Time and time again, inevitably, we are having the conversation about diverse representation in literature. Pretty much every genre suffers from the lack of representation from different identity groups or from the misrepresentation, stereotyping, and tokenizing of identities. The conversation about #WeNeedDiverseBooks continues as many people speak out, no scream out, in frustration and anger about the erasure and misrepresentation of people. Often in these conversations, I hear the reply “well, no one wants to read that” or “my audience just cannot relate to a book about that.” To be blunt, this is just crap. I understand the need to write a book that will get picked up by a publishing company. I understand the need to publish books that will be successful and sell. This is an industry, a business, I get it. But authors (I say this generically – I know there are many authors writing from diverse lenses although they may not be published by a major company) and publishers rarely take ‘risks’ with the stories and characters they feature for the very reasons I mentioned above. Well guess what?! There is a market. People do want to read those stories.
I woke up this morning to the hashtag #RBWL (Reader / Blogger Wish List). Bloggers and readers posted tweets about characters, stories, genres, etc. they want to see in upcoming literature. Many of the posts focused on identities represented within different genres. I can hear the grumbling already. But here is the honest truth. Most of the books published and popular in the country feature White straight men, conforming to the patriarchal white straight privileged system that has been set up in our reality. These ideas represent everyone else, the marginalized, telling our stories, sharing our voices, and bringing us a little closer to the center, showing that WE MATTER, these are often pushed aside.
I get excited every time I see, read, and participate in these types of brainstorms and threads. The amount of creative ideas out there is astounding! Many of the suggestions were on point about representation in many different genres and others suggested interesting and engaging stories featuring diverse characters. Writing diverse literature is not just for diverse authors. Yes, we definitely need to read, review, and popularize authors with marginalized identities. However, I often see diverse characters only be written by diverse authors. This needs to change (and it is a slippery slope). #RBWL gives me hope. #RBWL gives me energy. It gives me the solidarity to continue to fight for these stories. That one day I can walk into a book store and on the best sellers shelf I can see a SciFi/Fantasy epic featuring a pansexual Laintx main character in a world of all LGBTQ+ people of color. That one day I can see visible novels with trans* and genderqueer main characters without being tokenized or fetishized. That one day #WeNeedDiverseBooks is a thing of the past.