I’m sure if you guys are active on Twitter, you probably heard all about the discussion that has been going on in the book community over there because of a post a girl made that went a bit viral and had authors join the discussion to share their experiences and opinions. And I wanted to do the same as I think it’s an important topic to talk about. To make sure we all know what I am talking about, I’ll upload an image of the tweet in question so you guys can read it for yourself too.
First of all, can we please talk about how no one is ‘compromising real life’ by writing diverse books? And just because I, as a single person, may not ‘check any boxes’ that would make my life diverse doesn’t mean that the person next to me on the bus or walking by me on the street is going to be living the same life – chances are, they are not. And even if at first glance we seem similar, you don’t know about their life and their story. They might be dealing with mental illnesses, they may not be straight or identify with their assigned gender. You can’t grasp any of these things at first glance or even multiple glances because that person may not want to show it. It may not be safe for them to do so.
And even if your reality in your small town isn’t a diverse one (as far as you can tell) that doesn’t mean that someone who might read your book down the line is living the same life. Readers want to see themselves reflected in the books they read.
I also feel like small towns all vary when it comes to the people living in them. My hometown is actually quite diverse. We have people of various different races living here, people of different faith, different sexual orientations and people who are dealing with mental health issues. It’s all right here in my small town that I call home. And I didn’t even have to think hard to picture someone for each of those groups of people. I’ve gone to school with them, I’ve lived in the same neighborhood with them, I’ve worked with them. They are part of my everyday life.
But I think what annoyed me most about that tweet is the fact the person thought others were being ‘socially correct’ by portraying a realistic cast of characters in their stories.
It’s not ‘socially correct’ to show a variety of different people in your work – it’s reality. And you’re being a human being who sees the world around them (no matter how small or wide that circle is) for what it is: a place where people of many, many different backgrounds, religions, identities and races come together.
We live in a time where we are connected with so many different people across the world of all walks of life. I don’t know how you can still only think of the very tiny circle that is your immediate surroundings as what is ‘realistic’. That mindset feels unrealistic to me.
How about you guys, did you follow this conversation on Twitter as it was happening? Or had you missed it entirely? How do you feel about what the original tweet was talking about? Do you think it’s trying to be ‘socially correct’ to portray a diverse cast of characters? Let’s discuss in the comments below!