diversity can start with you

bookworm things

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 have enjoyed the way a lot of tumblr has embraced the idea of ‘poc Harry Potter’ and ‘poc Hermione Granger’. Why I have embraced the headcanon that Blue Sargant is a character of colour.

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?

2016-04-12 11:46

 

Author: Ara

I’m Aradhna, a 25 year old who someday hopes to have published a novel, and who is currently losing herself in the worlds created by others. Recently graduated with a degree in Communications and currently completed a Masters course in Creative Writing (Screenwriting), this blog is a chronicle of all things to do with my Masters project, as well as other general geekiness. I get distracted and sidetracked easily.

6 thoughts on “diversity can start with you”

  1. This is a great topic to think about. I, like you, want to say, “Yes, diversity sells!” because I want to see more people of color, different religion, different classes, societies, etc, be represented in literature, but I know that that isn’t always the case. I think part of the problem is the lack of marketing for those kinds of books – unless people do start to pick up on it. I think we’re starting to notice more diversity in characters with books such as The Wrath & the Dawn, The Star-Touched Queen, Everything, Everything, among others, which is great! I just think if marketing teams really drove home with a message like, “Hey! This is an awesome book about ___ with POC/LGBT+/minority religion characters!” I know a lot of people who are readers want that nowadays. I agree, though, that unless otherwise stated I’ll view the person like I view myself: white. I think it’s cool that you view them how you want to view them, but I think it’s also important that more is shown in books. I’m not sure how I’d go about looking for more in stores other than actively searching for them.

    1. Yeah, I definitely think it’s great that people are becoming more receptive and aware of the need of diversity, but I also find that it is still slow going. As much as I would love more in stories, it’s not happening at the moment – I’m still going to search for these stories, but I’m also going to view characters in existing stories the way I stated in my post.

      Thanks for commenting (:

  2. Yesss! I definitely believe diversity would sell. It’s already being demanded so much, especially through things like We Need Diverse Books in the YA and MG sphere. They’re super important, especially because we need to reflect the world through literature. Nothing should be set to ‘default: white, straight, cis.’ It’s not truthful to the world we live in. I agree, I love to imagine certain characters as characters of colour (I imagine Ronan as a POC). Diversity shouldn’t be considered a ‘fad,’ either. I don’t think it is, but certain people probably do think of it as a fad, as something would sell ONLY RIGHT NOW, which, honestly, sucks. Anyway, I think this was a great blog post. <3 Thanks for commenting on our blog. 🙂

    Sasha @ The Writing Duo

  3. I definitely LOVE diversity in books! It helps me to understand other people and just get immersed in different culture and I love love love that. Although…I like it when diversity is done carefully and is well-researched. Sometimes I feel like diversity is thrown in without any research or care just for the “trendy” bit and…that’s not right. And misconceptions and stereotypes can run riot when that happens ugh. BUT YEAH. I AM 100% FOR DIVERSITY IN BOOKS. It’s important!! and I love that so many YA stories are embracing this. :’)

    1. YES. It has to be done properly – like, be careful not to fall into stereotypes and harmful tropes. I’m hopeful that this will become a norm. *crosses fingers*

      Thanks for commenting, Cait!

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