Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Why is Diversity Important?

So yesterday, I talked about the importance of not doing the same thing over and over in art, movies, and literature. But I'm no expert. So to answer this question, I turned to some writers whose work I deeply respect and forced them to answer the question Why is diversity important? in as short a paragraph as possible.

Rae Carson
Author of The Girl of Fire and Thorns

"Excluding people from books is a tragedy. It denies them a profound and possibly life-changing gift (like the one I received when I read ARE YOU THERE, GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET for the first time. Thank you, Judy Blume!). Worse, it sends the clear message that they don't matter enough to be written about. Everyone matters, and everyone deserves to see themselves in the books they read."

Why you should read the book right now:
The Girl of Fire and Thorns is one of my favorite fantasy novels, and one of the reasons for that is because it is so very unique. Most epic fantasies are Northern European based (think Game of Thrones--Westeros isn't England, but it sure seems like it...). But The Girl of Fire and Thorns series has influences of Spain, Southern Europe and Northern Africa in it, and covers a fantasy world that varies from desert to snowy mountains. The heroine of the novel is also no Disney princess, and the elements of religion are so skillfully done that I'm in awe of Rae and an eternal fan of her work.

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Alex London
Author of Proxy


"Stories open up imaginative possibilities. From nationalist myths and religious legends to sci-fi adventures and talking animal fantasies, stories create realities even as they respond to the reality we experience. Diversity in the kinds of stories we read and the kinds of heroes we meet matters because readers and viewers need to see that there is more possibility to the world than just what we know. When every hero looks the same, it does not minimize us. We contain multitudes. When every hero looks the same, it minimizes heroes and stifles stories. Ecosystems need diversity to thrive and imaginations are the most vast and delicate ecosystems around. If we want to flourish, we need diversity."

Why you should read the book right now:
Proxy takes the concept of The Whipping Boy to a whole new sci fi level, in which the poor must pay the debts of the rich on a much larger scale. Unique dystopian world? Check. Not your typical prince-and-princess romance? Check. Characters who aren't caricatures? Double check. Add this one to your TBR pile right now.

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"Categorization feeds prejudice. The most interesting and beautiful people are those we can't categorize, those we have to dig a little deeper to understand. I love obscure historical time periods and characters. They give us an opportunity to experience different cultures, explore diversity, learn from the past and create hope for the future. Diversity is a beautiful, natural resource in an otherwise bankrupt world. We just might have more in common with someone halfway around the world than we do in our own neighborhood. But how will we know if we don't step outside the box? Question. Dig. Discover. Different. Equal. Always!"

Why you should read the books right now:
Ruta Sepetys is an author I keep my eyes on all the time. Mostly because she's pretty and I like her a lot, but also because her books are always, always wonderful. Between Shades of Grey is highly acclaimed, and for good reason: it portrays a story that is often ignored in history and literature, and brings light to a story that needed to be told, that of the atrocities against the Lithuanian people in World War II. Out of the Easy is a complete turn-around--a story of a girl of New Orleans surviving a world of sexism, racism, and classism...in a beautiful coming-of-age story. When I say I want something unique, I mean I want Ruta Sepetys.

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"Why are stories important? Because their narratives reflect fundamental truths about our lives. They entertain us, yes, but at their best they illuminate, teach and redefine us. Stories don't exist outside of societal concerns, they are entirely a part of them: they are the green shoots off of a sturdy limb. So when the stories we validate with attention and praise all happen to grow off of one relatively small branch of a huge, beautiful tree, we are obscuring the reality of the world we all live in. We're actively avoiding the things that stories do uniquely well. Even worse, by denying light to the other branches of this tree, we're making it harder for those stories (the stories of the majority of people in the world!) to survive."

Why you should read the book right now:
I've only just started reading The Summer Prince--based on the very, very high recommendation of City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, NC, and I am so glad I was able to snag (their last) copy! It hits all the right notes: a futuristic world that's not American-based (it's set in a tech-filled Brazil), a reference to a legend not based in Greek mythology (two male leads, Gil and Enki, seem to be named after the Sumerian Gilgamesh and Enkidu, although I've not read enough yet to see how that plays out), and smash-it-out-of-the-ballpark excellent writing.

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"I am a white male. I grew up in an affluent town with few minorities, yet, I never felt like I belonged. As a gay teenager in the 90s, I could blend in with the crowd, but I was never part of it. A UK movie called Beautiful Thing hit US theaters in October of 1996. I dragged my best friend with me to see it. We were alone except for an elderly couple who left in disgust midway through the movie, which was about two gay teens in London coming to terms with their feelings for each other. For the first time in my entire life, I saw myself represented in a movie. I saw people like me. I left the theater feeling a little more hopeful and a little less alone. That movie probably saved my life. That’s why diversity is important. We are gay, straight, transgender, black, white, Asian, female, male, Indian, and Eskimo. We come in all shapes and sizes. We have different strengths, different handicaps, and different beliefs. We are silly and serious and clumsy and confused. And every single one of us deserves to be able to walk into a theater or pick up a book and see themselves represented. Everyone deserves to belong."

Why you should read the books right now:
The thing about Shaun Hutchinson's writing is, his characters feel real. Which means, of course, that they're not perfect. And I'm just so happy about that. Shaun's characters make mistakes, they do stupid things, they don't know exactly what they want...and it's beautiful to read. In The Deathday Letters, Ollie gets the news that he has 24 hours left to live--and he's determined to live it his way, whether it's right or wrong. fml takes a classic 80s-movie concept--the party of the year--and updates it to a more real, modern setting.

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Author of Legend

"Diversity is important because people are not widgets, some Homo sapien v2.0 churned off a factory line. People are diverse, so why aren't their stories? To dismiss diversity is to favor sameness, which is ignorant, lazy, and frankly, boring as hell. And as entertainers, being boring is our death knell."

Why you should read the books right now:
I knew Legend was something special when I heard Marie Lu talk about her inspiration: Les Miserables with a super-strong soldier girl and a parkour-loving hot guy on the run from a corrupt government. And it's set in a dystopian version of LA. Who couldn't love it? It's honestly a lot a fun, but is also really, really smart--which pretty much sums up Marie herself :)





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Author of Sorrow's Knot

"...the miracle of fiction is that writing about people who are in various profound ways Not You is possible. It is possible to imagine your way into another culture.

It’s possible, but you can’t just glue some feathers and blood sacrifice onto ye olde sword and sorcery story and call it Aztec. Real cultural diversity is far more than a matter of just changing the trappings of the tale and the color of people’s skin.

It takes research, and research of a certain kind. You have to research until you can get to the inside of something." (via Diversity in YA, used with permission)

Why you should read the book right now:
I haven't had the pleasure of reading Sorrow's Knot--yet. But check out the GoodReads description: In the world of Sorrow’s Knot, the dead do not rest easy. Every patch of shadow might be home to something hungry and nearly invisible, something deadly. The dead can only be repelled or destroyed with magically knotted cords and yarns. The women who tie these knots are called binders.

Otter is the daughter of Willow, a binder of great power. She’s a proud and privileged girl who takes it for granted that she will be a binder some day herself. But when Willow’s power begins to turn inward and tear her apart, Otter finds herself trapped with a responsibility she’s not ready for, and a power she no longer wants.

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Author of Salvage

"Diversity in literature is important because the real world is diverse. If what we're trying to do with our writing is give an accurate and interesting picture of the world, it doesn't make sense to show that world from only one perspective any more than it makes sense to write a book that completely ignores gravity or the fact that people age. Diversity is a fundamental fact of life."

Why you should read this book right now:
Hahaha, I'm mean--Salvage doesn't come out for a little more than a month. But go ahead and pre-order it, because it's amazing. I had the very great honor of blurbing this book, and it's great. It's an extraordinarily realistic sci fi world, vivid characters, and is decidedly not the same ol', same ol'--you've gotta check this one out.




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"When I think about diversity in literature, I think about honesty and connection. What is literature for, if not to reflect the truth of our existence and connect us with the rest of humanity? The world is such a diverse, complex place, so pop culture's homogeneity strikes me as inaccurate at best and dishonest at worst. It's not reflecting the world we live in. I think of people on the Internet who claim that stories based on European history have to be completely white, because Europe has always been completely white. It's not true. We only think it's true because we've seen so many movies and read so many books that have skewed our vision of reality. Too often, pop culture is whitewashing the world instead of doing what it should, which is reveal the world to us.

"I also read and write in an attempt to find connection with others, but the problem is that we're currently asked to connect almost exclusively with white men. That's why we get kids in elementary school who feel they can't write stories about non-white, non-male heroes. They feel alienated from so many other kinds of people, even people of their own racial or cultural background, because we don't see them on TV, in the movies, or in books very often. By shunning diversity, we're cutting ourselves off from billions of people and the wide range of feelings they experience. We're cutting ourselves off from ourselves. We're making literature small, when it can be so much larger."

Why you should read this book right now:
Hammer of Witches is a title from Tu Books, a publisher that focuses on diversity. And check out the official blurb! Baltasar Infante, a bookmaker’s apprentice living in 1492 Spain, can weasel out of any problem with a good story. But when he awakes one night to find a monster straight out of the stories peering at him through his window, he’s in trouble that even he can’t talk his way out of.

Soon Baltasar is captured by a mysterious arm of the Spanish Inquisition, the Malleus Maleficarum, that demands he reveal the whereabouts of Amir al-Katib, a legendary Moorish sorcerer who can bring myths and the creatures within them to life. Baltasar doesn’t know where the man is—or that he himself has the power to summon genies and golems.

Baltasar must escape, find al-Katib, and defeat a dreadful power that may destroy the world. As Baltasar’s journey takes him into uncharted lands on Columbus’s voyage westward, he learns that stories are more powerful than he once believed them to be—and much more dangerous.

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Author of Tiger's Curse

You know I'm a huge Star Trek fan right? I loved the sci-fi aspect but I also loved that it showed a diverse cast. That someday there might be a world where your ethnic background and the color of your skin didn't matter. That diversity meant not only embracing other humans but then learning to get along with people from other planets like Vulcans, Bajorans, and Klingons. That you can be different, embrace your culture, and still work towards a common goal. Seeing past what's different and finding that common spark, recognizing that we are all a part of the human family and therefore brothers and sisters in this life experience is so important.

Why you should read this book right now:
Tiger's Curse is an amazing adventure that spans the globe as Kelsey follows a tiger--and her heart--across the world. Involving ancient curses, unknown evil, a mysterious plot, this one is for the romantics who want something different. Added bonus? Colleen is one of the nicest people I know.
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