Talk to me about diversity in fiction

14286336764_72335521ac_oLast week I heard rumbles of dissatisfaction on Twitter from some of my romance author friends at the RWA conference.

And although I followed the Stupid Puppies fight no closer than scanning some headlines, I expect that’s still being fought in the SFF world too.

Are Romance and SFF the only genres where diversity is discussed? Maybe they’re just big and loud with a tendency to turn housekeeping into performance art.

No. Diversity is a global forest fire that flashes up sporadically into public awareness, but it’s been burning for years, regardless of whether the public sees it.

Diverse: showing a great deal of variety; very different. Oxford Dictionary

So, diversity in fiction.

As it affects personally, or doesn’t, or is perceived and acted upon, or not, by readers, authors, and publishing professionals.

 

First off, what’s it got to do with me?

The glaringly obvious answer is that I’m human, and by its very nature diversity is about all of humanity.

Then there’s my 24 years as a chronically ill spoonie. I’ve been experiencing diversity in life for far longer than I’ve been writing diverse characters in my novels. Not dying with it: living with it. Spoonies are the quietest lobby group you ever won’t hear shouting.

Most importantly, I have many friends of all ages who are women, and/or persons of colour, and/or LGBT, and/or physically disabled, and/or mentally disabled, and/or chronically ill with any number of physical and/or mental conditions, and/or people from ethnic minorities and/or from classes, cultures and countries that place them at an undeniable disadvantage in terms of economic difficulty and/or human prejudice.

 

So many

Because, despite the opinion held by some that diverse means other, the fact is that diverse is normal.

Compared with the huge numbers of people who are disadvantaged in all those various ways, the group of mainly middle class, mainly well-educated, mainly white, mainly straight, and normally healthy people who tend to enjoy freedom from prejudice in life and relative ease of passage in the UK/US publishing industry are actually a small minority.

That’s life, I hear someone say.

Yes it is, but life can be changed. Life should be changed when it’s shitty and unfair.

 

Read this

It’s the definition of diversity used by the University of Oregon’s Steering Committee on Diversity. It’s beautiful.

The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect.

It means understanding that each individual is unique, 
and recognizing our individual differences. These can be along 
the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, 
political beliefs, or other ideologies. It is the exploration 
of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment.

It is about understanding each other and moving beyond 
simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual.

I love that. In the spirit of it, my definition of diversity is:

The inclusion and celebration of the full range of humanity in fiction.

 

What do you think?

How does my definition work for you?

What are your experiences of diversity in fiction? Your views? Will you share them with us?

How do you think we can move our industry to a place where everyone will have a fair chance of being published?

Or of writing diverse works for publication?

Or of buying and reading books with characters who reflect our own lives and identities? And our children’s?

What about, for example, white people writing characters of colour? It’s a step, but in the right or wrong direction? If it’s a problem, is it still a problem when an author rejects tokenism and cultural appropriation, researches well, and writes her characters well?

In self-publishing, there’s an evident freedom to write and enthusiasm to read diverse characters. Will that freedom be a tipping point that’ll bring big and small presses sliding inevitably into the real world?

Or are the old ways so entrenched there’ll be no changing them, no matter how many people are shouting for diversity and for how long we shout?

Will mainstream publishing continue to be a mainly white middle class industry with magical access for privileged kids via unpaid (or at best inadequately paid for their big city location) internships that most young people can’t afford to contemplate?

 

Is there hope?

Are there already some real changes happening?

Are some small presses leading the way?

Is the YA world’s enthusiastic support for the #weneeddiversebooks campaign a birthplace for a better future throughout the industry?

Or does the call for diverse books carry within itself a potential for danger, in that it’s likely to maintain the view of an exotic otherness rather than embracing the normality, the universality, of human experience?

 

Oh, and this business of the UK/US publishing industry that I mentioned earlier

That isn’t a privileged mindset at all, is it?

How about, as well as encouraging and promoting diversity in Western publishing (which includes Canada, Australia and New Zealand, of course) we make it easier for books written and published elsewhere in the world to be visible and available here?

Non-English markets are flooded with translations from English, but the tide doesn’t flow the other way. Why is that? Can we change it?

Are translation services too expensive? Why is that and how can we change it? I hope we can get beyond The Market in this.

(The Market isn’t a god. At best it’s a lazy excuse used by privileged people who don’t want to act to change something, and at worst it’s an aggressive shield used to stop what they feel is an attack on their comforts. When people like that trot out “The Market” as a conversation stopper I tend to want to slap their silly privileged heads.)

 

Over to you

What do you think? What do you know? Talk to me. Tell us about it.

 

I blog about writing and life, chronic illness and life, and diversity in life and in fiction. If you’d like to get my posts in your email, there’s a sign-up box in the sidebar on the right if you’re on a desktop, or below this text if you’re on a mobile.

In my weekly email Storywalkers Newsletter, I invite you to walk and talk with me while I write my books. You can join the newsletter here.

 

If you’ve enjoyed this post, you might like this one too:

Why I’m writing a novel with a chronically ill heroine

Let’s have a quick Tuesday update

Writing slowed all the way down to a stop while I’ve been preparing for the endoscopy I had in hospital this afternoon.

Had to stop taking my omeprazole tablets for two weeks beforehand, because they would have masked the various things the surgeon would be looking for on her TV screen.

Ompeprazole is all that had been stopping the fiery volcano in my stomach from eating me alive for the past few months while I waited for my procedure to come up on the list.

So stopping that for two weeks pretty much put paid to anything of a creative nature happening.

Anyway.

It’s done. The official results will take a week to arrive but she tipped me the wink that there’s nothing sinister lurking in my stomach. It’s almost certainly just ulcers caused by my long term use of everyday strong painkillers.

Sitting here now wishing I could get some writing done. But my stomach’s hurting quite badly from the camera on a tube down my throat and poking around everywhere inside, so I’ll leave it for tonight.

Meanwhile, I’ve almost reached my 1250 target for followers on Twitter, at which point I’ll start writing my timeslip story EXILE live on there. Only 21 followers to go. Want to nudge some of your friends to follow me? I’m looking forward to this. It’s exciting.

Looking forward to my first Storywalkers Newsletter this Friday morning, too. Have you signed up for that? I’ll be emailing it out weekly and inviting readers to walk with me and talk with me while I write my books. You can sign up here.

Go on. I’d love to have you along. :)

About being chronically ill and being honest at the same time

This morning, my newly discovered blogging friend Nutritiously Natasha posted about How Being Honest Changed Everything.

Go ahead, I’ll wait here while you go and read her excellent article.

Back? Worth the read, wasn’t it?

Anyhow, here’s my comment on Natasha’s post:

It took me many years to learn this too. Not only to be honest with others. What I needed more was to be honest with myself.

My path has been different to yours. We’re in similar places, but we’ve approached them from opposite directions. I was fit and healthy and in a fantastic career when I suddenly got ill. A hugely demanding career. (So where you have grieved for things you’ve never had the opportunity to enjoy, I’ve grieved for things I enjoyed but know I can never have or do again. That’s the opposite directions I’m talking about.)

From what I’ve read of your work, I think we have very similar personalities. Burden, isn’t it? 😀

So, yes, I lied about my health to others in the early part of the period between getting ill and losing my career. But more significantly, and more harmfully, I lied to myself. A lot.

I was about to say I’ve trained myself not to do that anymore. But then I remembered I just posted a photo of myself at my desk yesterday and told the world I was ready to rock a writing session. What I didn’t say is that the session lasted for 1 hour then I collapsed and slept for 18 hours until I woke all confused at 9 this morning and thought it was still yesterday evening. Oh, well.

Btw, you’re brilliant and I have no doubt whatsoever that despite your illnesses you are going to make a significant mark on this world.

Yes, that was the post I made this morning. The one before this one I’m making in the early evening after a good siesta.

It’s time I stopped lying about my health, for whatever reasons I do it. Doesn’t mean I’ll insist on telling the world everything bad that happens. Just that I’ll stop glossing over ugly things.

That’s today’s lesson for me.

I blog about writing and life, chronic illness and life, and diversity in fiction and life. If you’d like to get my posts in your email, there’s a sign-up box in the sidebar on the right if you’re on a desktop, or below this text if you’re on a mobile.

In my weekly email Storywalkers Newsletter, I invite you to walk and talk with me while I write my books. You can join the newsletter here.

What does your work space/play space/online portal look like?

I was alone in the house for a few hours yesterday, so grabbed the chance to work on The Orphan Age.

Here I am ready to rock a rare daytime writing session.

2015-07-19_1437307858

This is where I live online, mostly, whether I’m talking with friends, writing, researching, or loitering.

My other places are wherever I happen to be when I’m using my phone. Sometimes in the garden but more normally in bed, to be honest.

Where are you when you’re online? Want to link us in the comments to a pic of you there?

Let’s share our spaces! :)

I blog about writing and life, chronic illness and life, and diversity in fiction and life. If you’d like to get my posts in your email, there’s a sign-up box in the sidebar on the right if you’re on a desktop, or below this text if you’re on a mobile.

In my weekly email Storywalkers Newsletter, I invite you to walk and talk with me while I write my books. You can join the newsletter here.


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