Friday, July 29, 2016
On diversity in fantasy and books in general.
I have generally bad times when it comes to contemporary. I think maybe I always will, because when I escape to fantasy I feel more at home than when I read books set in this world. I like to read about adventures and escapades and more than what surrounds me, and this is both good- thrilling, enjoyable, compelling, knowing what I like- and bad- because in a good portion of fanasty there is a big lack of diversity. And this isn't okay because fantasy is supposed to be an escape. There are so few characters of colour, of gender identities besides male/female, of sexualities besides straight- and those are the characters I want. Those are the characters we need.
I've never read a character like me. I've never read a character who feels like I do. And that isn't okay. I want my reading experience to show me myself, and to show me others, and a lot of the time it feels like I'm seeing the same paper cutout characters, and their stories can be wonderful, thrilling, majestic, but the characters themselves just aren't what I want or what I need.
So, how is it that I'm escaping to worlds in which so many of the characters make up majorities- and there are exceptions, of course. There are epic fantasy novels that have POC and lgbtiqa+ main characters, but the popular ones? The ones that get the biggest exposure and the most reviews and the ones that everyone talks about?
I do not believe I, or anyone else, should have to stick to one genre to find ourselves and others. If contemporary isn't my jam, I should still expect to find lgbtiqa+ characters in fantasy, or murder/mystery (without there being the victim), or in any genre at all. I should be able to see POC characters leading stories outside of one genre, and it shouldn't *be* a struggle to find these stories.
An important part of diversity in fiction is being able to see yourself, and that is so important. It's important for people who are discovering/learning about/living their sexualities and for people with disabilities and for all the people who aren't represented, who should be represented. And it's also incredibly important for the people who read about experiences beyond their own and grow to be more compassionate, to have a previously unreached comprehension and to see the world from a viewpoint that isn't their own. There are so many important factors to reading diverse books, and there is such a call for it, such a need for it, and yet I still step into fantasy and find myself with characters who make majority groups. I find myself in a world unlike my own, and yet... it runs with the same norms, the expectations and rules of this society.
And these stories, they can be epic, thrilling, gorgeous and I can love them, but sometimes it seems like that's all I'm getting. And I don't want that to be all I ever read.
I feel like it can be hard to talk about the things we need, want, think are lacking. And when I wrote this post, I was afraid. I am proud of this post, and I beileve in everything I've written here, but the reason it's hard is because of backlash and bullying and being attacked for saying that some books are good, yes, but they aren't nearly good enough. But I have the power, in this corner of the blogverse/world, to speak up. And like hell am I going to ignore that power.