Thoughts on Diversity in Books

Discuss the January 2017 Book of the Month, We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson.
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Thoughts on Diversity in Books

Post by FangirlAhead » 02 Jan 2017, 20:02

Coming from the YA (young adult) book blogging community, I've noticed a lot of talk about how minorities are underrepresented in literature. Think about it: before reading We Are the Ants, when was the last time you read a book where the main character was a person of color or was LGBTQ+? And what do you think we as readers can do to encourage diversity? I don't have any clear answers myself, so I'm inviting everyone to contribute their thoughts!

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Post by Gravy » 02 Jan 2017, 21:15

I actually read a lot of LBGTQ+ books, and some with a protagonist of a race other than own, both fiction and memoirs, but it is underrepresented. I will actually seek them out, but I'm guessing that isn't usual :lol:

I think there isn't enough of a market for this type of book. When there's a demand for it, perhaps there will be more of a supply.
Sadly, there's also the negative impact to authors who include a valid amount of diversity. I read an author who is criticized for including more than one or two LBGTQ+ characters in her ongoing series. Thankfully, she doesn't let it discourage her, but how many authors will rewrite a character if they're asked/told to?

The big change that needs to happen is the belief that there needs to be a reason for a character to be of a minority, like there needs to be an excuse. There's never a need for an excuse when a character is straight and/or white.
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse.


:reading-4:

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Post by gali » 03 Jan 2017, 00:04

Gravy wrote:I actually read a lot of LBGTQ+ books, and some with a protagonist of a race other than own, both fiction and memoirs, but it is underrepresented. I will actually seek them out, but I'm guessing that isn't usual :lol:

I think there isn't enough of a market for this type of book. When there's a demand for it, perhaps there will be more of a supply.
Sadly, there's also the negative impact to authors who include a valid amount of diversity. I read an author who is criticized for including more than one or two LBGTQ+ characters in her ongoing series. Thankfully, she doesn't let it discourage her, but how many authors will rewrite a character if they're asked/told to?

The big change that needs to happen is the belief that there needs to be a reason for a character to be of a minority, like there needs to be an excuse. There's never a need for an excuse when a character is straight and/or white.
:text-yeahthat:

-- January 3rd, 2017, 7:04 am --

I have read quite a few books where the main character was a person of color or some other minority. I don't think it is as rare as you said.
In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you." (Mortimer J. Adler)

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Post by Erik » 03 Jan 2017, 01:32

I keep an eye out for authors who write characters who are disabled.. it is rare to find a non-disabled author who comes up with a well-written, authentic, disabled character without becoming saccharine or relying on overused tropes. Every so often, I find a really good one, but most often, the best are written by authors who are themselves dealing with a disability.

I do wish that authors felt more encouraged to write minority characters.

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Post by peprica21 » 04 Jan 2017, 10:45

This question is so important in today's world. YA and children's books NEED WAY MORE diversity. Currently there is a group of authors, publishers, librarians and other community members seeking out books with diverse themes and characters (called We Need Diverse Books). They have really added a lot of new books and hype to the topic in 2016, adding to the ever changing landscape of the human race. I hope in 2017 we all pitch in to seek those books out, read and share them. Supply and demand theory Gravy touched on could be a possibilities so we need to assist in working towards getting those books out into the world.

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Post by Julie Ditton » 04 Jan 2017, 10:57

I think that there are several issues that contribute to this problem. As Gravy pointed out, supply and demand, as well as author pressure are two of them. But also an author is taught to write what he knows. Thus, since most authors are strait, white able-bodied people, so are most of their characters. They may have diversity in the shopping characters, but not so much in the main character.
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Post by hsimone » 05 Jan 2017, 05:16

Gravy wrote:I actually read a lot of LBGTQ+ books, and some with a protagonist of a race other than own, both fiction and memoirs, but it is underrepresented. I will actually seek them out, but I'm guessing that isn't usual :lol:

I think there isn't enough of a market for this type of book. When there's a demand for it, perhaps there will be more of a supply.
Sadly, there's also the negative impact to authors who include a valid amount of diversity. I read an author who is criticized for including more than one or two LBGTQ+ characters in her ongoing series. Thankfully, she doesn't let it discourage her, but how many authors will rewrite a character if they're asked/told to?

The big change that needs to happen is the belief that there needs to be a reason for a character to be of a minority, like there needs to be an excuse. There's never a need for an excuse when a character is straight and/or white.
I agree this is well said! We live in a diverse world, so there should be more representation of the reality. I try to read a vast range of books, but I do feel many minorities and LBGTQ+ characters are underrepresented. This is why I was excited to read this one!
"Love is patient, love is kind." -1 Corinthians 13:4

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Post by Erik » 05 Jan 2017, 06:59

How much of the lack of diversity in books can be blamed on the fact that there are still fools out there who consider LGBT+ people, people in mixed-race relationships, etc. 'going against god', who would not buy a book if it has a gay character, especially if that character is presented in a positive light? How much of it is publishers shying away from putting books out that might not sell to the mainstream?
Fewer people read now, and the economy is sluggish... so publishers have to choose books that will give them the highest sales for their investment. If a book has a lot of minority characters, it might risk turning off middle America or being classified only as an LGBT+ book, both of which would drastically limit sales.
So, are publishers partly to blame here? Should they be more willing to say 'damn the religious right, let's publish despite them!'?

Personally, I think they should... but I have a stubborn idealistic streak. Been trying to get rid of it for years.

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Post by ashley_claire » 06 Jan 2017, 12:47

I agree that the option for diverse books is severely lacking. I actually think YA does a better job of having diverse characters than adult books do (that's totally based on me just sitting here and thinking about recent books I've read, not actual statistics). I would love to add more of these books to my list but am not sure how to go about seeking them out.

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Post by klbradley » 10 Jan 2017, 11:40

I disagree with the initial post, it that I can think of several books I have read with the main character being of a different race than myself.
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Post by letsinvadespace » 10 Jan 2017, 15:07

In terms of young adult books, I have often found that their is more diversity because teenagers want to be represented and want to see good reputation. The Mortal Instruments series wouldn't have the fan base it has without Malec, where the gay couple's relationship has the same ups and downs as a straight one and is given the same amount of attention. Another example is Rick Riordan--the original PJO series was mostly white and there was no openly gay characters, then came the HOO series, where one gay character and many different races were protagonist.

I'll admit that we definitely aren't where we want to be as representation goes, but I believe the positive fan reaction to diverse characters does give authors the encouragement to include minority characters.

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Post by Gravy » 12 Jan 2017, 06:38

:text-yeahthat:
ashley_claire wrote:I agree that the option for diverse books is severely lacking. I actually think YA does a better job of having diverse characters than adult books do (that's totally based on me just sitting here and thinking about recent books I've read, not actual statistics). I would love to add more of these books to my list but am not sure how to go about seeking them out.
I believe there are lists online. I've found a few through suggestions from other members here. I've also found some by searching Amazon. Others, I've just stumbled upon.
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse.


:reading-4:

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Post by Thimble » 13 Jan 2017, 12:48

I find that the genre often dictates how much diversity you see. In the mystery novels I read there is a lack of diversity, but in the science fiction/fantasy books I read, there is a lot of diversity. I agree that there should be more diversity in all genres.
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Post by mratdegraff91 » 14 Jan 2017, 19:13

This is a topic I have noticed a lot in my readings lately. Even before beginning this novel I was curious about this. One of my coworkers has been encouraging her daughter to read and would like her to read more on the history of her people but has had a difficult time finding anything. I thought I would look into it myself but struggled as well. I do feel that the lack of diversity is based on what you all have mentioned above. I think things are slowly changing though and the world is opening up to the idea more. Where can I find the list that you mentioned Gravy?
Madison Degraffenreid

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Post by Gravy » 16 Jan 2017, 03:49

mratdegraff91 wrote:This is a topic I have noticed a lot in my readings lately. Even before beginning this novel I was curious about this. One of my coworkers has been encouraging her daughter to read and would like her to read more on the history of her people but has had a difficult time finding anything. I thought I would look into it myself but struggled as well. I do feel that the lack of diversity is based on what you all have mentioned above. I think things are slowly changing though and the world is opening up to the idea more. Where can I find the list that you mentioned Gravy?
@"mratdegraff91"
If there's one thing people love to do, it's make lists :lol:
If I'm looking for anything specific, I just google it. You'd be surprised what you can find. I looked up a few lists. 50 Essential Works of LGBT Fiction was one of them.
I tend more toward LGBT issues, but I assume searching would still work. Albeit, it takes a bit of trial and error, given what some people consider representative of whatever you're looking for. Google tried to recommend Nickolas Sparks' At First Sight when I searched for LGBT books :roll:
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse.


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