I’ve struggled with how much I should say about politics on my author platform. But sometimes, some things are too important to worry about how they will be received. I’ve felt called again lately to say something. Do something. Anything. It will be imperfect, I will probably stumble through it, but I will try. I’m going to broaden the topic to include diversity on the whole (sexual, ability, etc.) because this has been a hot topic in the publishing industry the past few years and what I will say here applies to that general conversation.
To be honest, I have always felt a little trapped with regards to writing racial diversity into my books. I WANT my books to be diverse. I want people of all colors and backgrounds to feel welcome and at home in my fictional worlds. I don’t want anyone to feel marginalized or forgotten. Ever. But, I personally would not be comfortable writing a lead character of color. The hero in my first book is described as caramel skinned and tells the heroine he’s “Greek mixed with something a little darker” but that was not a conscious decision; that’s just what Julian looked like when I pictured him in my head. And other than that description, there was no mention of his race or background.
I absolutely think we need more characters of color to be leads, but I have always felt that I am not the right person to tell that story. I worry that I would not only get it wrong, but that in a way that would be cultural appropriation. I can imagine a lot of white authors struggle with this dilemma.
So that got me thinking: what else can I do as a reader and a writer to change the landscape of our whitewashed literature world?
As Readers, We Can:
- Seek out stories featuring diverse characters. I just finished Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, and I have to say, the diversity of her cast was refreshing! Here’s a great resource for seeking out diverse books.
- Champion stories written by people of color. Write reviews. Recommend.
- Do a Diversity Challenge. You don’t have to go all in, but maybe challenge yourself to make sure one out of every 3-4 is a diverse cast or a diverse author. I’m challenging myself to read at least 5 books this year by authors of color. PM me on FB or IG if you have a recommendation!
- Pay full price for diverse reads. This is something that might not occur to typical readers, but sales do matter to a book’s success and an author’s ability to keep writing. Publishing is very competitive–many authors have to give away tons of free books for every one they sell, and writers of color are already at a distinct disadvantage. If you want to truly support diversity, put your money on it!
Talk about the issue of diversity in literature with fellow readers. Especially with more privileged friends. Many of them may not even be aware this is a problem.