Discussion: Are you fed up with diversity in books? Is diversity necessary to be a good writer or a good reader?

Hi dear friends,

 

Time for another weekly dicussion post! June being pride month it had me thinking about diversity in books.

Years ago you never or very rarely saw a main character being gay or bisexual or asexual or …

Neither had you many books talking about minorities and not many had people of color as main characters. Muslims had a bad rep and it was kind of hush hush except for The Kite Runner or books like A Thousand Splendid Suns.

Now?

Now you see diversity everywhere!

It is HYPE to write about diversity in books.

You nearly always have a non heterosexual main character in your story. Or someone suffering from mental illness. People of colors have their own stories and non catholic heroes have a greater place in books.

Sometimes to the point that I feel if I don’t read diverse books or if an author does not write books with diversity I and they will be shunned.

“You don’t read books with diversity? How is it possible? From which remote and savage place do you come?”

 

Don’t misunderstand me here.

I love diverse books!

Some of my best reads were about gay characters and they opened my eyes. I adored Wolfsong by TJ Klune, The Silver Cage by Anonymous and A Charm of Finches by Suanne Laqueur. Radio Silence by Alice Oseman was another fantastic YA.

I loved reading about islam thanks to A Very Large Expanse of Sea and The Hate U Give was a tremendous plea for a better justice towards people of color.

And as far as mental illness or differences go, The Kiss Quotient was just fantastic and A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard another prime example.

What I HATE though is authors using diversity as an excuse in their books or rather as a sale argument.

I have read some books where the hero or heroine suddenly discovered that he or she was gay completely out of the blue! It had no signs before and really felt like the author tried too muh just to be “hype”.

If diversity does not add any dimension to your story or is not the purpose of your story, please abstain!

It will just feel like a sale argument and nothing more.

 

The same can be said for readers.

If you don’t want to read books with diverse characters, don’t do it! This is not mandatory. You are not a subpar reader if you don’t read this kind of stories. And if you do but just because you feel compelled to chances are high that you won’t like it. Instead of opening your eyes and maybe softening your opinion towards some minorities it could harden you position.

You are FREE!

 

But if you NEED to tell “that” story because you want to open some eyes, because you have an important message to deliver, be my guest! Do it but do it right!

Now do tell me: what do you think about diversity in books? Stop? More? Don’t care?

 

Thanks for reading!

 

Sophie

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37 Replies to “Discussion: Are you fed up with diversity in books? Is diversity necessary to be a good writer or a good reader?”

  1. I appreciate this post so much! I’m not a great writer by any means, but I like to sit at night and type out stories in my head based on what I see in my life. Where I live there just isn’t a whole ton of diversity, and so for me to include it would feel so false. Reading about diversity is different because it exposes me to things outside of my world, but if I were to write about it, and someone else were to read it, I imagine it would be terrible.

  2. Great post! I definitely appreciate that there are more diverse books out there, but I also don’t like when this is used just to hype a book. And I definitely agree that people shouldn’t be judged for what they read.

  3. Rachel @Waves of Fiction says: Reply

    Wonderful discussion post, Sophie. And can I just say I agree with everything Nicci said in her comment above. I like diversity if it feels organic to the story and not manufactured, and I don’t think an author should be judged on whether they feature diverse characters or not. They need to tell the story the way they see fit.

  4. I’m 100% for diversity in books but I hate it when I see authors being bad mouthed because they ‘don’t write about diverse characters’ or – for example – because they wrote about a person of colour but are not themselves a poc so they have no right to write that and steal peoples ‘own voices’… It drives me batshit.

    And I’m going to be 100% honest here and say that I have never and will never pick up a book because it represents diversity. I will pick up a book because I like the blurb. I’ll pick up a book because I’ve heard good feedback. I’ll pick up a book because I love the cover.
    If it has diverse characters then great! If it doesn’t ok.
    What matters to me is the story, the characters, and whether I like them after reading them.
    It’s one of the reasons I don’t focus (or most times even mention) things like sexuality, race, religion, ethnicity or disability in my reviews… Those things don’t make a character likeable or unlikeable. Kicking puppies THAT something that I’m going to judge them for.

    People need to just stfu and let people read what the want to read and let people write what they want to write… Isn’t that the very definition of choice and acceptance?
    I’m so tired of all the bookish snobbery and bandwagoning… 🙁

    (Sorry, bit of a rant! lol. This topic is a bit of a button pusher.)

    1. All of this Nicci! I agree 100%

      (Btw I tried to follow you so that I get notifications when you post but for some reason I can’t. I love your posts and I don’t want to forget visiting you when I do my rounds)

  5. I don’t choose books based on some “diversity meter”. I see a book that sounds interesting, i’ll read it. If it has diverse characters, good. If it doesn’t, so be it. It can’t be forced.
    I think sometimes that authors can’t win…
    A) they put no diverse characters in the story – how dare they
    B) they put diversity in the book but they got it wrong – how dare they
    … and so on… 😀

    It has to feel natural.

  6. It would be great if the diversity that is used in stories were more organic to the story! We don’t need a sprinkle that doesn’t really pertain to anything. It does really annoy me! I do however love when diversity fits the story and is used well. The Candle and the Flame was one where there isn’t really a white person in sight but that’s the world baby. It’s how it is! And I felt so much culture that was natural rather than just a label. ❤️

  7. I completely agree about the diversity for the hype is wrong. It has to make sense to the story and the author needs to know what they are writing about otherwise it can be more detrimental than if they had just left it out. Personally I don’t seek out diverse books, but I am not opposed to reading them. I choose books on if I think I will like the story and if the characters are diverse than that is awesome, but if they aren’t that is fine too! Great post 🙂

    1. Beware Of The Reader says: Reply

      Thank you Brittany! And my choice of books is also based on what I think I’ll like and what I’ll be in the mood for!

  8. Tanya Atkinson says: Reply

    I’m all for diversity in books. Every reader should be able to feel represented and see something of themselves when they read. What I don’t like is the pressure on authors to “force” diversity into their books. If it’s there organically that’s wonderful but when it’s added in to check a box why bother? I also get bugged when authors are trolled/slandered/attacked when their work is not always #ownvoices. Will a black/gay/etc author have a unique perspective when writing about a black/gay/etc character? Of course! Does that mean no other race/gender/etc can write about those characters? Sometimes it feels that way and it makes me feel for the authors who are constantly needled for what they choose to write. Readers always have the option to NOT read something if they don’t like it.

    1. Beware Of The Reader says: Reply

      That’s so true Tanya! We always have the option NOT to read! Even if your friends rave about a genre or a book if you don’t feel it just abstain.

  9. I love diversity in books, but in saying that, I would rather read a great book with no diversity than a good book with tokenistic diversity. I do feel like sometimes authors say or do things to their characters that end up damaging their credibility in the community (I’m looking Maas and Rowling for this one). Also, I don’t understand how people can say that they get upset when there is no diversity in a fantasy world. It’s a made-up world where the author can choose to populate their imaginary world with whatever they want!

    1. Beware Of The Reader says: Reply

      Meeghan another reader on Instagram mentioned SJM and JK too! And I agree with you on a fantasy world being whatever the author wants!

  10. I love diversity. I’m an anthropologist, so that makes sense. Stories should reflect the variety prevalent in the world. But in books, it needs to be organic. Fluid. Another dimension of personality and ‘personhood’. Just like real life. I don’t want it to seem token, or or be bludgeoned with it. I don’t want to feel it was forced, it added as hype. It needs to become the norm, in my opinion.

    1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

      Be organic and fluid yes, that’s exactly that!

  11. Mary @StackingMyBookShelves! says: Reply

    I like diversity in books. I think we should be exposed to more of it as we are all so very different and really if someone doesn’t want to read it, they don’t have to. Most books are geared towards white people. Why can’t authors gear some books towards people of different colors, backgrounds, religions and so forth. We can all read the blurbs and decide for ourselves if we want to read the book or not. I do NOT want to see an author misleading us and not being up front with what the book is about/who it is about or that it is diversified etc. For example, I don’t want to buy the book to then find out the book is about a Muslim girl in Canada when in the blurb it stated she was a christian girl in France.

    Mary

    1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

      Being upfront is important Mary! Excellent point here! The same can be said when a book has a lot of triggers!

  12. I find the way your argument/topic is stated very troubling. As a person of color that reads 200 books a year, a lot of mainstream books whether it’s science fiction, contemporary romance or paranormal romance features the white people. I guess being part of the dominant culture you feel “forced” to have to partake in diverse stories. Well 98% of the books I read feature white people as main characters and it doesn’t reflect someone that looks like me. It’s hard to read a game of Thrones type story and realize that even in fantasy that black people don’t exist or in futuristic novels that people of color don’t exist.
    It speaks to how there is no diversity when authors imagine a fun, sexy and loving narrative.

    1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

      I did not want to trouble anyone! If I did sorry 🙂 What I meant to say is that I think that diversity is great but you have to do it right. Sam here below talked about using sensitivity readers and I think it’s a wonderful iea. using diversity just to sell your book and missing the mark is probably rather insulting for the minority featured in the book. I am female white christian and I would personally not feel at ease to write about muslims or black people as I would fear not representing them accurately and they do deserve to be represented fairly! What would I know about what it really is and feel to be black? Do I mean only black authors can write about black people (or gay about gay etc)? of course not as you have talented writers out there that can do it and it feels right even for the minority featured. What I only meant is do it but do it right or you’ll end up discrediting or mocking said minority and that’s a big no. Again if I troubled you sorry!
      And I do love reading books like A Very Large Expanse of Sea or Prayer to the Sea or THUG because they open my eyes to what it is to be different than “me” as in white christian etc. I think it’s very important that people know more about each other but it has to be done right.

  13. I love diversity in books, but I’m definitely fed up with token diversity where it feels like diversity is thrown in for diversity’s sake. It defeats the whole purpose of having diversity, in my opinion. I’ve already been disappointed by several books this year which feature a parade of diversity labels but the characters themselves have no substance. I think too many authors these days place too much emphasis on diversity, and forget that story development and characterization also matters.

    1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

      I totally agree with you Mogsy! That’s what I was aiming at when I said they use diversity just to boost up their sale. If they are real and true you’ll have the needed substance to believe in these characters and be touched by their struggle.

  14. I do think it’s forced at times. But then again we each have our own perspectives and views based on our own experiences. So even though I do think it’s shoehorned in sometimes to check off boxes (I recently read a book that had a character that was SO diverse it felt like overkill- they were like five different experiences and it felt like a caricature- but luckily I’ve only had one that bad once), at the same time I’m sure some of these stories are reaching people who are like- “hey that’s me”, or “finally- someone like me is represented”! And I think that’s a wonderful thing, so unless it’s VERY obviously being used as a token kind of thing, I generally support it.

    I agree with you- don’t do it “just” to do it, to sell a book, but if you have a story to tell or your experience to share- go for it!! Makes the world richer. 🙂

    I loved Radio silence!

    1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

      Oh yes I forgot to add the stories with so many diverse characters that it feels like a caricature!

  15. I think it’s great that we are seeing more diversity in books and in the people who are writing the books. I just find it difficult to deal with when authors are hammered for not having diversity in their books. If an author is not comfortable writing a character with a background/ethnicity/sexual orientation/religion/race that is different from their own, they should try to just stick the character in there for the sake of diversity, because bad rep is more damaging than no rep. And, if they want to include a certain kind of character, they should utilize sensitivity readers and make sure the rep is good.

    1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

      Sensitivity readers is an excellent idea Sam! Now I have no clue how you find them. Are they people you know that woould be gay or muslim or …? Or do they offer their services online?

      1. There are a lot of readers out there, who market their services as sensitivity readers. Not positive, but I know Dhonielle Clayton is a reader for books featuring black characters written by non-black authors. I had read a few articles (here’s one https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/columns-and-blogs/soapbox/article/75806-let-s-talk-about-sensitivity-readers.html)

        1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

          Thank you for the link Sam!!!!!! It’s so interesting 😉

  16. I find diversity to be a double-edged sword. While it’s great to have in books, sometimes it’s not done right and not everyone has the same experience with sexuality, mental illness, race, etc. I really don’t like how people get judged for what they read, like if they enjoy “books with white dudes by white dude authors” or something like that. Reading is still reading.

    1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

      I completely agree with you Jillian. Everyone should be free and not judged for what they read. we don’t have the same taste as there is diversity among readers too 😉

  17. I have to agree with you that there’s a certain section of authors trying too hard, and while I love diversity, it shouldn’t be mandatory for the sake of it. As that just denigrates the whole idea and how far we’ve come. It’s incumbent upon authors to be true to their story, and feature characters that carry the story, not throw stuff at the reader that’s awkward or out of place. It’s just annoying.

    What I do love is the fact so many new authors of diversity are getting their say, and a chance to promote a wide ranging diversity that reflects the population of this beautiful green planet!

    1. Jennifer Shiflett says: Reply

      You put my thoughts into words, much better than I would have been able to.

      1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

        That’s what Alexandra usually does Jennifer LOL

    2. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

      As Jennifer said below Alexandra I could not have said it better! Totally agree!

  18. I’ve definitely read books where the character’s sexuality seemed like an afterthought. Dread Nation was like that. I also have worried about how reviews I write of books that aren’t especially diverse will be received. I think diversity is important and something we should be fighting for, but I don’t think it has to be every single book. If it doesn’t add anything, like you said, it’s best to just let it be.

    1. BewareOfTheReader says: Reply

      Exactly Katie! I think it is important to write about it, to let people know more about it but it has to feel “real” and not forced just because it’s hype!

  19. This is a tough topic because we are such a PC (politically correct) generation. If you say, or do, anything out of the ‘norm’ you’re looked down on.
    That said, I don’t think authors should write about issues like these unless they are intimately acquainted with the subject. It’s the only way to treat diversity with respect- IMO.

  20. I love diversity in books, but only if it feels natural. I don’t like when an author throws a few diverse characters in the story, but it feels forced. Diverse books are so eye opening. I love learning about different cultures and religions that I don’t know much about. Own voices are so important, not that an author can’t write about a character different that them (like Simon). I don’t think it should be hyped, but I do hope that groups and book clubs try to find diverse books to read from time to time. That way everyone can feel heard.

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