Representation and diversity in books has become a major focus point these days. Growing up, I hadn’t really thought about the fact that books generally featured a certain stereotypical character. With the amount of diversity and acceptance that is taking place in our society, it is important that this change in direction is reflected in the books we read. Representation and diversity are things that I never really considered when reading a book but I must say that picking up novels that feature a diverse cast of characters has been a wonderful experience, and I am all for having more books that do this.
But what happens when representation isn’t done right in a book?
Many times, I see authors trying to jump on the bandwagon to make characters more diverse and reach different minority groups. It’s great … but sometimes, it can feel quite gimmicky. This is especially true when the author hasn’t taken time to flesh out the character and really understand the demographic that they are trying to portray through this character. Instead of having this character stand out from the mold, the author has inadvertently put them in a box full of stereotypes.
And it sucks.
Now, I’m not someone who can claim to know what it is like to be part of every single minority group out there. I am a part of some, yes, but that doesn’t make me an expert on them all. But I want to learn about the struggles of different marginalized groups and one of the ways I like to do that is by reading about the way different characters face their difficulties. This means that the onus really goes on the author to accurately portray the characters. They need to do their research and really look beyond how people are perceived by the general public to try to enlighten readers.
Because, really, what’s the point of having characters that are from diverse backgrounds if you aren’t going to represent them properly?
I have read some great books that do justice to characters that are unique and different from the stereotypical MCs. But there have been just as many bad books that have tried to gain support from various minority communities by including characters that are diverse in their books, only to have them be stereotyped.
I hope that, over time, more authors will make the conscientious switch to having a more diverse cast of characters in their books and do them justice by actually portraying them accurately and not just do it to gain a larger following.
But let’s talk about your experiences: have you come across many diverse reads?
Do you make it a habit to read more diverse books than non-diverse?
Have you ever come across a novel that promises diversity but only serves to be gimmicky?
Let me know in the comments!