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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mratdegraff91
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Re: Thoughts on Diversity in Books

Post by mratdegraff91 » 16 Jan 2017, 08:14

Thanks! I will try that.
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Post by mewsmash » 16 Jan 2017, 09:50

I'm actually in the middle of writing a book with many minority and LGBT+ characters. Personally, I love reading a book and seeing that. The bland, white characters we're used to seeing make me bored nowadays. Bring the representation!
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Post by Insightsintobooks » 17 Jan 2017, 10:08

I agree that overall there needs to be more diversity in books. I've been trying to read more diversely lately as I think it's important.
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Post by moonshoes » 17 Jan 2017, 17:13

One way to encourage diversity as a reader is to seek it out, I suppose? I've found quite a few diverse books that I've then recommended to friends, who in turn recommended it to their friends and so on and so forth. I think that a way to get more diverse books is to show that they can be "popular", even though it doesn't feature your stereotypical characters.

I've been following a lot of booktubers on youtube for some time now, and have noticed that in the last year or so diversity is being talked about more and more. Not only did it make me aware of the fact that I wasn't reading diversely, it put a lot of new books on my radar and, most importantly, it got a lot of people talking about diversity in books. I don't think it's necessarily the way to fix the problem, but I think it's a good first step to raise some awareness and have people talk about it.

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Post by cjohns105 » 17 Jan 2017, 21:35

There is some diversity if you really look for it. Both myself and the other teachers and library staff in my district make sure to find diversity in literature wherever we can. We have a very diverse community, so that really helps to motivate us. That being said, there are still huge gaps that exist. For example, I have seen very little literature containing characters with religious views other than Christian, Jewish, and Atheist/Agnostic. That represents a lack of validation for some of my students, and the loss of potential learning/understanding for others.

Before we congregate with pitchforks and torches in search for a guilty publishing company or two I think there are some things we have to consider. Literature often reflects the experiences of the writer who authored it. English is certainly the lingua franca in many countries and industries, but while those involved with English get a better idea of the cultures that developed alongside the language, that is not a mutually exclusive relationship. What I mean to say is that just because others may be introduced to our culture through English, it does not mean that we have the added benefit of being introduced to their culture through English. It is hard to get authentic experiences and perspectives in a piece of literature without an authentic author to back it up. I would love to write a wonderful novel with a main character who is a young Somali woman. My students would love to see a strong female character rocking her hijab, wearing sandals when it's way too cold outside, and going home to beautiful family and some delicious sambosa. But everything I know about that character is the result of observation and not experience and, in the end, she would only fit those categories on the surface. I've had this conversation with friends, classmates, colleagues, and community members alike, and every time it comes down to essentially the same answer. The best way to get diversity in literature, media, and any number of different creative outlets (or in the classroom for that matter), is for members of those diverse communities to create the differences they want to see themselves. Most YA novels lack diversity in leading characters because they reflect their authors on a certain level. This could be partially blamed on publishers, but I don't actually know the statistics on any of that.

However, as I said at the top, look and you shall find. I have a few on my shelf both here and in the physical realm that could help start some reading for those who are curious. Forgive me for the long post, but as a Lit person and a TESL person this is something that I am always thinking about.
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Post by David Nash » 17 Jan 2017, 21:55

Frankly I'd far prefer to see more diversity books written by persons from those communities. I appreciate the issues involved only from a distance. Having authentic members writing provides a much deeper and richer experience than I can do as an author. That said, I will still reach out and try to keep my characters diverse and interesting. But I am always aware that I am not a member of those communities and anything I write about is second hand information at best.

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Post by Jennifer Allsbrook » 17 Jan 2017, 22:13

FangirlAhead wrote: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!
This is an interesting question. I will say that when I choose a book to read I do not intentionally choose based on any particular group. I will admit to reading mostly within my own race and sexual preference. This as I said is not a conscious choice...it just is true. However, recently, I reviewed Doctored by K'Anne Meinel whose main characters where women who fell for each other. That was the first time I had read a novel about F/F romance. I have read a few other works where the love triangles involved M/M/F romance. Emmy Holly's Menage, Strange Attraction, and Velvet Glove and Lorelei James' Saddled and Spurred include characters that do not fit the traditional M/F romance roles. J.R. Ward's Lover at Last focuses on love between two male vampires. People are people no matter what their walk of life and there is much that can be learned from reading other points of view. In terms of literature in a broader sense I think that the more diverse characters that are included in a book the more interesting the story.

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Post by MarisaRose » 18 Jan 2017, 09:07

This is a really great topic! I enjoyed reading all of the responses. I think there are books out there with those types of protagonists, however, they are not mainstream. I like to check the NYT bestseller list often and I have noticed that a lot of the books on the list recently are focused on minorities. Personally, I enjoy reading all types of books and would never be put off by a minority or LGBTQ+ protagonist/narrator; in fact, I find these perspectives can be the most interesting and unique.
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Post by Cjgarland89 » 18 Jan 2017, 12:55

I agree that there is an underrepresented population in books. It seems that in TV shows and movies this trend seems to be dwindling down. Each time I turn on the tv I see new shows or movies with minorities or LGBTQ individuals. Perhaps this trend will rollover into literature the same way in the near future and become more mainstream.

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Post by CrescentMoon » 18 Jan 2017, 15:46

In a lot of the recent books I've read, there have been quite a few minority characters. But they are usually in the background and not the protagonist. I have also read books where the protagonists are certain minority groups, but it would be nice to read about a protagonist who is part of a more rare minority group. I actually don't think I've read many books where the main characters are LGBTQ and I think that's a shame. I definitely think promotion of these kinds of books is one way to get people to read them. Once they are out there and people know more about them, hopefully they become more popular.
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Post by Tawfiqalqeisi » 20 Jan 2017, 16:29

I think lack of diversity is a problem that initiates from childhood. Many people are raised thinking they are the right people and anyone different than them is wrong. The impact of this mentality surely shows up in all areas of life including books. If we want to fix this problem we need to raise awareness about it. On the long run this will increase the demand for diverse books.
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Post by sakini » 20 Jan 2017, 20:23

cjohns105 wrote: Literature often reflects the experiences of the writer who authored it. ... The best way to get diversity in literature, media, and any number of different creative outlets (or in the classroom for that matter), is for members of those diverse communities to create the differences they want to see themselves. Most YA novels lack diversity in leading characters because they reflect their authors on a certain level. This could be partially blamed on publishers, but I don't actually know the statistics on any of that.
I appreciate this viewpoint. There are diverse books and diverse authors in the book publishing world. The key questions is how do we get more authors with diverse backgrounds to write stories. I like to think that the more we expose people (children in particular) to characters that are like them the more likely they will think, "Hey, I can write a story like that!"

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Post by Shelle » 21 Jan 2017, 18:05

mewsmash wrote:I'm actually in the middle of writing a book with many minority and LGBT+ characters. Personally, I love reading a book and seeing that. The bland, white characters we're used to seeing make me bored nowadays. Bring the representation!
Good luck on your book! If this group is any indication, your characters will be very well received.
A book is a gift you can open again and again.
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Post by dhwanis » 22 Jan 2017, 04:41

I believe that it is more on the kind of books that we are exposed to. Living in India, I spent a major part of my childhood reading books like Enid Blyton and Agatha Christies...where all the characters were white. But, as my reading developed, I made a conscious effort to look for books that had more diversity...and now I make sure I pick up books written by various authors from different parts of the world and those who write about different kinds of experiences..and it has made a world of difference. When you read about diverse characters, you understand and empathise with more people in real life
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Post by papaya12 » 24 Jan 2017, 09:17

I think that we should encourage people of color to write more because I think that the reason that we don't see a lot of books with main characters who are black is because we are reading books by white authors. Also I think that if you want to read a book about people of color or other minorities then you should look it up like Gravy said. People do like to make lists.

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