Monday, June 2, 2014

Living diversely isnt hard. Writing diversely shouldnt be either- Guest Post on A Writer's Tale

So I met this awesome blogger/author on LinkedIn. Her name is Scarlett Van Dijk, and she has some great content on her blog about being an author, a writer, and heading down that path. I was lucky enough to be on her blog A Writer's Tale- Guest Post. Since attending BookCon's #WeNeedDiverseBooks event, Im realizing diversity should not be seen as this idea that has to be forced fed. It shouldn't be seen a fad, because frankly, my life isn't a fad. You can check out her blog anytime at this link, or at A Writer's Tale.

Writing is one of the most creatively freeing activities a person can do. Writing can be beautiful, it can be ugly. At times it can be difficult, whilst many times words can just fly off the page. Writing can reflect on your experiences, what you see in the world, what you'd like to see in the world, and it is often the first exposure a person will get to entertainment.

But sometimes we have a little trouble using the "D" word. That's right. Diversity.

There was once a time where I read books just to read books, because they had pretty covers, or interesting plots about fallen angels, or unattainable love, where "insert character here", saves "insert character there."

But through this journey of written colloquy, it wasn't until my 20's I noticed how short reaching the narratives I read came from. Typically American, young, white, able bodied, almost always straight and cis-gendered. I cant say they've always been male, because I typically connect easily to women protagonists vs men, but many others disagree.

Attending this year's BookCon, I had the greatest opportunity to sit in for the #WeNeedDiverseBooks panel. This whole #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag started over the lack of diversity at a children's book panel, and to be honest, it's been happening since anyone can remember, the only thing that's changed was author Ellen Oh refusing to stay quiet this time.

Writing should be an extension of yourself. And while that infamous phrase "write what you know" has been etched into the narratives of many of the things you may write as we speak, do you take the time to make sure you're writing is diverse?

No one should have to tell how important diversity is, I think many of us are open minded enough to know that by now. And also, let me make myself clear. No one is asking you to write what you DONT want to write. No one is asking you to make characters to fill a quota, and writing diversely is not, I repeat, IS NOT or should be seen as being on some agenda.

But when you step outside, do you only see one type of anything? Ok, maybe you don't live in Sacramento, CA. Maybe you're from a small community where you don't encounter many strangers or tourists, and don't openly seek people different from you.

But the world is full of people. Diverse people. The world wide web itself is a thriving source of diverse people, that with the click of a mouse, are at your fingertips. Having a day job is living diversely. Even going to Starbucks, puts you at the mercy of being around different people you might have nothing in common with.

Even if you don't recognize it, you are living diversely everyday. Why cant your writing reflect that? If there isn't a reason NOT to write diversely, there shouldn't be anything standing in the way of creating a gay main character, or a character in a wheelchair, or an Polynesian protagonist. And it doesn't have to be mutually exclusive! Try telling someone who actually is Polynesian, disabled and queer, that their narratives don't matter. Just the idea of that type of invisibility is dangerous, because it isn't just to show people who are Polynesian, disabled and queer that they can be heroes.

It's to show everyone who isn't that they can be too.



Guinevere Thomas is one half of a blog duo known as "Twinja Book Reviews." She and her twin sister blog about diversity in books, their favorite martial artists, and wholly support more women, more disabled, more queer, more people of color, and diverse body types and religions in books. If you have a book that highlights strong characters like this, look don't be afraid to check her out! And yea it's pronounced Gwen-ah-veer!


  1. I am trying to write a book and I am a white female. I don't know whether to put in diverse characters because I have never experienced not being white and the prejudice that comes with that. Do you think more whites should write about diversity

  2. Thanks for posting your wonderful article on my blog Gwenevere :)

    Also I have a response for Sophie: I believe us whites do need to work on writing more diversely. Even though we have never experienced being anything other than white we have experienced being human! Write about humans with human traits and emotions. The only differences we have are our cultures and those can be researched.

    Although, if you are writing a book set in medieval England it may not be realistic to include a South African character :P Obviously

  3. Hi Sophie!
    Well I don't think there is a wrong or right answer. If you're like either one of us, you picture your main protagonists maybe as a reflection of yourself. So naturally your main protagonists are mostly likely goina be white, right? That's totally okay, I don't think it should be a forced thing but for some writers it may take a little more effort to incorporate diversity in their writing.

    There's an author of a book I really liked named Tricia Drammeh. She had two main protagonists in her book, one a white girl the other black(she's white).I thought that 2 main characters gave her the chance to write from two different perspectives without sacrificing anything. Every other chapter was dedicated to one of the protagonists so you got a feel for both characters.

    I think really anyone should wrote more diversely, not just white writers.I think the problem is that because minorities are seen as "the other" when an author of color writes a character as a reflection of themselves it's seen as "a diverse book". But authors of color could also benefit from stepping outside of their comfort zones. Me for instance, Every time I see actress "Melinda Shankar" from Degrassi I'm always like "gosh I have to write something with a South Asian protagonist", she totally inspires me. I know it would take some research but i'd love to try! It's even hard for me to write characters of different cultures from my own. While I identify with being African American, I have Cuban parents so when I look at some of my black friends, it's amazing how different or how similar we grew up. Some of my friends think I can't call myself African American because my family isn't American, but I don't care, I do anyways!

    Take in mind that not everyone wants to read about characters going through prejudices, lots of readers of color would rather see a relatable and realistic story where race doesn't come into play, they just happen to be East Asian, Middle Eastern, African American, etc. So while you feel like you've never experienced discrimination who says your characters have either? If your characters live in California, they could go their whole lives not experiencing racism or prejudice but if your characters live in Mississippi, who knows?

    Anyways I guess all I'm trying to say is if you want to or at least thinking about it, GREAT! That's the first step. You could always consider making the love interest a person of color, that's a great way to do it. I'd avoid the best friend unless she's just as important to the plot because it could come off as kind of sidekickey. I hope this helps!

  4. This was a good read! You are right about us being trapped in a cycle where the content, villian, hero are all the same. It's hard to come out of the cycle consciously. Looking forward to connecting with you!

  5. @Sheeza Iqbal With time I think many can avoid this cycle, but we just have to continue to support those who showcase diverse books in the meantime. Awesome you think so! Cant wait to connect too!


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