I recently read a blog post posing the question “Does Diversity Sell?” to readers. It is a question I have stopped asking myself, largely because I acknowledge the fact that I am biased. I know for a fact that I want diversity to sell, so I am obviously going to say yes, it does. Because I feel like it should, and I want to fight for it.
But that is not how the real world works. A small group of people, or one reader, is not going to make a difference. Yes, we are a voice, and it doesn’t mean we give up – we keep speaking up and encouraging diversity, and asking for it, and writing our stories.
But we can also take existing stories and just – pose this question – “what if this character were of colour?” or “what if this character didn’t just act like me, but looked like me too?” or “what if the reason this character acted like that were because of [insert headcanon]?”.
I will admit, it has taken me a while to reach this point. I, an Indian girl, once started writing a story in which no one looked like me because I didn’t think anyone would read it otherwise. There have been so few stories with characters that looks like me, or like my friends, that I went with the flow. I know differently now.
So when I read a book, I let my imagination run wild. I let myself see characters as I see the world – full of different skin colours and voices. It has reflected in the fancasts I sometimes indulge in for the books I’ve read.
It is why I knowingly and purposefully imagine the characters in books I am reading to look like me and my friends unless specifically stated otherwise.
I don’t know if diversity sells. I would like to think it does. I want it to. So I’m stepping up and sharing my diverse headcanons for not-so-diverse books to the world to tell them that our stories are not so different.
You just have to make an effort to tell the stories, to let us see ourselves in your stories.
You just have to open your mind to all sorts of interpretations.
I may be going about this in a way that others may not agree with, but the thing is, I am looking for myself in the stories I enjoy. If this is what it takes, I am forcing myself into the stories I enjoy. And I am going to show that to the world.
What would you do to see more diversity in stories? How would you want to see more diversity in existing stories as well?