Sunday, June 16, 2013

We need more diverse literature, Now!

Chuck Wendig wrote earlier this week on sexism, misogyny and why men who are in a position of privilege  should stand against it. As a transwomen with some feminists beliefs, I support the kind of thinking in these articles. You should go read them, all three articles of it.

What I've seen less people talking about is the lack of racial and cultural diversity in literature, both in characters and in authors and I'm lost as to why this idea that protagonist must be white or mostly white in order to sell enough to survive, so lost I think that idea a work of fiction. (Though I'm not going to pretend racism is dead either, it is very alive and needs to be fought, and challenged hence this article.)

I was raised almost entirely in a generation filled foreign heroes names like Goku, Naruto, Ramma. "But those are imports and  manga and anime!" You might say and to that I have to say, "You're missing the point."

The point is I think that's proof enough that there are millions of people of all races willing to invest time in protagonists of different races and cultures and if you want a more literary example Memoirs of a Geisha was a best seller for ages.

I have never had an issue picking up a story with a protagonist of a different race nor from a different culture, I've rarely meet anyone whose said or shown that they have an issue with it, at least not of my generation. The generation who buys these Japanese comics by the truck load, and often drop 100's of dollars on the DVD box sets of these series in the animated format, and who often translate Japanese language novels online because nobody will import them, and now many of them have branched off into looking for Korean fiction, and Chinese fiction. I can't help but think it wouldn't be any different if the protagonist where Native American or a person of color or another ethnicity.

So why on earth aren't more people writing it? Or if they are, Why the fuck isn't it being published and marketed!? There is an audience here of all races that wants and has shown they are willing to pay for works with non-white protagonists and yet literary fiction is a wash with mostly white characters and white washes characters on covers and often hides their non-whiteness, as if our entire population will treat the existence of a non-white main character as an act of witchcraft.

There is almost no real diversity in the media outside of imports, more often than not when a racially diverse character pops up they're stereotyped in some way, angry black women, Asian martial artist and almost never as a main character. It is changing but it is slow, more authors, agents and publishers need to work on the release and promotion of diverse works and works by non-white authors. And more people in general need to stand up and speak up that yes, you are willing to read a book where the protagonist is not white or American.

I'm not just saying this because I write and enjoy diverse literature myself, but because it needs to happen, having Katniss Everdeen's is not enough. We need more Katniss's and Korra's. The battle for more females protagonists in fiction is a good one but not one that's finished or that we've won, but we need more capable female and male protagonists of all races, not just white American ones.

In 10 years around half of the American middle grade audience will be non-whites, this next generation coming up will be the for second time in this nations history there are going to be more non-whites than whites. There needs to be fiction ready for this new generation that shows the different races and cultures as equals, and allows people of all races to experience other races and cultures.

They shouldn't have to explore the back end of the comic book shop, like I had too. It should be all around them.

   Anything you'd like to contribute, got a good resource or book that involves this topic or you'd like to add to this? Feel free to comment down below.                 

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