This isn’t about me. As I’ve considered all the ways I can approach this week’s discussion topic and the ethics of writing marginalized characters I’ve found that my instinct is to frame my post around myself: my experience, my marginalizations, my book. Me, me, me.
And that’s one of the ways I’m part of the problem.
Publishing, like so many industries, is dominated by white people. And as people are drawn to stories they understand, stories about people like them, publishing is rife with stories about white folks when books should be a place that everyone can find a hero they recognize. It’s a problem that’s been realized by many people, including those in the YA community– the community I call my own.
I am so grateful to these people– primarily women of color– who have stood up, spoken out, and done the work that has shaped the conversation about diversity in publishing in the last few years.
As many of my fellow debutantes have said, one of the best things we, as people who want to represent the world around us in our writing, can do is listen. Listen to the people who are talking about their marginalizations. Take what they are saying to heart.
Keep buying and reading books by people whose lives have been different than your own. Listen to them. Follow conversations as they happen on the internet and in your day to day life.
And if you find yourself feeling defensive? That’s one way to know that you’ve run up against your own internal bias. Keep listening. Question your own internal biases and keep listening.
Non-profit work has been my day job bread and butter for the last four years, and so I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the organization that does more than just about anyone else for diversity in children’s literature, We Need Diverse Books. I encourage you to spend some time on their website. Watch their videos. Read their mission. Read the books written by the incredible people on their team. And donate. Because now, as much as we always have, we need diverse books.
Kaitlyn Sage Patterson
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