Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Race in YA: Why it's ok if all of your characters are one color

All over the blogs of writers, agents, and editors alike, you can find posts about how books lack diversity. How they mostly consist of Caucasians. How they wish every cover didn't have a white girl on it. Many cry out for more diversity.
I'd like to take a look at why diversity (while nice!) isn't a must. In fact, it sometimes may not make any sense!

It could be because of where we live that this happens. I mean come one, the U.S. is referred to as the melting pot. Racial diversity is something common- in some parts of the world.

If you were publishing a book in Japan, and everyone in the book was Japanese, would anybody really mention "Why are there no Hispanics in this book?". Probably not. Keep in mind, while many countries have noticeable racial diversity, such countries are hardly the majority.

The fact that the U.S. is so diverse has led its citizens to expect diversity in all forms of media.

But what if you're writing a fiction? A fiction that takes place in a world that doesn't exist in real life? What if that world was like Japan? So everyone in this world has tan skin, that doesn't mean the author lacks diversity, does it? Does every world we create have to be just like America? A big melting pot? Why can't it be in the beginning stages, where they haven't been able to travel and explore the whole world, and thus have a population that isn't that diverse.

If my world takes place where they travel with covered wagons, and have to take dangerous sea voyages to get to the next continent over (which is hardly the entire world) what are the realistic chances that my characters will ever meet someone who looks so different from them selves? Pretty slim I'd say.

Not that I discourage having diversity in your book (or other form of media). And I'm not saying you should make everyone white/black/olive/etc. skinned. I guess I'm just saying that in some worlds injecting diversity for the sake of diversity can be unnecessary. Sometimes the world we live in isn't diverse at all (A German or a Mexican would stand out like a soar thumb in Japan ).

If it's really that important, try not mentioning the color of your characters' skin. Let the reader's own personal preference kick in. ;)

(mirror posted on my LJ)