The Importance of Diversity

If you’ve been around Twitter and YouTube in the last week, then you’ve probably seen the very heated topic of diversity popping up constantly. I’m not naming names or anything like that, but there was a very controversial video that included a lot of ignorant viewpoints on diversity and how it’s not “needed” or “important” in literature. That we should be sticking to a status quo of sorts when it comes to books.

And oh how wrong that is.

I’ve talked about the importance of diversity in children’s literature before, but this is a more general, encompassing talk today.

As a white female, I’m privileged. No doubt about it. I’ve been raised in a good home with a good family and have a good life. I shouldn’t have much to complain about, but I’m only human so it happens. I suffer with depression, and occasionally anxiety.

But there are things that I have been realizing more and more as I stay longer in this community: there is more out there than what I know.

Of course I enjoy reading stories about a white boy and white girl having drama, falling in love, and lots of kissing. Of course I enjoy reading about a white girl out to save the world. I can relate to it not because I’ve saved the world or anything (or have I?), but because I’m a white girl.

I’d love to be able to read books with black women protagonists who kick ass and who are confident in themselves, or books with Asian male protagonists who are both sensitive and athletic and might have a mental illness, or books about gay religious hispanic men getting their flirt on at a college campus and how they deal with their faith in all of it.

And I’m sure these books are out there!

So why is it that they never seem to “stand out” among the crowd when new books are being marketed to the public? How come it takes so long for these kinds of books to be raised to the surface and have people buzzing about them?

It’s like they aren’t going to sell as well because their main characters aren’t white.

And of course I’m not saying this is the case for all books and situations!

But every voice deserves to be heard. Every person of color, every disabled person, every religion, sexuality, gender, situation, mental illness: it all deserves to be heard. It all deserves to be told.

So why do people think that we should only be sticking to some certain status quo when it comes to books?

If I had been able to read a book about a girl with depression when I was younger, maybe I would have developed better coping mechanisms as a result. Maybe if I had been able to read a book about a girl who struggles with her sexuality then maybe I could have come to terms a lot sooner than I did. Hell, maybe I still wouldn’t feel so lost sometimes.

And I know that there are so many people out there of varying skin colors, genders, sexualities, etc, who need these stories in their lives. And when people say that diversity isn’t important, that it’s the “worst word in the English language,” that it shouldn’t really exist, then it’s like they’re saying that all of those people don’t matter.

And they for sure do.

So what can you do to introduce more diverse books into your life?

  • Well, there is a readathon coming up from September 12-19 that is hosted by four lovely ladies on YouTube (Joce @ squibblesreads, Monica @ shemightbemonicaMonica @ shemightbemonica, Christina @ Christina Marie, and Whitney @ whittynovels) called #DiverseAThon and there’s no challenges or anything, but there’s an optional group book they have up which is Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. They only hope that you pick up at least ONE diverse book to read during this time to show support for the cause of diversity.
  • Challenge yourself to read at least ONE diverse book a month. And if that’s too much for you, then spread it out, but there are so, SO many out there to choose from.
  • Ask around! There have been tons of threads on Twitter about different diverse reads, plus there’s the infinite blog universe you can look into, as well as YouTube and other places. Ask around and you’ll find someone that has read something diverse.
  • Start with a topic that is important to you. For me personally, depression/suicide are very important topics to me, and I definitely want to read more books involving them, especially from the protagonist’s point of view. (If anyone has any recommendations, please let me know!) But if you’re someone who is struggling with sexuality, then find a book that has confident characters in that sexuality that you believe you identify with, or if you’re looking for something that has kickass lesbian black female heroines, then search for them!
  • Branch out from there. The world of diversity is a hidden gem, but once you find it, it’s beautiful and it really deserves to shine.

Diversity is so, SO important. Don’t ever think that it’s not. Your race, sexual identity, gender, etc is not the only one out there; all voices deserve to be heard because all voices are important.

Let’s Chat! ≧◡≦

What kinds of diverse books are your favorites? Do you gravitate more towards a certain kind, or do you really try to branch out and read different things? What is your stance on this whole diverse topic? Let me know!

Let’s Talk: The Importance of Diversity in Children’s Literature

Recently there was a lot of angry talk on Twitter about something an author said about diversity in children’s literature and how she basically said that anything written about a queer black kid belongs in a pamphlet, not a book.

Um, sorry, what?

Edi from Crazy QuiltEdi did a post about the whole talk on Facebook that occurred over the weekend and I thought that it was a great to read about her perspective on it. The whole topic of conversation was sparked over a self-published children’s book about a black boy who loves the color pink, but you know, boys aren’t supposed to like pink… right? So it’s a story about fear and how this child wants to escape to Mars to be accepted by others.

I think that sounds like a great story! Regardless if the child is black, white, Asian, polka-dotted, whatever, it’s a story that should be shared with any and all children that go through much the same thing.

But for a white female author to go on and say that this kind of material should be in a pamphlet, not a book, because (according to her) books should have a “philosophical, spiritual, intellectual agenda that speaks to many many people – not just gay black boys” is really, well, absurd. Children need this kind of material to not only understand more about themselves, but to be able to grow compassion and empathize with those that go through the same kinds of problems.

Yes, authors of color have been trying to get published more and more, and stories about people of color have been trying to get published more and more, but there’s still not enough out there. The story and journey of a white boy or girl is fine and all, but we need more diversity. More Native Americans and traditional cultures and values; more Latinos and how they grow up in the U.S. or elsewhere; more queer black kids just wanting to be accepted and loved by others; more positive spins on Muslims, Buddhists, and other religious minorities, and heck, even majorities; more about bisexual white females and males, or really more about anyone, regardless of race, who is LGBTQIA+. We need these stories for our kids, and if people don’t begin seeing that, then where do we stand?

It’s sad to think that in the publishing world there is still such a stigma for POC authors and characters.

“It won’t sell.”

“It won’t be a best seller.”

“No one will relate.”

I beg to differ.

We want more, crave more, and need more. As a white female I, too, want to read these stories and be able to understand the mindsets, the cultures, the worlds in which these kids – and adults – live in.

Let me know your thoughts on diversity of kid’s literature. Is there enough of it? Do we need more? What kinds of topics do you want to see written about?