Why is Diversity Important ?

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Hello guys !

A couple of weeks ago, I was thinking about how drastically my reading habits have changed over this last year and it hit me that around this time last year is when I decided I had to make a conscious effort to read more diverse books, and I wrote a post about My Diverse Reading – Or Lack There Of (please don’t read it, it’s awful haha) and I was impressed with myself and really proud of the changes I have made to my reading and how that changed me as a person and made me see things about myself I was subconsciously ignoring.

I actually wrote that post exactly a year ago -and I swear it is purely coincidental that I’m writing this now- and had even set a little TBR for myself to start off of. I only read 3/10 from that TBR –More Happy than Not, When Michael Met Mina and Written in the Stars– all of which I adored (all 5 stars I believe). I know that might seem like a small number but since then the number of diverse books I read in a month has been increasing until I started reading them exclusively in January 2017. Now every book I read has some kind of marginalisation in it and I find that my enjoyment of the books I read has increased a lot.

In the last year, I went from being intimidated by these books (because I knew I wasn’t doing right by them) to reading them, to screaming at the top of my lungs about them and it’s been quite the journey. One I loved being on even if some of it was hard, which I didn’t expect. Anyway, enough ramblings ! All of this to say that that’s what inspired this post, my journey from reading no diverse books at all a year ago, to reading them exclusively right now. This will be a basics as well as appreciation post for Diverse Books because they are important to me and to thousands of other people.

Diversity 1

I remember I had included some kind of definition in that post from a year ago but you know, I was a noob and even though it was pretty good, it was lacking in some ways. So here’s the updated and somehow more condensed version:

Diverse books are books of which the MAIN CHARACTER (yes not side characters, spare me with that nonesense) is part of one marginalized group or more. May it be race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, physical disability, learning disability, mental illness… If the main character is part of a minority group then the book is diverse.

The definition is a bit more complicated than this when you start taking into account the author’s marginalizations (or lack thereof) but for the sake of simplicity, this is it.

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That’s how the world is

The world is such a rich place, in cultures, in religions, in genders and sexualities, in experiences that are specific to those marginalizations. And we cannot forget about intersectionalities, I’m one example of them. I am part of more than one group and those shape my life significantly and make my experiences different from those of people who are part of other groups, only share one group with me, or are part of no group at all.

Once you actually broaden your vision of the world and try to look at things beyond what’s seen as the norm, you see that there’s a lot more to the world than the able-bodied allocishet white person with no mental illnesses, the rest of us exist too, a non negligible number of us, and we deserve to be seen as well. The sad thing is, I never knew I had a choice in reading beyond that until I was shown otherwise and even that I had a lot of internalized bigotry to work through and deconstruct to actually be able to see that it is okay to feel represented by a book, that it is more than okay, it is great and I as well as many others need more of it.

Just to give you an example of how that impacted me growing up, I was a Young brown Muslim kid who wrote exclusively in the “norm” because she didn’t think she had a right to write outside of that, a right to see herself in books, a right to be happy about that. It is actually sad that I only realized all of that at 19 years old, but it’s better late than never.

Erasure is real

If we are to compare the numbers of books written by/about white people to the ones written by/about people of color (ALL POCS combined) the number for the latter is ridiculously small. Same goes for allosexual/alloromantic vs. asexual/aromantic, straight vs non-straight (gay, bi, pan…), cisgender vs. transgender, able bodied vs. disabled, and the list goes on. Every minority is crushed under the weight of what’s seen as normal and that goes beyond books as well. People from all minorities are erased, overlooked, oppressed and pressured to assimilate, and what happens when you think you’re alone in this situation (re: when you lack representation) ?

  1. You think there’s something wrong with you and keep trying to fix it (which was the case for me).
  2. You never stand up for yourself because you don’t think you have a right to/ because you’re abnormal. (Guess what? me.)
  3. You fold in on yourself and try to hide all parts of you that are different from what makes other people comfortable, and pretend those parts of you don’t exist (also me)

This is what I meant by internalized bigotry, when you keep being erased and told that there’s something wrong with you, you end up believing it, and unbelieving it is hard. Incredibly hard. And THIS is why we need more diversity, we need to not have to justify our existences, we need them to be normalized, and books play a big role in doing that.

Diverse stories/authors are as good as the rest

Better in my opinion. Hear me out. There’s just so much you can do with a trope when the main characters are pretty much the same, as I said, marginalizations and intersections play a big role in shaping one’s world so that would make any given book trope different. ANY one of them. I double dare you to prove me wrong *grins*. They just offer new perspectives, perspectives that can be unknown to a lot if not brought to light by media, and in our case, books.

There’s also the issue of creating spaces for marginalized authors because we cannot deny that publishining is dominated by non-marginalized writers and no this is not a case of “taking away from them” just making MORE space, so that marginalized authors can get their stories out there. The more stories are put out there, the more they are read and the more spaces are created because publishers realize that there IS a market for our stories (yes, hi, hello, we’re here!).

I also want to put out there that they do not have to write ownvoices stories for their stories to matter, and even their ownvoices stories can’t cater to everyone. I think that as long as they proceed with care and with extensive research (yes, even when the story is ownvoices). And that for various reasons among which is the fact that some people aren’t ready to share about themselves as well as when the author isn’t out/ doesn’t want to be outed when it comes to gender and/or sexuality so they don’t feel comfortable labelling their work as ownvoices and that’s fine too. As I said, as long as it is done with care and doesn’t butcher any marginalization, there’s not problem to it.

We deserve representation

Do you know how many books I read that represent all of me, not parts of me, not me having to pick and choose which part I want to see but ALL of me, all my intersections? NONE. Zero. Not one book. Hopefully, one is coming my way soon but even one is not enough. ONE. OOOONE. I shouldn’t have to choose what part of me I want to read about because when I do that, the representation isn’t as close to me as it could be. As an example, a queer muslim’s experiences will not be the same as an allocishet muslim’s or as a queer non-muslim’s, they’re entertwined. So what we need more of are:

  • Characters of all skin colors
  • Native characters, indigenous characters, latinx, asians (East, South East, West…), africans, middle easterns… as well as multiracial characters.
  • Trans characters, bi characters, pan characters, aro/ace characters, non-binary characters, etc…
  • Muslim characters, jewish characters, hindu characters, etc…
  • Characters with mental and physical disabilities
  • Fat characters

But most of all, intersectionality. Characters with multiple marginalizations are close to my heart because more often than not, that’s how we are, multiple pieces of our identities come together to make us who we are.

So pals, this is why diversity is important. This is why I’ll forever be grateful to this community for helping me discover I would’ve never picked up otherwise, books that today, mean the world to me.


That’s it until next time.

Share your story, why do diverse books matter to YOU? What books you feel represent you?

What are your favorite diverse books?

Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.

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27 thoughts on “Why is Diversity Important ?

  1. Excellent, heartfelt post Fadwa! I started on the conscious reading of diverse books around May last year too, so I totally relate to this post. Reading diversely has been most important to me, because of the difference in viewpoints it generates. While I see something one way, the character in the book sees it another, forcing me to consider it. It’s greatly improved my ability to empathize, and even though I probably will never completely understand, it is at least a glimpse into how someone else feels.
    Also, I love that there are so many diverse bloggers, not just diverse books! Because very often, I miss something in a book that someone else points out. And vice versa, hopefully!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a great post Fadwa! So, coming from a straight white girl, I will tell you rather shamefully that until I joined the book community diversity is never something I even thought of. I grew up watching shows like Friends and Buffy – all white with a person of colour occasionally thrown in there (I’m guessing so that they can say they have diversity). I grew up reading books that were practically all-white, it was unintentional, but it shows you that only in recent years have things slowly started to change. I have been extremely privileged and have seen myself represented time and time again, which unfortunately made me ignorant I guess.

    Joining the book community and reading posts like yours have completely changed my view on the world. I now aim to read books that are diverse, I am extremely uncomfortable and disappointed if I am reading or watching something that is all white/straight etc. You are right, diversity is the way of the world, it should therefore be shown not just in a book here and there, but every single book. I really feel like there is no excuse anymore – authors have so much access to information now.

    Anyways, really sorry I rambled, I tend to do that! But once again great post 🙂

    Like

    • Sorry I really thought I replied to your comment but somehow WP didn’t process it.
      Even while being marginalized myself, I never seeked diverse books just because I didn’t know they existed so to some extent I understand how you didn’t read them before.

      But I am glad the book community helped change that. And I love how you’re saying there is no excuse anymore because it’s true.

      It’s okay hahaha I get like that sometimes too 😊

      Like

  3. Fadwa, this is such a masterfully written post! Thank you. I agree with absolutely everything you said. Personally, I started seeking out diverse books about two years ago when I realized I was queer and desperately searched for books where I could see myself and my sexuality represented. From there, I started reading more diverse books by and about marginalized people from all backgrounds, and I have to say that my reading has improved so much since I have actively sought out diverse books. Because not only are they excellent stories, but they’re reflective of real life. Also, I 100% agree with your last point that intersectionality in particular is super necessary– hopefully we’ll keep seeing more and more diverse books that address interlocking oppressions in the future! Again, lovely post! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this article!! You make such a good point. And I think I can honestly say that my life has changed since I started reading more diverse books. I look at the world (and myself I guess) in a different way. And it’s beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Beautifully crafted post Fadwa. Diversity is so so important, in all sections as you mention and there really is a lack. I’m happy there has been a slight increase in diverse publications but as you say there isn’t many at all and the market is definitely dominated by one set of voices. As a few have also commented, my life has been improved by seeing more diverse books and being able to experience characters with mental health issues like me has helped me. Everyone deserves a character to relate to.

    Liked by 1 person

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  7. i came from twitter XD. i loved this post it was wonderful and i agree. ever since i have made a decision to start reading more diversely, but not only that to diversify my media it has changed my life. i look at the world differently as well as see ppl differently and I feel I have grown a lot as a person. diversity means so much to me and i really hope to see the number of diverse books grow as well. seeing ppl see themselves in a book is one of the most beautiful sights i want to see that more frequently.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This is such an incredible and beautiful post, Fadwa. I remember reading your original diversity post (IT’S NOT AWFUL!!) and being in a similar position and was so thankful that you made it. I’ve read mostly diverse books this year and I’m so glad I did. It’s taught me so much and has made me become even more empathetic. Obviously, I still have a long way to go and need to keep bettering myself but what I’ve experienced so far has been so great. I wish I could leave a comment this post deserves, but you’ve already said everything so wonderfully.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aaaah thanks Lauren ❤
      (It iiiiiis, I was such a noob rambly mess), this makes me so happy to hear honestly! And yeah I’ve grown so much more empathetic in the last year and I know that I still have a lot more to do but I’m getting there.

      Like

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  10. I really enjoyed reading this post Fadwa and I think you bring up so many wonderful points! You really gave me a lot to think about, especially about intersectionality. We have come so far with the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement, but unfortunately it seems like it is only the tip of the iceberg. It breaks my heart that there is not a single book that you’ve come across that you can fully see yourself in, but it is my sincere hope that this will change in the near future. It isn’t enough to only see aspects of who you are, you deserve more.

    Like

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