Discussion: Diversity and Representation in Books

Hello!

As I’ve become more active in the online bookish community, I’ve gradually become more aware of some of the problems that exist with representation in literature that has been published and is currently being published. Representation and diversity was never really something I’d though about before when I was reading. I just picked up books that sounded interesting and if they had a character of color or a queer character that was just fine. It’s only been in the last year or so that I’ve become more aware of things like #ownvoices and reading books featuring more diverse characters.

I come from a pretty conservative family, so I was raised around a lot of toxic ideals about the world. Until I got into high school, I can say definitively that I was incredibly and horrifically naïve and insensitive about cultures, religions, and perspectives other than my own. It was only when I got to high school (at an incredibly liberal and open arts school) that I was really exposed to a viewpoint other than my own. Since then I’ve been making a conscious, deliberate effort to be aware of the world around me, and how others see and experience the world.

In the past year, I’ve started to extend this conscious effort to my reading as well. It started mainly with my own curiosity. For the past few years I have questioned my sexuality, and so I began to become more curious about books with queer characters, comparing their feelings and experiences to my own. In terms of reading more diversely, this is definitely where I’ve branched out the most, and the type of diversity that I have been (so far) most interested in and aware of.

In 2017, I want to focus even more on reading books with diverse characters and authors, branching out beyond LGBTQIA+ focused books and also focusing more on books that center around people of color and have #ownvoices authors. As I read more blog posts and watch more BookTube videos centered around diverse books, I’m realizing how much I’m missing in my reading. I am tired of being ignorant and naïve when it comes to those around me. I want to be educated. I know that, as much as I try, I make mistakes. I want to read more and learn more, so that I can always improve and be corrected when I make mistakes, so that I stop making them. Because I really do care. I know that there are people who don’t, and I want to make sure that I am one of the ones who do, sincerely.

It is important for me to read diverse books because I want to support those authors and that type of literature so we see more of it in the future. I recognize that I am a very privileged person in this world (though I do have some disadvantages) and it isn’t terribly hard for me to see myself in a lot of the characters I read. However, one thing I’ve recently determined about myself is that I am asexual. This is something that I haven’t ever seen before in a book, so in terms of romance and relationships, it’s really hard to see myself in a lot of characters, who typically (if not explicitly) are at least interested in sexual relationships. I am so excited to have found a few books featuring asexual characters that are coming out this year, and I can’t wait to see how this is handled. I want to support these authors because I want to see more of this kind of representation, so it’s important for me to read their books.

It is also important for me to read diverse books because (as I said a while ago), I am tired of being uneducated and ignorant. I think getting as many perspectives is so important. Especially in the coming years, with the government that we are going to have, empathy and compassion are a necessity. We need to be united now more than ever, and I want to be a part of that. I want to not only put myself out there, but also be a voice for good in the world. I want to be a part of the supportive and diverse community that I see both in the blogging world and on YouTube, and I hope that over the next year I can better myself through participation in these communities.

I’m not going to set any specific reading goals for myself in terms of reading diversely this year, but I do have a few general goals for myself. My main goal is just to make more of a conscious effort to seek out and read books by and about people who are different from me, and who have different experiences from me. I’ve recently discovered the “own voices” hashtag, and I absolutely love this way of supporting authors from minorities or marginalized backgrounds. I’m hoping that over the course of this year I can read more books that fall under this category as well.

Do you have any diverse reads that you can recommend to me? Have you set any reading diversity goals for yourself this year? Tell me in the comments!

Sky

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4 thoughts on “Discussion: Diversity and Representation in Books

  1. I love that you are using literature to expand your world. It’s not actually possible for all of us to experience everything, but books build so much empathy for those experiences outside our own.

    I’m just going to throw a bunch of titles your way–some focus on people of color and other cultures; some focus on mental health and physical ability differences. All are terrific stories!

    Made You Up
    The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B
    Rain, Reign (middle grade novel)
    Every Last Word
    The Circuit
    More Happy Than Not
    How It Went Down
    Gabi, a Girl in Pieces
    Mexican Whiteboy
    The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
    Persepolis
    Song of Solomon
    In the Time of the Butterflies
    Of Love and Shadows
    Hyperbole and a Half
    Everybody Sees the Ants
    Challenger Deep
    It’s Kind of a Funny Story
    The Crossover
    Marcelo in the Real World
    March, Books 1-3

    • Wow! Thank you so much for taking the time to make such an extensive list! Of these, I’ve only read More Happy Than Not, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, and Persepolis, but I own Hyperbole and a Half. I’m definitely going to be checking these out!

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