If you’ve ever been to a writing conference, you’ve likely heard questions about how majority writers can accurately portray underrepresented demographics. Writers often hear about how so many books are dominated by white heterosexual characters, and many want to include other types of people, sensitively, into their stories. They want to be the solution to the scarcity.
This is a wonderful desire to have, and we should definitely include accurate representations of all sorts of people in our work. However, there’s a fine line between being inclusive and trying to tell a story we don’t understand and can’t accurately portray (or shouldn’t try to, even if we feel we can). No matter how good our intentions are, there are stories that would be better told by someone who knows more about it—who is closer to it.
But if white, heterosexual people don’t write the stories of non-white, non-heterosexual (or non-WHATEVER) people, who will?
To some, this question may have an obvious answer. But some people reading this may not know the answer, and THIS IS OKAY. It is never wrong to not know the answers, and even if a few people—or even a million people—know something, we always need to be prepared to allow others the opportunity to learn.
So, for those who are unsure, what IS the answer? It is to allow people who are able and willing the chance to write their own stories.
It might be harder to find books written by and about minorities. It might not seem like many have taken the chance to write their stories, but that’s isn’t because they aren’t trying, and it isn’t because they aren’t as amazing at writing as white heterosexuals. The truth is, most traditional publishing companies tend to not have very diverse employees, and so they are less likely to take on many minority authors. Marginalized voices are not being proportionately represented.
And I’d like to emphasize, in case anyone missed this, that it isn’t just about race. It’s about anyone whose voice has been overlooked by the majority. Unfortunately, there are many examples of this in the world.
Why should we care? If we’re reading just for entertainment, then it doesn’t matter who writes what we read, so long as we can find books we’re interested in, right? Actually, Christine Reyes counters this beautifully in her blog post, “Why Don’t More People Read Minority Authors?” She states that, while we shouldn’t feel guilty about wanting to read just for fun, there is still “something to consider”: The majority of published works are written in a similar communication style, fitting within “Western rules.” These rules are so familiar to those of us living in the US, we may be drawn to books written in this style because of it.
But the “Western” communication style isn’t the only one out there. Many cultures have very different rules of communication, and we should open ourselves up to experiencing them and learning about them to increase our perspective. And aside from cultural differences in writing, there are those people in cultures similar to any of our own who will state their underrepresented perspectives in ways we haven’t thought of before, creating chances to connect with people we had never considered, in ways we never thought possible.
So, we if we go out there and find a book that goes beyond our race/perspective, and we don’t enjoy what we read? That’s okay! No story, no matter who wrote it, is going to be enjoyed by everyone. We shouldn’t expect it to, either. Just keep looking! Just because we didn’t like one story written by a minority certainly doesn’t mean we won’t like any of them.
In conclusion, if we do want to support marginalized authors and their work, what can we do? First off, we can start by validating them and their right to be heard, whether in public or through a private message. We can also buy their books, or check them out at the library, read them, leave honest reviews for them online, and talk about them with the people around us. As we do, our perspectives will grow, our empathy for the people around us will increase, and publishers will see that we want more!
Here’s a list of books by minorities that you can look into:
This list is super short on purpose. Tell me your favorites in the comments!
This post was written by Rachel White
We're all writers, we're all moms, writing our way through the "brambles" of life and our stories.