Thoughts on Diversity in Books

Discuss the January 2017 Book of the Month, We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson.
AA1495
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Re: Thoughts on Diversity in Books

Post by AA1495 »

dhwanis wrote: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
I agree with your point. It would be nice to read about varying personalities, experiences & perspectives!

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Post by Lest92 »

I can think of some diverse books I've recently read, but they're not necessarily YA. There's Tipping the Velvet and Rubyfruit Jungle (I know they're old). The Charlie Moon Mysteries Series has two main protagonists who are both Utes, and one of them, Daisy Perika, is an old woman from a minority I never see. The elderly don't feature in fiction as protagonists that often (or I just haven't been reading the right books). I'll drop that line of thinking now because that time of life really isn't the focus of young adult fiction. I suppose adult fiction is closer to YA (I never read YA when I was younger, so this is still a new genre to me) so I'd say Charlie Moon and Daisy Perika are strong Native American characters in my opinion and I enjoyed reading the series. Andre Brink's Cape of Storms: The First Life of Adamastor is from the perspective of narrator T'kama of the Khoikhoi, the most marginalised group I can think of. The closest book to YA I can think of is Lauren Beukes' Zoo City, the protagonist of which is African. These are a few I treasure for being authentic.

I think many people would be interested in seeing and understanding the world from different perspectives, such as different cultures, subcultures, races and sexualities. However, vanilla fiction is safe and a selling staple, which is why one doesn't often see diversity in the fiction aisles. The other problem is that characters of a different race, culture or sexuality can easily become token mouthpieces for political and social commentary and lose the humanity that motivates a reader to empathise with the character and care about their story. Nobody likes to be preached to, especially if one senses an "us versus them" barrier in the story. Token characters can also feel contrived, as if they were shoehorned into the story for PC reasons instead of naturally occurring there.

As it was mentioned in previous posts, encouraging different demographies to write stories would see this want of diversity disappear naturally. I just wish I could have grown up reading a range of different perspectives, especially more LGBTQ literature.

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Post by L_Therese »

One YA author I loved growing up was Chris Crutcher. He writes a lot of different characters and tends to focus on minority populations. My favorite book of his was Whale Talk, which deals with a lot of social issues related to race, disabilities, and such.

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Post by Donnavila Marie01 »

LGBT+ books are abundant in the market. Sometimes, we just don't give a damn reading them. I am positive about the thought that little by little, we can learn to accept this group in the society without any reservation.
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Post by bluegreenmarina »

I tend to appreciate it most when the characters' diversity isn't the primary focus point of the narrative but rather just a side detail that affects but does not overpower every experience in their day-to-day. I find that when the diversity is made a focus point, there is more room for stereotypical tropes, and the resulting plot almost becomes secondary.

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Post by ZenaLei7 »

I haven't really thought about it until reading this post, but I have noticed that some of the best books I have read included characters that were LBGT or a minority. I think these characters make the books more interesting. For example, The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare has a gay couple as well as people of color in the series. These characters help to make the book more realistic and helps the readers to connect more with the characters.
“The only important thing in a book is the meaning that it has for you.” - W. Somerset Maugham

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Post by bruin »

I don't think it is rare to find books with diverse characters. I recently just read a young adult book about a Filipino American teenage girl. That was the first time I read about my family's Filipino culture in a YA book, and was thrilled that it exists.

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Post by ZenaLei7 »

bruin wrote:I don't think it is rare to find books with diverse characters. I recently just read a young adult book about a Filipino American teenage girl. That was the first time I read about my family's Filipino culture in a YA book, and was thrilled that it exists.
What book was it? I'm Filipino as well and I haven't seen a book that talks about Filipino culture so I'm interested in what this book has to say.
“The only important thing in a book is the meaning that it has for you.” - W. Somerset Maugham

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Post by sourav15 »

There have been valid points made in the previous posts. As pointed earlier, I also think that there is lack of demand that will encourage that specific need. But at the other end, I don't think forcing the issue would help. Making people aware of the situation might. A specific character in a story is made as seems needed by the author, not necessarily thinking about what social issues he need to address

-- 08 Feb 2017, 05:50 --

As for diversity in character, there are certainly a lot of books, you can find according to your taste.
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Post by TangledinText »

The problem is you write from your own experiences as an author. It'd be like someone who has never dabbled in BDSM writes Fifty Shades of Grey then gets made fun of for how off they were in their representations of it. Gay people write stories with gay protagonists and different cultures write with their culture in the forefront. I think you should stick to what you know. If you have a gay friend and can include details of them into your book go for it but you don't want to end up making stereotypical derrogatory remarks towards a community you are not familiar with and bringing negative attention towards them.
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Post by KAV »

I actually have read a ton of books with diverse characters. I don't remember the last book that I read with a straight white character. Not only the secondary characters but also the main characters are diverse. In fact, I feel like almost every fantasy series I have read recently has some type of LGBTQ scene in it because they run out of character situations to put in there books.

However, if people are lacking in the diverse characters when reading certain books I would agree with this quote.
Julie Ditton wrote: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 psychopathycathy »

For me, LGBTQIA+ books crop up more than minority books. I've read some books BY minority authors and about minority characters, but it does feel like you have to swerve off the main road to get to those. The last LGBT book was actually for children - it's called The Other Boy and I loved how realistic and innocent it was.

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Post by EmperorOfBooks »

I do think that in realistic fiction, diversity is needed in many aspects of it. Because that's what makes the book REALISTIC. As for fantasy books, I don't think that it NEEDS to have as much diversity because it is a product of the author's imagination, so it doesn't need to show any parallels to the real world.
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Post by Tommie H Odom »

I personally believe until we look at people with love. There will always be a crack and division in the way that we see each other. We all should have equal opportunities and not be worried about the color of our skin. Knowledge is power and knowledge come in all races. We need to see each other as all GOD PEOPLE AND NOT CATER TO A CERTAIN RACE. THAT IS MY OPINION. WE ALL HAVE OPTIONS.

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Post by CataclysmicKnight »

Diversity IS a major thing, both in books and in other forms of media. It's particularly odd in books though - with things like movies, television and video games there's such a hurdle to even create something that minorities may have a difficult time ever making something of their own. With books, though, it's so easy for a single person (more if you include editing) to create something. As a straight white male, I personally would be most likely to write from the viewpoint of a straight white male. I know there are lots of exceptions to that, but hopefully the way to get more diversity in books is just to get more diverse people writing books :D
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