How to Bring Diversity into your Books
By Shakilya Lawrence, Publishing Assistant
Diversity within books is an essential element to have, especially in this day and age. We are currently in a peak period for racial, ethnic, sexual, and gender diversity representation in media. However, when it comes to translating diversity into books, it goes beyond those factors; we have to include cultural, societal, and religious diversity as well. Diversity in books is crucial for giving representation for these typically underrepresented groups. Adding elements of diversity within books gives these people the chance to be the focal point in a story and allows us as readers to have the opportunity to learn more about these groups to establish a better understanding of our current world.
When it comes to adding diversity elements into your book, it’s important how you introduce the elements to your reader. It’s much easier when you come from one of those backgrounds, because you can offer a firsthand perspective of what it’s like being in that specific group. That perspective can help establish a better understanding for the reader, which will help them better connect emotionally to the story.
However, even if you aren’t a part of the group you’re wanting to write about, there’s still multiple ways to add different elements of diversity to your book. I would recommend that if you aren’t a part of that group, do your research into their background. Find out their history and what they’ve had to overcome to get to where they are today. Talk with people within the group, if you can, in order to hear firsthand experiences of what it’s like being in their shoes. It will also eliminate reliance on stereotypes to portray your characters within the story. This will help you understand how to best convey their experiences without coming off as problematic or unknowledgeable. All in all, it will help you be able to write in a way that’ll help the audience connect to the story.
When adding diversity into your story, it’s beneficial to know what kind of message you want to convey to the reader. For example, let’s say you wanted to write a book involving two friends and one of them is in the process of transitioning. As a writer, you would have to think of what kind of story you would want to portray. Is it a happy one of acceptance, or a potentially more realistic one, portraying how society views and treats transgender people? Although these are wildly different plots, both would allow you as a writer to explore and offer understanding to what it’s like being a transgender person in this day and age. When creating these stories, however, be mindful that although a person may come from a different background, the story doesn’t have to solely be about that background; minorities have personalities, dreams, and talents, too. For example, you can create a story about a Muslim teenage girl without making it solely about her religion. This is why deciding what kind of message you want to convey is important, in order to avoid telling a story mainly focused on the aspect of their diversity.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to have an expert read your work to make sure you’re accurately representing the group. Experts have put countless hours into researching, and can usually offer an unbiased, educated opinion.
Underrepresented groups deserve the chance to be represented as characters in books, just as they’ve started to become more recognized in television and media. As authors, it’s our duty to make sure that we try to convey their stories as accurately as possible to avoid misrepresenting them. It starts with education and learning the background for the group you want to write about. It’s the foundation you’ll need in order to create an emotional connection between the character and your audience.