Friday, November 14, 2014
One of the most talked about topics in the Kidlit community these days is the need for diverse characters in children's books. I couldn't agree more. Whether it's diversity with regard to ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical challenges, or neurological conditions, young people need and deserve to see themselves in the books they read.
That being said, as writers it isn't as simple as it might sound to accomplish that in our stories. It brings to mind several questions:
1- Is it appropriate to write/create a Black, Asian, or Native American protagonist (or any other person of color) if you're not of that ethnicity?
2- If you do attempt to include a character with one of the diversities mentioned in the first paragraph, how do you avoid stereotyping?
3- Is it beneficial to young readers to create diverse characters in our stories just to be politically correct?
4- Shouldn't the story dictate what kind of character we create?
These are just a few of the questions that come to my own mind.
However, just because there are a plethora of issues as to how and when to include diverse characters in our stories, that doesn't mean we shouldn't take the path to enlightenment with regard to this issue. Since one of the middle grade novels I've written includes a secondary character of Chinese descent, I am personally interested in learning as much as I can about this issue. My goal is to create a character that will very much resonate with girls of Chinese descent. The last thing I want to do is to represent an ethnic group in a stereotypical fashion.
One of my very favorite children's authors - Grace Lin - is a member of an advisory committee for We Need Diverse Books. Check out their official campaign site:http://weneeddiversebooks.org/advisory-board/ This wonderful website offers resources, news, interviews, and other opportunities to educate ourselves about diverse books, as well as ways to get involved.
If we are truly committed to accomplishing the goal of giving young readers books that effectively reflect their own individual experiences, then we must support this movement and learn as much as possible.
As a writer, what are your thoughts on this important subject?