I read an enormous amount of books. I basically swallow them whole, like the little book monster I am. And this leads me to reading a mammoth amount of books about discrimination. I’m pretty sure at least 90% of what I read contains various spaghetti strands of some sort of discrimination — whether against gender or disabilities or sexuality or appearance or religion. IT’S MOSTLY ALWAYS THERE.
Why is this such a popular theme? Because discrimination is a ginormous part of Real Life. And while books don’t have to be totally realistic, they do have to be relatable or else readers are going to opt to eat a pineapple scone instead of reading. Unless readers opt to do both. I mean, I would opt for both??? But we’re digressing here. FOCUS, BOB.
So while I 100% think books need to discuss discrimination — I often throw myself against my bookshelf, weeping and gnashing my teeth, and ask,
“IS IT OKAY FOR ME TO WANT BOOKS THAT DO NOT INCLUDE DISCRIMINATION AT ALL????”
Am I horrible for wanting it?
Am I just ignoring important life issues and wishing to live in a fairy dust world of glittery potatoes and chocolate castles?
Or is it okay to wish for books that ignore the issue because, in A Well Ordered Universe, it wouldn’t be an issue? And if we don’t even have imagination to AIM for it, how are we ever going to get there?
Sometimes I just want to pick up an epic fantasy book where there is NO SEXISM. Or a paranormal where every character is a different nationality and it is NOT A BIG DEAL. Sometimes I want to NOT write in my reviews “I loved the diversity!” because I wouldn’t need to because diversity would be the norm, not an infrequent starburst of wonder.
Okay but we still definitely need a pros and cons list for this phenomenon of Do We Need Books That Don’t Deal With Discrimination At All? Pffft, don’t sigh at me like that, Bob. YOU LOVE LISTS. (And if you don’t, stick around, my pineapples. I shall show you the world.)
C O N S:
- IT IGNORES REALITY. Because reality is that people are judging you for everything always. And while books can ignore reality, they can also get really annoying. I mean, YEAH, I want to read about a girl who eats cake everyday and doesn’t put on a pound. But I also want to strangle her slightly because omg that’s so unfaaaaair.
- DISCRIMINATION NEEDS TO BE TALKED ABOUT SO WE UNDERSTAND IT BETTER. Honestly? A few years ago I didn’t even realise a lot of discrimination still happened. People are attacked because of colour. People are denied opportunities because of disabilities. People are denied entry into countries because of religion. (Duuuude, I was naive.) So if we pretend like this IS NOT a problem, then people won’t think about it. People need to think about it so they can fix it.
- BOOKS ABOUT DISCRIMINATION CAN BE EMPOWERING. Because it’s freaking awesome when I read about the epic warrior heroine slayin’ orcs and punchin’ alligators. Or whatever it is they like to do. And it’s awesome when the dude says, “You cannot do that because you are a weak woman” and then she turns around AND DOES IT AWESOMELY AND IT’S JUST SO GREAT. That’s empowering and inspirational. HUZZAH! Books where women kick sexism in the face make me so very happy. (Likewise with kicking other sorts of discrimination in the face too, naturally.)
- BOOKS ABOUT DISCRIMINATION CAN TEACH US WE’RE NOT ALONE. And it can show us how to combat it. Don thine armour and rise in glory, tiny warrior! You can do this! Because anyone who’s suffered bullying or abuse because of being part of a minority will really feel kinship to a book character going through the same. We need stories about people with disabilities who defy social expectations just as much as coming-out stories just as much as people fighting for equality. We can get strength from these stories. Also handy tips! Unless, of course, it is a book about assassins — then please do not take tips from assassin stories, okay? TRUST ME NOW.
P R O S:
- BOOKS WITHOUT ANY DISCRIMINATION INVITE US TO IMAGINE A WORLD THAT COULD EXIST. And imagination is fabulous. More fabulous than cake even, AND THAT’S SAYING SOMETHING. I actually get so so excited when I’m reading a matriarchy fantasy world, or or or if the protagonist is disabled but no one even comments on their weaknesses because they’re using their strengths and SLAYIN’. No one cares when that prince dude is asexual and must adopt tiny dragon heirs to rule after he’s gone. These things just are. And that’s so refreshing to me.
- SOMETIMES THE MESSAGES IN BOOKS ABOUT DISCRIMINATION ARE PREACHY AND I JUST WANT A BREAK FROM IT. I feel a bit guilty for confessing this??? But sometimes, for instance, I’m so sick of female protagonists having to learn their worth. I just want them to start OFF being worthy. Because I aspire to that myself! I want her to love her body from the first page. Just to remember it is possible.
- SOMETIMES TOO MUCH EMPHASIS ON DISCRIMINATION MAKES US THINK IT’S NORMAL AND THEREFORE OKAY. Don’t get me wrong: it is normal in the sense that it happens. BUT IT SHOULDN’T BE NORMAL. I feel like I shouldn’t have to be surprised when I read about a queendom. But I always am.
- MINORITIES DESERVE CHANCES TO BE FICTIONALLY EQUAL. Maybe it’s not realistic to imagine a world without sexism…but it’s also not realistic to imagine a world where we all have dragon house pets who bake us woodfire scones and pineapple jam for breakfast. Yet those dragons will appear more in books than a non-sexist world would. HOW IS THAT FAIR?? How come some things can be imagined freely but not others? I DEMAND LITERATURE RECONSIDER THIS.
Personally? I think we need BOTH kinds of books.
I mean, obviously, right?? We need books that show us a world where we’re not going to be persecuted for how we look or act or who we are inside. Aaaaand we also still need books that show us what society is like TODAY, so we can be aware. And change things.
But is it too much to ask for more of the books-where-equality-is-the-norm? Because I honestly don’t think there are enough of them. I can find a ton of books where people fight for equality, but barely any where it’s just there. I would like some more, yes please and thank you. In return, I shall give out woodfired pizza from my kindly dragon house pets.
Also while I’m here: EQUALITY FOR DRAGONS! No more “dragon slaying” slogans to empower people. SHEESH. Dragons have feelings too, okay?!? #DragonActivist