The Importance of Tolerance and Diversity in Literature (with an Unpopular Opinion)- A Conversation

Hello all and happy Thursday!

I believe in the whole #OwnVoices movement and, of course, I’m all for diversity and inclusion but, I don’t believe in hating on or shaming authors who are so unfamiliar with certain peoples or customs that they, out of respect to those peoples and customs, don’t try to tackle for fear of fucking it up. I don’t like it when readers will knit pick and hate on authors who are, for example, straight and white and are afraid to tackle something that is so outside of their parameters and they don’t have the confidence in themselves or their writing that they’d be able to do a good job of representing a particular culture or people and so, out of respect, they just don’t write about them and then the readers get pissed because they’ve “excluded” these people on purpose to be malicious. (The same goes for writers of color who don’t know the parameters of a culture different from their own).

Though diversity is, of course, one of the most (if not the most) important thing(s) in literature, lately it seems like that is what makes or breaks a book or an author’s career. While I agree that all authors should have some consideration for characters and situations that differ from themselves in order to demonstrate the variety of folks that live in the world’s society, it is another thing completely to metaphorically burn writers at the stake who don’t adhere to the diversity agenda because they would rather not mess up or falsely portray anyone whom they are unfamiliar with than butcher a people or culture. Let me make myself clear, though, in no way am I saying that diversity doesn’t matter or that it is okay that there is still a massive struggle today for advocating for diversity and equal representation in literature. Instead, I am saying that the extent of the backlash that some authors get for trying to be considerate (by not tackling a subject that they aren’t a hundred percent familiar with) is quite absurd in my personal opinion. Yes, obviously, diversity matters (I wrote a whole other post on this topic that was a part of a paper I did on the importance of diversity which you can check out using this link: Under-representation and Misrepresentation of Diversity (Marginalization) in YA Literature) but is it really the deciding factor for what makes a good book a good book? Isn’t the fact that there is diversity even among the books themselves a good thing? That means that there’s always something to read and connect to for everyone. Obviously, if I were to read a book about a white male protagonist growing up in someplace like Ohio or something, I wouldn’t relate very much to it being a Hispanic female who grew up in South Texas in a place that might as well have been a part of Mexico. Likewise, if I read a wonderful story about a young woman of color’s journey surviving through a refugee camp after escaping political oppression, I would not be able to identify with such a character/narrator or story. Nevertheless, I would still read it and understand that this is probably not a story that has been targeted for me to relate to but I can still enjoy it anyway. At the end of the day, I’ll still think it’s a good book regardless of whether or not I am able to see myself in it or not. I would never have the nerve to criticize a book or its author for the petty fact that there wasn’t a female Hispanic with a Mexican background in the story. That would be ridiculous! I don’t need to have myself represented in literally everything, especially when I know that if writers who are unfamiliar with cultures such as my own background tried to write about it and people like myself, then more likely than not, I (and people like myself) would be poorly represented and portrayed inaccurately as something I am not. I would rather read about a character similar to myself by an author who has experience and knows about my culture and people and who can properly portray an experience similar to my own.

That’s just my opinion but, please, I welcome any and all comments or discourse you would like to share with me in this conversation in the comments section down below. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic and what your opinions are in regards to both my own asserted opinions or just the situation I discussed in general. I hope to talk to y’all soon! png-divider-lines-pin-lines-clipart-separation-line-1-960Thanks so much for reading y’all! Let me know anything you’d like to say in the comments below, you know I love hearing from y’all!

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6 thoughts on “The Importance of Tolerance and Diversity in Literature (with an Unpopular Opinion)- A Conversation

  1. Yeah. 🙂

    Diversity is important, but it’s unrealistic to expect every book to represent everybody. And of course someone who’s understandably avoiding the risk of making a mistake is not the same as someone who’s simply unaware, who’s not the same as someone peddling harmful tropes. But at the same time, if someone has written 12 books and none of them feature any diversity, that’s reason to say, ‘hey, maybe you should try to educate yourself about other groups and work on this a bit now’.

    Part of the issue is about diversity within the publishing and writing world itself. Ultimately the best person to write about a group, with their unique experience and struggles, will be someone of that group, rather than a however-well-educated-and-sensitive white cis straight male. Not that we shouldn’t all try to understand and represent each other either! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kristyn, I love this post so much!!! ❤

    I wrote a post about this same subject a little over a month ago, and wholeheartedly agree with all the points you listed! I too think that diversity and rep is a great thing and the #ownvoices movement has been an awesome part of the reading community. But, like you said, I don't believe it's justifiable to hate on authors for not being inclusive enough of cultures that they are unfamiliar with. Publishers should instead try to promote more books by authors who *are* familiar with their own culture and have this rep in books, so we as readers, can have a broad range of authentic, diverse novels to choose from. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes Kelly! I agree 100%. The real issue is not that authors don’t write diversely, it’s that the publishing industry has been failing to promote and support (put forward) authors who are qualified and knowledgeable about their respective groups. It would not only promote diversity but also increase authenticity and knowledge for readers to experience.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yeah I feel like a lot of the time it comes across as a no-win situation. I really dislike the nitpicking and tearing authors down in general tbh- so I really can’t stand when people whip out the pitchforks for this. I don’t think it’s right to attack an author, regardless of whether an author is trying to immerse themselves in another culture OR if they’ve decided not to tackle a topic they don’t feel comfortable with. I personally respect both attitudes and I think that it would be great if readers would take it from whence it came- as in recognise that the author is a human being and not rush to demonise them. From my own personal point of view, I find it pretty rare (outside of the historical fiction bracket) to find representation- so I don’t see why it’s so impossible to put yourself in someone else’s shoes- I always felt that was the point of reading anyway. Relatability, at least for me, goes beyond race. So yeah, really agree- great post!

    Like

    1. Thank you. I agree one hundred percent. Writers write whatever they’re gonna write and most of the time it won’t be what absolutely everyone will love and approve of because there’s a little thing called difference in experience/opinion that basically leaves it up to the reader to decide what it is they are going to read.

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