Diversity in Literature
I want to apologize for the late posting of tonight's blog post, needless to say it has been very chaotic here for me. I am here tonight to speak about diversity and the importance of representation for all within novels. You all will know by now that I am taking part in the #DiverseAthon this year to step out of my reading comfort zone and experience new cultures. In order to participate in the tough discussions that are going around I will be posting here with my thoughts throughout this week. Tonight we will discuss the broad topic of which this readathon was built upon and then on Wednesday there will be a post discussing books I recommend everyone to read to support the many diverse communities and books that our world has to offer. Be sure to keep up to date to see the discussions that will be going on this week here at MyBookishEmpire!
In light of recent events I am sure you all can think of a good reason for us to come together and support everyone who is here on this earth, from the recent US election, to the war in Syria and every issue in between. However the main question I want to ask is: Why do we need diverse literature and how can it help?
Many people are able to connect with or identify with a character in literature, usually that means the character is white, cis gendered and able bodied. While I can identify with a majority of white males in literature on a loose level, many people cannot find accurate representation within books or the media. I believe that having a character to connect with in a novel is important for the author to build key character traits and emotional investment with the reader, without seeing a character like yourself in a novel can be disheartening and uncomfortable at times. This discomfort may be a simple question from a child to their parent why no character looks like them or it can be a powerful and alienating feeling of demeaning self doubt; regardless of the outcome, we as a reading community cannot allow this to continue.
Feeling uncomfortable and out of place is something that we all could benefit from in this day and age, this would force us to expand our capacity for compassion and understanding for marginalized groups and people across the globe. This expansion of understanding and compassion can be gained in many ways, including social interactions with the marginalized communities, however this may not alway be available for some. To eliminate the barriers standing between these experiences, reading can be used to expand your mind and "experience" new and possibly intimidating scenarios within a comfortable space. Comfort is what has isolated human society for hundreds of years, from a safe and secluded den to our cozy warm beds with mountains of pillows, humans have a tendency to fear the unknown or new scenarios. However without these new and uncomfortable scenarios we as a society will never grow or come to accept all members of the society we live in. These uncomfortable and unknown scenarios may occur when dealing with or coming to terms with the atrocities that have been committed against marginalized groups and or breaking down the stereotypes that society has enabled for so many years, this is where we all can begin the process of accepting everyone.
Personally I am guilty of being intimidated and leary of new scenarios with groups of people who I am not familiar with, this is something that I have been working on for many years. I come from a very small town in New England USA where the majority of people who I encounter are white, heterosexual, middle class, educated, and able bodied. This insulation layer as I am going to refer to it as did not help with my initial understanding of different cultures and backgrounds, though I have come a long way from the days of elementary school I still recognize my weaknesses in understanding different groups. Though I have some aspects that I have yet to encounter in daily life or between the pages I know I have improved and will continue to do so. This transition to acceptance of all people and their abilities largely stemmed from my experiences between the pages of books. The very first time I saw a person dealing with anxiety, and racial inequality were in my required reading during school with the novels To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Since then I have travelled and seen the workings of cities aside from my tiny township of 3,500 people, those experiences have changed me for the better, however they would not have such a profound impact upon me without reading people's stories dealing with hard hitting issues.
I must say that I am not "well " travelled by any stretch of the word, however I have begun to venture out and explore the unknown more and more both through literature and adventures I take part in within my daily life. I am not perfect, you are not perfect, no one person in this world is perfect, to combat this it is my sincere belief that we cannot stop reading and learning about new cultures, people, body abilities/types, and definitions of gender and sexuality. Together through diverse reading, and quizzically open minds, we can make this world a better place for everyone!
Join me in demanding both accurate representation within books, and more own voice novels to be published in the coming year!
Thank you for taking the time to read this tonight. I would like you all to leave one comment or email me at MyBookishEmpire@gmail.com your recommendations for diverse books that you love, they can be any genre, length, or deal with any range of diversity. With these recommendations I will compile a list of which I will attempt to read all of by years end, so please send in as many recommendations as you can to spread the love and appreciation of diverse literature!