First and foremost, I’d like to thank The Tsundoku Chronicles (aka Neelam) for helping me with this to make sure I have good examples and with the most detail!
To continue, another issue I find is books being published that have diverse characters… but are written by white and/or straight authors. I’d much rather read a book about, say, PoC but from a PoC author. It makes it so much more personal and they know how best to cover experiences they will have had! For example, Andy Weir’s Artemis came out in 2017. He wrote a female character from Saudi Arabia, who does not normally wear a niqab (picture below), but does so to steal something. Can you see where I’m going with this? There is just so much wrong in that scene and to find that this book has received awards actually makes me sick. How can anyone think that is okay? It’s the equivalent of having a character feign a disability because that’s damaging for those who have mental health illnesses or disabilities that are not always visible and are always told they are faking it. It’s wrong on so many levels! It’s perpetuating a stereotype and reinforces it to the public. This gives people the ammunition they need to say “See, it’s dangerous.” And now we have laws passing in countries to ban the niqab. I’m not saying the book caused that but it’s definitely not helping. Banning us from wearing an article of clothing, taking away our freedom in following our religion is oppression and nothing justifies oppression. Now this does not mean don’t make your books diverse at all. But don’t make it a point of having a diverse MC if you cannot tackle the issues that come with it and do not understand in the slightest what it’s like to be a part of the group you are writing.
Now this goes for LGBT+ as well. Do not write about something you have no experience with or cannot properly justify or explain. Even better, don’t write about something you clearly have little to mediocre knowledge on.
I’ll mention a book that I love now and it is the Magnus Chase trilogy by Rick Riordan. I’m going to talk about the rep I know was done right because I cannot speak for LGBT+ but the Muslim rep was amazing and perfect. He covered some major aspects of the religion and he showed Islam in a wonderful light! It’s actually enlightening for those who may not have actually known much about the religion. Now this is a white author who is doing it right. He is doing the research, and doing it properly. He is not looking at the media or what is assumed about the religion. He is looking at the religion and the beliefs themselves from the perspective of Muslims. He’s making sure he’s not perpetuating stereotypes and this is the type of content I wish I had when growing and will definitely have my sisters read as they’re growing up.
Now this second issue in this post is not directly related to the publishers but to the bloggers and readers of the community. I believe for publishing to actually change, we need to work together and for everyone, equally. I’m saying this because if there is bad rep for LGBT+ people in a book, I will hear about it because everyone will be talking about it and it will be shared to the point that the book may be boycotted. It will most likely get a response from the author and the publishers as well. But when there is bad rep for another minority (we’re going back to Love, Hate and Other Filters for this one) why do I have to spend money on the book, actually read it for myself to find out? Why is it never addressed by the author or publishers? I believe if we’re going to ask for diversity we should ask for diversity that will truly represent people and their experiences rather than just stating “here’s a Muslim, brown MC” and then not addressing it for the rest of the book unless it’s to just remind someone that the book is diverse. I want to see myself in a character. I don’t want to read a book and find myself hating the character and essentially cursing the author for terrible rep. Another example for this is when pretty much nothing was said about the bad Queer PoC rep (which is poorly covered already in publishing) in The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue but when it came to the author writing trans people wrong there was a massive uproar.
I will end this blog post on another note which relates to religion this time. I feel like there’ll be a part three since there’s so much more I want to say. But we need more bloggers to champion everything of significance. For example, Ramadan this year. There was a Ramadan Readathon and only PoC were actually championing and pushing it. It was almost as if it wasn’t even happening for others but I could actually see some people counting down towards pride month which was AFTER Ramadan. It would be amazing to see everyone pushing to promote these things. I know a lot of PoC championing pride month even though they’re not part of the LGBT+ community. I would just love to have the same people extend that courtesy to others. And not just Muslims, but Jews and Hindus etc as well. Same thing for #BlackLivesMatter. These are amazing things to promote regardless of whether it directly affects you or not.