Writing Diverse as a Person of Colour | Lunch-Time Librarian

Writing Diverse as a Person of Colour – Discussion Post

Writing Diverse as a Person of Colour…

Encouragement of #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Back the beginning of the year I wrote a post discussing if there was a right way to do diversity in books. And this is a question that continues to be on my mind as I’ve gone through the process of writing, editing, and now querying/submitting my novel to literary agents.

We’re now in a time where people are calling for not only diverse books but diverse books written by people of colour. There’s outcry regarding the biases of publishers when it comes to whose books they’ll publish and what books they’ll buy. It feels more likely now than ever that you can pick up a book and feel represented in some way. And as someone who is reading the wish lists of literary agents, you cannot look at an agent bio without seeing a request for a diverse cast of characters and often for diverse authors as well.

And there’s so much support for diversity and diverse authors. I remember when I was younger if I wanted to read an LGBTQ+ romance I would go online or read fanfiction, there weren’t a lot of books you could just pick up off the shelf. But now that’s changing and not only are people requesting those books, those books are getting published. And I love to think of someone picking up and book and thinking ‘that’s me’ or ‘I know exactly what they mean’, and finding things true to their experience. And moreover, people are being educated to the ways in which we can make our society more inclusive. The trending #whitewashedout hashtag encouraged the film industry to use actors whose ethnicity matches the character they are portraying and encouraging non-POC actors to turn down these roles. But more than that, it was a show of the ways in which POC (people/person of colour) have been affected by only seeing themselves represented as stereotypes.

People are being encouraged to tell their own stories and to create stories that are more inclusive so anyone can find a book and feel represented. And as a writer, becoming aware of all the different types of people and cultures in the world opens you up to creating more diverse stories. And more, of researching and creating authentic characters instead of shallow stereotypes.

Except, it’s not that simple.

Can anyone write a diverse book?

Speaking from my own experience, there isn’t just a request for diverse authors with diverse books. It comes, I feel as a POC writer, with the stipulation that your diverse book is #ownvoices. What does own voices mean? It means writing a character from your own POV and experiences specific to your gender, class, race, ability, etc. And it’s a great movement. It encourages people to read stories written by someone who has actually experienced what they’re writing about and encourages writers to share their experiences. But the unexpected backlash is the way it can pigeonhole your writing. Whether intended or not, there’s some negativity that comes with this positive movement. One is that it seems to shame people who want to write about experiences other than their own. And there’s the idea that writing about someone else’s experience without having that experience yourself is stealing an opportunity from that person.

This is something I’ve been thinking about daily (yes, every day) in regards to my own novel. I wrote a fantasy novel about a teenager in a wheelchair who meets a witch that puts magic in his legs that lets him walk. This is something I have been stressed about the entire writing process. Not only because I’m neither male nor disabled. But also because on the surface it seems to suggest that the greatest wish of all people with disabilities is to not have that disability. Which is, of course, not true, and not the point. The point is that he feels his disability holds him back but comes to realize that it isn’t. It’s about accepting yourself. How can I write about that? Am I not perpetuating a stereotype? Am I not stealing an opportunity from an author with a disability who could better represent this character? Why not write about my own experiences as a POC?

But I am writing about my own experience. No, I have never had a disability. I may never know what that’s like. I will certainly never know what it’s like to be a teenager in a wheelchair. But I do know what it means to stand out. I went to a school where there were not many POC and yes, people assumed me and the only other black boy in the class were either siblings or dating. I know what it’s like to go somewhere and have people stare at me. And while I’ve never wished to be white, I won’t pretend that I’ve never thought ‘wouldn’t it be easier if…?’ when I was younger and insecure. What if I magically became white? Would things have really been easier for me, or would I have realized that my skin colour was never what was holding me back from being confident? Now how is that not similar to what I’m writing?

What I’m getting at is that everyone has different experiences and can draw on those to help represent a character, even if that character doesn’t match them. And that you can’t know what they’re using to relate to a character. Could I have written the exact same book with a female black protagonist who magically becomes white? I could have, but I didn’t want to. I wanted to see a novel that featured a character with a disability. I wanted to see a witch in a wheelchair that didn’t look like Professor X, or is old but wise, or sits in the background helping the abled MC. And in all honesty, it’s a fantasy novel, it’s about magic more than anything. You write what you want to see, so I did. And while I love the #weneeddiversebooks movement and to see and read more books with POC and LGBTQ+ characters. What I don’t like is this negativity backlash that seems to tell authors what they are and aren’t allowed to write about. That being said, do your research, make sure you’re doing the best non-stereotyped representation you can, but don’t discourage people from having a POC main character because they’re white, or writing an abled character because they have a disability, and wouldn’t they rather write about someone like them? Maybe they don’t want to. Judge the product of writing for what it is. Support #weneeddiversebooks and #ownvoices. But don’t dictate who can write what.

Writing diverse fears

Recently, there was a DVPit Twitter contest for diverse stories, especially those from marginalized voices. And I didn’t participate. Yes, I had a diverse book and I am one of those marginalized voices. But the voice I was writing and my own voice didn’t match up. I thought of that #whitewashedout hashtag. I was representing a marginalized voice, but it wasn’t mine. I was so terrified of being shamed for writing outside my ability that I didn’t submit at all. And I am sure that this wasn’t the intention of the person running the contest. I constantly feel an overwhelming pressure to write within my own race, and that not doing so, specifically as a POC, is a betrayal of it. Not everyone feels this way, but I’m confident that some people do. I mean, there are threads on Reddit where people are asking if it’s okay for them to write about ‘x’ race like being another race.

And so I encourage people to keep reading diverse and supporting own voices. But I would hope that people stop shaming writers that want to write outside of their own gender, orientation, race, and ability. I would like to think that writers are coming from the position of wanting to represent all types of voices and are not seeking to take away from #ownvoices authors or be ‘trendy’. And definitely do not ‘fact check’ people and ask them if their work is their own voices or not (yes, I have seen this happen). And no one should have to prove how and why their book is #ownvoices if they label it that way. This is a positive movement and I hope that it stays exactly that, positive.

Do you feel pressure to write within your own gender, orientation, race, ability, etc.? Why or Why not?

35 Comments

  • AnilaH.

    November 22, 2016 at 6:32 pm

    *claps claps claps*
    Writers are people who create worlds and characters out of nothing. How can we put ourselves in boxes and put a limit to our creativity? I am a person with disabilities myself and I don’t mind reading about characters with disabilities whether they are written from #ownvoices or not as long as I don’t feel stereotyped. We are all fighting for diversity. Don’t worry about it as long as you don’t stereotype or write microagressions. Have your books read by people who have that specific #own voices and they will help you. Sending you positive thoughts and can’t wait to read your book!

    Reply
    • ltlibrarian

      November 22, 2016 at 8:20 pm

      Totally agree! I think what people really want is accurate and non-stereotyped representation. And also support of ownvoices. And I think that sometimes get confused as putting people down for writing characters of colour etc. Which I would hope is not what people actually want. Hoping you do get to read that book someday 🙂

      Reply
  • Glaiza

    July 4, 2016 at 11:03 pm

    This is a wonderful post. I support both #ownvoices and writers who research and write respectfully beyond their own experiences too. I certainly don’t want to only be limited to writing about one experience as an aspiring writer – but I also think that I must hold onto my awareness that #ownvoices exists for a reason. I am a POC but I am also able-bodied and grew up in a Western country. All of these aspects of my identity grant me privileges. If I write beyond my own identity (which will happen because I love writing SFF), it would be important for me to public support #ownvoices stories on an equal level to match my (hypothetically) published story because there are still inequalities within the publishing system, which will both lift and leave other voices behind. There are some writers who I admire who already act upon such inequalities as allies but if I ever publish someday, I don’t want to be a published writer who doesn’t share that awareness.

    Reply
    • Glaiza

      July 4, 2016 at 11:25 pm

      *Edited to add: I definitely feel pressure to write a little about my own culture through characters (and feel a little ashamed when I don’t), so I agree that a well-developed story with characters who I want to come to understand come first in writing – rather than feeling pigeonholed to one story. On the flipside, I think the few stories that I have written about characters who do come from a similar cultural background to my own, only work when I think about them as characters I want to understand because they’re fictional and still different from me :D. I am also more cautious of how I write about certain cultural experiences – as I keenly feel that responsibility but I also agree that I don’t want it to feel constrictive rather than liberating as a writer.

      Reply
      • ltlibrarian

        July 5, 2016 at 10:05 am

        This is so well said! You’re so right about keeping perspective and understanding that you’re writing from a place of privilege. You’re really put this very eloquently, and this is something I feel I likely missed in my own post. About acknowledging your own privilege and using it to support marginalized voices and promote those stories. Instead of just promoting your own portrayal.

        I can absolutely relate to that feeling. That’s an interesting way to look at characterization, as creating similar background characters but focusing on understanding their specific character vs creating a sort of mirror of your own. Yes, the cautiousness is something that I think people are learning more about. About being sensitive and making sure they aren’t perpetuating stereotypes.

        Reply
  • Fatima @ NoteablePad

    July 4, 2016 at 5:21 pm

    This a very thought-provoking discussion! Thank you so much for sharing this. I have to admit that I actually had no idea writers are shunned for writing outside of their own experiences. I’m a writer, like you, hoping to get published some day. I’ve written about a war, about political instability, about marriage and about children. All of which I haven’t experienced. I’d never considered that I might be shunned for it. For me, it’s all very personal though. There are a few of my own experiences in it, but it’s not of central focus. Your novel idea is very interesting though! I don’t think you should feel ashamed at all.

    If you’re a white author, you’re completely allowed to write about experiences that aren’t your own. If you’re a PoC, by all means write what YOU want to, and don’t let #ownvoices dictate that. Having said that, I think research is ALWAYS important, and you should aim to represent the people you are writing about as best as you can.

    Reply
    • ltlibrarian

      July 5, 2016 at 8:44 am

      It’s one of those things where you may or may not have noticed it for sure. And it’s fantastic that you write about all those things. Like you said, it’s not your exact experience but you’re using some of your own personal life to create those characters.

      Yes, yes, yes to research! And on top of research, to sensitivity. Which is something I definitely learned to pay attention to while I was writing.

      Reply
  • Read Diverse Books

    July 4, 2016 at 2:13 pm

    Well, this is certainly a complex topic, but I think you articulated it wonderfully.
    I, like you, support and want #ownvoices stories to be written and published because there is a severe lack of them. A couple of years ago, Lee & Low did a study about who is writing what books, and it showed that the majority of books about African Americans were not even BY African Americans. I think that’s a problem and that’s why #ownvoices is very important. But I do agree that it shouldn’t turn into shaming because that can get dangerous.

    Obviously, people of color shouldn’t be limited to writing only about their own race. They are free to expand beyond that if they wish. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a Latina, for example, only writing stories with Latinx protagonists. The stories she could tell with that character alone are infinite! Also, white authors write about white authors only all the time, and no one thinks they’re limiting themselves.

    To your and Cait’s point about “stealing opportunities from other authors” — Most of the time that is probably note true…at least not so much anymore. But I have heard stories of people of color not being able to get published because a publishing company already had an “ethnic” story. Thank goodness we have shifted away from the mentality..also, there are actually not infinite opportunities for writers. At least not in traditional publishing. There are only so many spaces and sometimes the writers with more resources, and sometimes privilege, will get chosen over those who don’t that. Yes, that still happens today.

    Anyway, this is a very complicated topic, but I do agree with most of what you said. I don’t want #ownvoices to become toxic and I didn’t think it was until you pointed it out. Perhaps it has become a little bit so, but I hope it remains positive, like you said.
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    Reply
    • ltlibrarian

      July 4, 2016 at 3:20 pm

      I can absolutely see that in the context of contemporary/non-fiction books in which the discussion of race and the difficulties associated being written in the majority by people outside of that particular race being concerning. Like your example about these African American stories being written by people who aren’t African American. In particular, because it shows a bias within the publishing industry. And that is, like you said, why it’s so important to support ownvoices. I mean, it would have been hard to feel as connected to a Toni Morrison novel for example, in which she at a length talks about race and prejudice if she were anything but a black woman—I could definitely see myself as a young girl wondering how she could possibly know what my life is like if she’s not a black woman. And I think that’s the sort of place some people come from when they discourage authors from writing outside their experience. That ‘how could you possibly know’ feeling. And I can understand that feeling, but at the same time I would hope acting on that would be mean supporting ownvoices and not knocking down or limiting authors.

      I fully agree with you on this! If someone wants to write from their own experiences for all of their books more power to them. People should be free to write whatever they want. That’s the beauty of writing. I would hope that I didn’t give the impression that I was discouraging that!

      Yes, that is definitely the darker side of the publishing industry. That idea that somehow there’s a quota of ethnic/diverse stories that can be published. And I’m certainly not ignorant to the idea that there may be writers who have an easier time getting published because of their connections, but I have a hard time linking that to race these days. Maybe it’s because of the specific type of literary agents I’ve researched, but there’s a huge push not just towards diverse books, but towards diverse authors. Which is the fantastic benefit that ownvoices has created. I do honestly believe that agents are more likely to take on ownvoices stories than ever.

      It definitely is! And I know this is the sort of topic that can be very specific to someone’s own experience. Because the facts are that I haven’t seen much of the darker side of publishing, really I’ve come in after people who have paved the way for diverse stories to be more accepted and wanted. And on the flow of that I, like you, really want the positivity to keep going. And I feel optimistic that it will.

      Reply
  • Vlora

    July 2, 2016 at 9:07 am

    I love this post! I’m always worried I’ll “get it wrong” if I write about something I haven’t directly experienced, but I don’t think people should “fact check” whether an author knows what they’re writing about. I mean obviously if the story sucks and has a lot of horrible stereotypes that’s that, but then judge the story for it, not the author. I also don’t think authors should have to share every little part of their private life if they don’t want to.

    All that negative backlash is actually discouraging people from writing diversely, which is the exact opposite of what we need. I’m not a huge fan of “write what you know” because what if I don’t want to?? I may have been bullied for being fat and if I want to write about that I will, but if I want to write from a different perspective I can still draw on those experiences to portray something that resonates with people (well, theoretically I can haha). Of course it can be very helpful and fantastic to write about what you know, but as a writer you will ALWAYS come across things you haven’t experienced yourself – that doesn’t mean you can’t do your research and write about it. And if you still get it wrong, that sucks, but it’s better than only staying in your skin and never writing about anything you haven’t experienced yourself even though you want to.

    I absolutely 100% am behind supporting authors who haven’t had much of a voice historically, but I also agree that we shouldn’t discourage other writers from writing diversely! I’ll definitely try to write diversely even though I’ll be worried about getting it wrong. It’s better than not trying at all in my opinion.
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    Reply
    • ltlibrarian

      July 2, 2016 at 9:15 am

      I totally agree. Judge the work for what it is, but don’t knock down the story just because of the author’s ethnicity/ability/orientation. And yes, authors shouldn’t have to share every little thing about themselves. You really never know if they have gone through the experience they’re writing about. And they don’t owe it to the audience to share that.

      I definitely agree that’s it’s better to try than to not bother. Do research and make your best effort. The aim is to see more and more diverse characters and how can we achieve that if we’re limited authors before they’ve even written anything. And it can be done successfully! Look at Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows. She has a diverse cast of different ethnicities, abilities, and sexual orientation without necessarily being all those things herself. Support marginalized authors, but don’t discourage. I think positivity around the whole diverse movement is what we need

      Reply
  • Rachana @ Spun

    July 2, 2016 at 6:43 am

    I’m actually so glad I read your post because I was starting to think I’m the only one feeling this pressure to write based on my own experiences. I mean it’s not that I don’t enjoy writing books with main characters who are female POCs but at the same time, I always wondered about the backlash that might happen if I did ‘successfully’ write a book with characters that were disabled or mentally ill since I’ve never experienced those things. And seeing that backlash is also kind of scary and discouraging for writers who aren’t necessarily trying to misrepresent minorities. (Also can’t believe people were trying to fact check..That just seems a bit invasive and another reason to be wary..) Anyways, I am just really glad there are people like you addressing the negative aspects of the move toward diversity. I mean it’s great but it also burdens writers with the expectation that they can only stick with one thing when the whole point of writing is to explore and tell stories.
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    • ltlibrarian

      July 2, 2016 at 9:09 am

      Right?? It’s not always necessarily about not having an interest in your own story, as much as it is wanting to free to explore other stories. But there is this expectation that if you’re successful with it, you expose yourself to backlash of possibly having your representation judged before people even read the book. Which blows my mind. In some cases, like the book summary of American Terrorist which had an outlined plot that played into a dangerous stereotype with a white-washed cover, I understand why people would be upset. But then you see backlash for Me Before You based only on people knowing the ending that blows my mind. Mostly because it ignores all the positive representations of people with disabilities in book. And it’s hard as a writer not to be afraid of the same harsh criticism.

      You’re fully right that writing is about exploring different stories. And I hope that people think about that more before judging people. Because yes, some people do write poorly researched and stereotyped characters. But that should mean every writer is discouraged from ever trying to write diverse.

      Reply
  • Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight

    July 2, 2016 at 1:50 am

    I cannot even begin to tell you how much I love this post. I think SO many things needed to be said, and you did it so, so eloquently and honestly, and I mean, in my head I am applauding 🙂

    Diverse books are always going to be a good thing, but like you said, keeping it positive is SO key. I was actually talking with an author who is writing, for the first time, in #ownvoices, and she is so worried. Now, she has written about WWII and stuff, but THIS is terrifying her, because of how badly people have been torn apart on Twitter and such. I know people who have been accused of not being what their #ownvoices are, and I think that’s bullshit, honestly.

    I think anyone who wants to write diversely should do so! I think about all the amazing diverse books we’ve had even just in the last few years, and I can’t imagine someone running up to like, I.W. Gregorio and yelling at her because she isn’t intersex but her character is. I mean, if we start down that road, maybe everyone should get mad at JK Rowling because she isn’t a young boy with magical powers.

    I guess my point is, if it is done well and researched well, why can’t you write about a boy in a wheelchair? In my book, you totally can! And SHOULD! Because you could be writing a book that could very well change someone’s life. Isn’t that more important? That isn’t saying that a disabled man shouldn’t also write about it if he so desires, and has a story to tell.

    I think that #ownvoices is awesome- but if everyone is only “allowed” to write in it, then every author would have exactly one book- basically a loose autobiography- and be done? The push for diverse books AND diverse authors is FABULOUS, and of course I want more of that! We all should! But if you, as someone who IS writing- and is writing both as a diverse author with a diverse book- is feeling concerned, then things aren’t heading in the right direction at all. I think the goal is to have books about ALL the things from ALL different people, right? So let’s do that! You are a person, and you are writing an awesome book about a character with a certain set of circumstances and experiences- that, to me, is a solid win.
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    • ltlibrarian

      July 2, 2016 at 8:58 am

      Yay for head applause!

      And yes, it’s so terrible to see that. To see someone even afraid to write their own story because of people out there that think they’re the #ownvoices police. It’s not your business verify someone’s ownvoices work. I really hope that author has a positive time with their work, because it’s important and it matters.

      I’m nodding along with all of your points because that’s exactly true. If we all only wrote our own story things would be boring. People should feel free to write diverse and researched stories whomever they are

      Reply
  • Marie @ Drizzle & Hurricane Books

    June 23, 2016 at 3:26 am

    This is such an incredible post, thank you so much for sharing! <3 I have to say, I'm just like Annika who commented a bit above: I am a bit scared of writing diverse characters because I have this fear of just, doing it wrong, even with research and everything, since it wouldn't be based on my own experience, I'm not sure there's a way I could really do it right, and that makes me a bit sad. But writing diversely and really just creating MORE and more diverse books is an incredible way to go, because we all NEEED these kind of books in our lives. 🙂
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    • ltlibrarian

      June 23, 2016 at 9:24 am

      I honestly don’t even know if there’s a right way to do it, per say. Like you can write in a black character but there’s going to be people that say ‘yeah that’s me’ and just as many for whom that experience won’t ring true. Which is the beauty of diversity! But then there’s so much negatively associated with just trying to do your best portrayal that it’s hard not to get caught up in trying to get things ‘right’. And you’re so right about us all needing diverse books in our lives.

      I hope that there’s an increase in encouraging writers to do well-researched diversity and a decrease on discouraging writers from even trying to write outside their race, sex, orientation, ability, etc. Because we could have so many diverse books to choose from if writers feel comfortable creating diverse characters instead of stressed/afraid.

      Reply
  • Cait @ Paper Fury

    June 21, 2016 at 7:07 am

    OMGGGG I LOVE THIS POST SO MUCH, LISELLE. I JUST AM SAVING IT AND IT IS JUST SUCH A PRECIOUS POST THANK YOU FOR WRITING THIS. <333

    I particularly love how ou said "What I’m getting at is that everyone has different experiences and can draw on those to help represent a character, even if that character doesn’t match them” because that’s a HUGE thing and I don’t think people are considering it. I’ve seen SO much negativity regarding #ownvoices that I’m actually beginning to hate it. Which is sad. Because I do think we need authors who can write about their own experiences and show it truthfully and honestly. But it’s also being really damaging. I’m seeing people on twitter ALL THE TIME saying white-authors shouldn’t be writing this, and shouldn’t be writing that. I’m seeing people say white-middle-class-straight-authors shouldn’t be writing. And just…no??? That’s so wrong. It actually makes me really angry. People write because they have a story to tell. We do NOT have to tell our story! We just need to tell a story and tell it well. *nods*

    I fit into quite a few diverse categories but do I write about them? NO. Why? Because sometimes it’s too close to home? And I want to write about other things.

    And the whole “stealing opportunities from other authors” thing is terrible and I totally think we writers shouldn’t be worrying about it. If I write a book about a deaf character (which I did!) I am NOT stealing the opportunity for a deaf author to write about that character. There are infinite opportunities.

    Omg I’m rambling. I just am so excited you write this post and summed up all my feelings! I wanted to write something like this for my blog but I got scared that if I started talking negatively about #ownvoices I’d get a lot of backlash. eeep. SO YEAH. I think we need ALL kinds of authors and I think authors can write whatever the heck they want.
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    • ltlibrarian

      June 21, 2016 at 10:20 am

      Yay! I’m happy you like it!

      And yessss, it’s so upsetting to see people saying things like that. I don’t understand how supporting marginalized voices became putting down white writers for some people. And I absolutely agree about telling your story and telling it well. Ownvoices is a great movement but it’s true that not everyone wants to write about their own experiences and not everyone wants to write a story with characters that are carbon copies of themselves. It’s fantastic that more and more authors are making efforts to include more diverse stories and characters. Does everyone do it right? No. I still roll my eyes every time a black character is sassy or the best friend. But to assume that someone’s going to write a stereotype and discourage them before they’ve even put the pen to paper? It just feels wrong.

      You’re absolutely right, there really are lots of opportunities. And the positive bit about ownvoices is that, that writer would have so much support now. And I love that the movement has accomplished that.

      hahah rambling is allowed 🙂 And that is a pretty legitimate fear, I worried I would get some backlash myself but it’s been positively received thus far. I agree, writing is supposed to be freeing and I hope people feel free to write. But I also hope that people really do research and think about the character they create and how that person would feel reading them.

      Reply
  • Emily @ Loony Literate

    June 21, 2016 at 6:29 am

    Such a wonderful post. And I think you’re right about being pigeonholed – it’s like if you write about your own experiences, you become known as the gay writer, or the disabled writer, or the POC writer – and you can’t get out of that. But #ownvoices is definitely an idea I can get behind. I’m a straight, cis, middle-class gal and I write diversity into my stories because I’m from a wonderfully multicultural and diverse area, but I think #ownvoices will always be more real and more needed.

    Reply
    • ltlibrarian

      June 21, 2016 at 9:48 am

      Yessssss, exactly. Like you can only ever write about your own experiences and never anything else. And yes to writing what you see around you. We live in a diverse world and if that’s the world you want represented in your stories you should be free to.

      I can definitely get behind that statement for novels with a subject matter intimately tied to that person’s identity. A novel about a lesbian girl navigating a homophobic neighborhood will always feel more real because this isn’t imagining an experience, it’s living it. And I completely understand the frustration of feeling like your story is being told by someone who hasn’t lived it. Which is why ownvoices is important. It’s giving a voice to someone who’s voice may not have been heard. And it’s giving that reader a role model to relate to. But then at the same time, if a straight male wants to write the same novel, then let him. But continue to support the underrepresented writer whose voice you feel needs to be heard. I just hate to think of supporting one person meaning bringing down another. Like if a story is full of cliches and stereotypes then by all means don’t support that author, but I would hope people stop shaming someone before they’ve even written anything.

      Reply
  • Annika @ Hiding Books

    June 18, 2016 at 4:03 pm

    This is wonderful – well thought-out and engagingly written! I really agree with you. When I write I sometimes feel like I shouldn’t write a diverse character because I might do it ‘wrong.’ And since I have a mental health condition maybe I should write about it as it is my own disability. But at the same time it’s kind of painful to write about… It’s tricky! My friend and I are planning a readathon for diverse reads for the end of the month and I’m looking forward to paying attention to how these things are treated.
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    • ltlibrarian

      June 19, 2016 at 1:52 pm

      Thank you! And exactly what you’ve said, this fear of doing this ‘wrong’, I think is very pervasive among writers when it comes to writing diverse books. Yes! This is such a great statement regarding writing about your own experiences with mental illness. For some people it can be triggering not therapeutic to detail their own experiences.

      That’s a great idea! I’m excited to see what books you end up reading

      Reply
    • ltlibrarian

      June 17, 2016 at 1:14 pm

      Thank you! Glad to know I’m not alone. It really is something I wish no one had to be afraid/nervous about and I would hope writer’s feel encouraged to write diverse. Yup, shaming or making people feel badly for trying to diversify their stories doesn’t help at all. Encouraging people to do research and avoid stereotypes seems much better.

      Reply
  • Grace

    June 17, 2016 at 7:13 am

    This is a really great post. I don’t write at all but I can see all the different points here. I think diversity is important no matter who writes it. And hopefully it comes from a good place and not to be trendy or some other not as genuine motive. Again I am not a writer so I can’t imagine having to deal with these pressures and decide if something is ok to write about outside of what you are or know. Really interesting.

    Reply
    • ltlibrarian

      June 17, 2016 at 8:48 am

      Thank you! I fully agree with you, what’s important is getting more diversity into books. Who writes what shouldn’t be the top priority. I hope so too! I think when you think the worst of people you’re catchy on a minority of the population but talking down a majority of it. I suspect there are away more people genuinely writing diversity because they want to see it, and very few that are only including it to cash in.

      Reply
  • Auden Johnson

    June 16, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    Great post! I an African American fantasy author and I feel that genre allows me to write outside of my own race. Our real world races don’t exist in my story. I can give my characters different skin colors, different features. I tend to default to darker skin colors, which is something I’m trying to get out of.

    I’m female and a write from a male point of view all the time. So far, no reader has said they have a problem with that. I simply write what I want to read.

    Reply
    • ltlibrarian

      June 16, 2016 at 1:30 pm

      Fantasy is really a great genre because you create the world that your characters are in, and I agree that it allows for a lot of flexibility.

      And it’s fantastic that you feel free to just write what you want to see. I could clearly learn a lot from your attitude 🙂 I’m hoping to get better at not worrying so much about the opinions of others when writing and just focusing on creating good characters

      Reply

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