Why We Need Diverse Books


If you are clued into the biblioverse, I'm sure you've heard about the recent controversy with BEA's BookCon diversity issue being a lack thereof and Ellen Oh's call to action with the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign going on May 1st-3rd (full info here). So I felt that I should weigh in as a writer and reader of diverse books, not to mention someone slightly riled up about the whole thing for many reasons, in many directions at once.

Firstly, I love books. I also happen to love cultural anthropology and science fiction, both things defined by a worldview that embraces things like diversity, differences and what it means to be a human being. In fact, I kind of made a career out of it before I made another career out of it. I feel pretty strongly about issues of diversity and not just where "diversity" = "black or white" but a diverse definition of diversity that includes, but is not limited to, social, cultural, ethnic, caste/class, racial, religious, nationality, age, gender, sexual orientation, challenge or ability and socio-economic status as well as a bunch of other variables. I say this in order to shed light on my perspective before I go on. Nuff said.

Secondly, I love reading and writing diverse books. While *I* know that I include diversity in my books including social, cultural, ethnic, caste/class, racial, religious, nationality, age, politics, gender, sexual orientation, challenge or ability and socio-economic status, I happen to like reading them, too (along with a bunch of aliens, dwarves, dragons and halflings thrown in for good measure). This means that I'm constantly on the lookout for books that twist my brain, make me think, make me question and share a new experience that turns my world upside down and makes me think, "What If...?" I love that.

This means that, thirdly, I love writers who write these kinds of books. I love books written by Neil Gaiman and Neal Stephenson, Jay Asher and Steve Brezenoff. I love books by Holly Black and Laini Taylor, Libba Bray and Nova Ren Suma. I love MG books by Mike Jung, Sherman Alexie, Anne Ursu and Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, I love adult books by Ally Carter, Jeff Somers and Victoria Schwab, I love YA books by Maggie Steifvater, Tessa Gratton and Brenna Yovanoff, Paolo Bacigalupi, A.S. King and Cindy Pon. (And if you don't know some of these names, get thee to a library!) These are authors who may or may not share my nationality, my age, my politics, my gender, my race, my sexual orientation, my religion, my ethnicity or my socio-economic status, but they *are* all authors who write beautiful and lyrical or funny and clever, witty and brain-twisty stories with characters that linger on long after I've turned the last page. And THAT is why I love their books. Period.

Now the funny thing is just by looking at their author pictures, you might be thinking whether this is a diverse list or not, same thing might be true if you saw my group of friends or my extended family. But what you might not know about them is what you might not know about me and what I might not know about you, or the person next to you, or whomever wrote the spiderbot searching this text: don't judge a book by its cover. By that I mean, you cannot sum up the total experiences of a person just by looking at them. You do not know their childhoods, their siblings, their best friends, their children, the people who make up their family, their life-altering moments, their secret passions of the heart, their personal heroes or their demons, the identity of the person who loves them the most or the one who got away. You do not know the length and breadth of a person's life experience based solely on the color of their skin or what they wear or where they pray. Sorry, you can't do that and wave a flag of diversity. We are more than just the picture. We are diverse because we are human beings.

We need diverse books because we live on a diverse planet filled with diverse people and we all deserve to be the heroines and heroes of our story. Period.


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