The Pelican writer has a great post on an issue I’ve been struggling with ever since discovering the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign.
What we really need is diverse authors.
The point of the movement is two fold: representing the underrepresented so that they can see and celebrate themselves, and so that the privileged can see and celebrate them too. It is just as much about broadening the authorship as it is broadening the content.
A lot of authors are “asking permission” from the movement to write diversity. A lot of white, privileged authors.
Guys, you’re missing the point.
Pelican mentioned the adage “Write what you know”- and how it only works if you actually know about diversity. There is such a risk here to simply further ingrain hurtful stereotypes, most likely on accident (I hope).
“Diversity is a sensitive issue – remember that people did not choose to have these experiences. Their food, cultural expression, language and clothing are representative of their historical and cultural experience and writers who negate these experiences will be challenged and called out by readers.” –The Pelican Writer
Now, the point I’ve been struggling with, and I’ll dive even deeper into this issue tomorrow: Do I count?
It’s human nature to want to know where we fit in, to figure out what groups we can identify with an call our own. I am biologically mixed Latina and white mutt, but culturally… I’m pretty sure I was raised white. But not. I grew up in So Cal, I was exposed to more of my father’s side of the family than any of the rest of my siblings- but I hardly feel I can relate to the Mexican experience, or whatever it should be called. See, I don’t even know that much.
But then I try to console myself with the fact that I’m bisexual, polyamorous, gender fluid and for good measure I toss in the fact that I’m pagan, just to make myself feel better about the whole mess. I want so badly to feel allowed to write diversity-
And now I’m missing the point.
I feel pretty good about Asylum. It is a pretty mixed bag, and I feel like we represent a lot of cultures and do it well. But it’s a lot of made up cultures, and it’s little better than teaching kids about diversity with picture books of animals. It’s couched in fictionally allegory so that its easier to look at. And easier to ignore.
When I start getting like this, I tell myself to relax and just enjoy my writing, because I never set out to write diversity. My goal is not to do anything but tell a story and have fun. But the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign has got me thinking – exactly like it was meant to do- and so I kick this sort of thing around sometimes.
I do think it makes my writing stronger- I hadn’t realized until following the campaign that no one knows Zig is Hispanic but me. He’ll be a better character for having that sort of thing fleshed out – not because he’ll fill some quota, but because he’ll be a richer, fuller- more real person that he would be without it.
And that’s the point. We need diversity because we have it, diverse people are real, and our characters should be too.
But do I really have what it takes to write them?