corinne Duyvis, author of OTHERBOUND:
Diverse characters: Corinne Duyvis on the decline of “issue” books | Guardian | 17.10.2014
I think Corinne highlights brilliantly something I’ve been seeing a lot of recently. I see very many books with characters who “just happen to be queer/black/muslim/disabled…” and I also see some backlash towards “issues” books being about coming out or racism or living in small communities etc. for the sole reason that “it has been done before” / “there’s no need for books like this anymore in this day and age”. And when it comes to LGBT books, I’ve often seen this backlash from LGBT people and bloggers themselves.
Now – of course – in an ideal world all books would have the same representation of characters’ diversity as there would be in real life and there would be less talk about issues encountered by minorities because they wouldn’t even be an issue in the first place so we wouldn’t even need to talk about it. But I think it’s fair to say that we’re nowhere near being in an ideal world so things have to be different. I’m mostly going to talk about LGBT books but I think this can apply to all books about diversity.
When you’re a person looking out for books with diversity or when you are a big reader, the odds are you’ve read a lot of books that have similar themes and are on the look out for stories which seem new. This is amazing and it’s also great that you voice your opinion about wanting MORE books with diversity and also wanting books being LESS *about* diversity. Your opinion and your voice matters and they are bringing a change in mentalities.
But it doesn’t mean that your voice should also change things for people who don’t read a lot and who don’t necessarily read books about diversity. Coming out may be a bit cliche for someone who has come out themselves and read all the YA books on it. But coming out, homophobia, homophobic bullying, family’s conservatism and depression/suicidal thoughts is a reality for many many teens and adults and we definitely don’t need fewer books about it. If anything, we need more books, because making it less present in popular culture makes people think it doesn’t really exist anymore.
You know, I hear a lot of people mention gay marriage and equality laws thinking everything has been done for LGBT people in this country. People see more and more books featuring characters who “just happen to be a minority” where it isn’t an issue, they see a lot of people in the public eye supporting LGBT people and even some LGBT people having a wonderfully peaceful and fulfilled life and they think “aside from some unavoidable bigots, it’s probably not even that bad anymore”.
But this is skewing reality.
Have a look at Stonewall’s report on the experience of LGBT young people in the UK in 2012, 99% of LGBT teens hear homophobic language and 55% of LGBT teens get bullied at school. We’re NOWHERE NEAR being done with equality in this country and we need books, and elements of popular culture in general, to reflect what is happening in society, as well as books that imagine a better world. Young readers need to be able to recognise themselves and what they are going through in what they are reading, but also be able to read books where they can see themselves being just like everyone else.
In short, we need ALL kinds of books with ALL kinds of representation of diversity.
Now that’s my take on the topic, but what do YOU think and what has been your experience with diversity in books?