Writing about diversity turned out to be a lot harder than I thought. I gave the subject considerable thought, which is why this blog post is many weeks later than I promised.
Much has been said and written in the past couple of years about the need for diversity in books, children’s books in particular, in order to reflect our diverse society in a more realistic way. However, it’s not just a matter of tossing in a few ‘diversity candidates’ and calling it good. It requires far more than that.
Each character an author places in their story comes with its own background which is - or should be - known to the author who created that character.
By adding characters of different colors, religion, sexual or gender orientation, the author needs to understand the culture this character might have grown up in, not just the meta culture of say, the United States or Europe, but the subculture. What was home like? What are the nuances of the character’s subculture that inform that character’s decisions, drives and motivations? What has formed the character’s psychological make up?
If all that is missing in the author’s creation of characters then you end up simply putting a few more stereotypes on the page.
Characters need to be woven into your story, yet retain their individuality and come across as authentic. This is why life-experience and travel is a valuable tool in any writer’s toolkit. But that’s for a discussion on what makes a writer.
All this brings me back to the superhero comic books (from the previous post) - and now TV shows - where I first noticed a more diverse cast. The young artists at DC and Marvel in the 1960s didn’t shy away from including characters of color. In some ways they were the first to bring diversity, along with Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, to the mainstream during a tumultuous time of redefining a culture. A process that continues as more and more people gain recognition and acceptance, even if at times that process feels like it’s moving at a snail’s pace.
As I grow and learn as a writer and as a human being on this spinning, blue ball hurtling through space, I will strive to make the characters in my books more diverse, to mirror the world around me.