The reasons society needs diverse books have been laid out many times in the past few months by better sources than us. While not repeating all of those voices, we still want to lay out why diverse books are important and why we focus on diverse, inclusive books on our blog and in our podcasts.
Firstly – and most importantly – mainstream books currently don’t reflect readers. Diverse, inclusive books are sorely lacking. The fact that a gigantic portion of the reading population cannot find books that tell stories about characters like them is a huge problem. Books about white, cis, hetero, able, nominally Christian (WCHAC) people (often male) are still the most populous stories. We know that the WCHAC story isn’t the one most young readers are living, as evidenced by a recent study that majority of students in the United States this year will be minorities. We support diverse books because writers, stories, and characters should reflect readers.
Secondly, diverse books have to fight for publishing, placement, and recognition. There is a lot of statistical proof about this, so we’re not going to rehash the data. The fact that books with diverse themes, characters, stories, and authors have to fight for attention – or even to be published – makes it that much harder for readers to find themselves in books. And future writers from diverse backgrounds struggle to find the role models who may inspire them to push on with their writing. It also means that WCHAC readers are less likely to stumble upon a story about lives and characters different from them.
Thirdly, representation in books matters. Since so few books about diverse characters and stories are published, the stories available for non-WHCAC readers are limited. Historically, if non WHCAC characters were in stories, they were often distorted stereotypes or flat characters that were, at best, difficult to relate to and, at worst, hurtful and damaging. As diverse, inclusive books grow in number and availability, readers will be able to find more stories they can relate to and WHCAC readers will be introduced to different ways of living. Also, as diverse stories multiply, readers are able to find multiple narratives which means books are more inclusive overall. Rather than a single story that is supposed to appease them for all their young adult reading years, they will find many stories to reflect the various paths someone like them may follow (check out our coming post for more about this).
Fourthly, diverse books should be just “books.” While we are using this blog to focus on diverse and inclusive stories, characters, and authors, we don’t have it in our tagline and it’s not emphasized in the about section. As noted at Book Riot, calling a book “diverse” sets it apart and places it in the “other” category. This makes it possible for readers from WHCAC backgrounds to ignore them as “not for me” books. But, ignoring such stories and making them other limits and narrows the perspectives and experiences we interact with – limiting and narrowing our minds. We read and review the books featured on our site because they are well-written, engaging stories with interesting characters – and that should be enough.
As always, we’re not experts and we’re still learning. For more in depth research and sources dedicated to speaking about these topics, we recommend: