I wholly agree with the cry of “WE NEED DIVERSITY”. It circles through us book bloggers enough, doesn’t it? There are hashtags for it. We highlight books that attempt to fill the gargantuan gaps. We dance little giddy jigs like happy popcorn whenever a book breaks the barriers and includes minorities.
As a book blogger, I will sit around righteously and shout, “WHERE ARE MY DIVERSE BOOKS?”
And then I realised, quite awkwardly, that I am…um…a writer too. Gee how did that slip my mind?
When I write, I ought to write diversely. I should survey the gaps in the bookish world and fill them. HUZZAH! Huzzah? Ah?…maaaybe no. Because I have a small secret. I’ll whisper it to you. Come closer. Closer. Shh, now.
I AM QUITE SCARED TO WRITE ABOUT MINORITIES IN CASE I GET IT WRONG AND AM MURDERED QUIETLY AND EFFICIENTLY WITH A PIECE OF SPAGHETTI.
As a reader, I’ve had a few bad experiences with authors attempting to fill gaps and getting it hopelessly wrong. For instance:
- I read a book about a violinist…and the mistakes she made. SHEESH. As a violinist I cringed at all the inconsistencies and the book plummeted for me because it was WRONG.
- I often see writers stick in the quirky Australian character, basically for comic relief. Newsflash: Australians don’t say “crickey” after every second word. In fact, I don’t know anyone who says it. Ever. 90% of the time non-Australian writers get Australians sooooo painfully wrong.
- I read a book about depression where the author tried to “cure” it with romance. No. NO NO NO. This goes for anxiety too. You can’t cure them with a little bit ‘o love. Again, book = plummeting to low star ratings.
As a reader, I see an author writing something wrong I get twitchy.
As a writer, I DON’T WANT TO MAKE MY READERS TWITCY.
What is a writer to do? Obviously you can shout “RESEARCH!” but internet-research only goes so far. Obviously you can shout “TALK TO THE RIGHT PEOPLE!” but often times you don’t have the contacts.
Yes there are a lot of books about white, straight people who live in Western countries, with no interesting heritage, and they rarely leave the country. I’m fully sure this is because the majority of authors come from this background. And that’s not even bad okay?! We can’t get crank at an author for where they grew up!
So I do have quite a big question for you today:
Which is better: having diverse books with possible mistakes or having no diverse books?
Now think really carefully about this one, folks! My first instinct is to say “REPRESENT THOSE MINORITIES ANYWAY!” but…maybe…not. Writing Australians as saying “crickey” all the time is more offensive to me than never reading about Australians at all.
Obviously we need lots of writers, with lots of experiences, right? That’d solve everything. But just because you’ve got good information doesn’t mean you can write a good story. So it just goes round in loopy loops indefinitely. And it is PAIN.
As a writer, I do my best. Before I even knew what “minorities” where (I was an adorable yet deluded youth), I was writing books with characters of every shade of skin colour. I set my books in many different countries! (Including Narnia, but, ya know, I learnt about plagiarism eventually.) And, without even consciously trying, I had a wide variety of disorders in my fantasy novels. Peoples, I was writing all this at 15 years old. It came naturally to me. It’s only now that I realise I did a pretty bad job at it. BUT I TRIED. And I’m proud of little-writerly-me. Now I know more and sometimes knowledge isn’t power — it’s actually terrifying.
So you know what? I think we should be a little kinder on authors who a) mess up writing diversity because at least they’re trying, and b) authors who DON’T write diversely. Maybe we should consider how scary it is to risk doing it wrong. And take that stroll in someone else’s moccasins: if you were an author, what would you do?