by Emily Kramer
I love the simplicity of old photographs – the polished black-and-white pictures of my grandparent’s wedding day occupy prime real estate on my wall. They both seem rather debonair and impossible young and polished – it’s simple and rather nostalgic. And I like it that way. But what those classic old photographs are not is realistic. Sure, they show the shape of my grandmother’s eyes, but not their incredible blue that my sister inherited.
We don’t see the world in black and white – we see it in color. And shouldn’t the stories of today show the world as we see it? In color? And why don’t they?
In author Sarah Raughley post Switching Skin: Musings of a YA Writer of Colour, she observes the effect of a lack of diverse voices in YA literature – particularly as it affected her entrance into the market.
Diversity really isn’t just about publishing more books with diverse characters, though this is imperative. It’s also about allowing diverse voices — non-white, non-straight, non-able-bodied etc. — to have viable, successful careers in the industry. To have a shot at being promoted, marketed, and celebrated among their peers. And to be able to tell their stories without being shoved into marginalized niche markets.
So, yeah. I once thought about hiring a white stand-in.
To quote Raughley (again) – “what…gives?”
The fact that she even thought about hiring a white stand-in for publicity reasons should provoke more than a few hundred angry words on Tumblr – it ought to inspire the creation (and celebration) of diverse stories in all genres of literature – not just YA.
In fact, all fiction writers, but particularly fantasy authors, might want to read Kayla Ancrum’s post about what she calls “Western Neutral” in her post Western Neutral: Separating Common Culture From “Whiteness” – a concept that acknowledges that Western culture was not, in fact, created solely by white people and certainly is not only for white people. That is a myth, or rather what she calls,
…a fairy tale delusion that everything in Western culture is ‘white’ and everything ‘ethnic’ is somehow other.
What is the answer to the need for more diverse books, authors and diversity in books? See it, write it, read it – demand it. As readers, we can vote with our wallets (QSLA Shifters have an even greater agency available to them). Authors have the creative power to write the stories they want to read, and if you are lucky enough to work in the publishing industry, there is an immediate avenue for you to promote these diverse stories. After all, readers connect with the stories that speak to them and we all see the world in more than just black and white.