I can’t really tell if it’s a surprise that I’m not, since I have pictures of me on my blog, but I’m not. And I thought that since there’s been such a huge move in #ownvoices and listening to minorities and teenagers, that I thought I’d talk about something more personal that bothers me a little: the fact that it seems like because I’m a minority, I have some sort of job to be the paragon of diversity.
So, let’s talk about it, I guess.
Sometimes, I feel guilty for the fact that I don’t dedicate my life to reading diverse books and have zero need to inflate a book’s rating because there’s diversity in it. Now more than ever, it feels like since I’m not only a minority, but also a teenage book blogger, that my voice needs to be elevated and that I must now be some sort of example for minorities being represented in books. That I now am able to be the one who can say a book has good rep or bad rep.
And I really, really hate it.
I mean, shouldn’t I care about representation in books? Have I not been asking for stories that feature protagonists like me? Didn’t I rave over The Hate U Give, and shouldn’t I demand more books like it? Do I have some sort of job as a minority to care about all these things? I HAVE NO IDEA.
I totally understand why people want to elevate my voice and voices like my own. YA is mainly written for young adults, and we’ve been pushing for diversity in books for years, and we don’t just want diverse books, we want diverse books that are written well, that have good representation, and make people feel like they’re not alone, which is completely and totally valid. So, obviously, we’re going to look to minorities and teenagers to make sure that those messages are getting across correctly.
As a black girl, I feel like I’m obligated to care.
I feel like I’m obligated to read all the diverse books out there. I feel like I’m obligated to read books featuring black main characters just because I’m black, and shouldn’t that be what I want from the publishing industry? I feel obligated to constantly be on the outlook for problematic content, and call it out when needed. And I feel guilty sometimes when I realize I’d rather read or promote books with white protagonists or protagonists that are nothing like me.
A snapshot of my life: I live in North Carolina, which is in the south, but not the SOUTH south. I go to a private school where pretty much every single student is white, and only a handful are black. All my best friends are white, and I don’t talk to the black kids at all. My family and I are pretty much middle class, and I’ve never had any sort of “huge discussion” with my parents because of our race. I have never experienced overt racism. Ignorance from white people (which is to be expected), but nothing that’s been said to my face to make me feel lesser than. In short, I notice that I’m different than the majority of people around me, but I have never been in the mindset of feeling different because I’m black.
I think I’ve realized that, personally, representation has never mattered to me.
I know that it can definitely be helpful to other bookworms, especially since we all have different experiences, but it’s never been that way for me. I remember my mom always wanting me to have black people to aspire to when I was younger. Trying to push me to read more books with black main characters when I was younger, trying to get me to befriend the new black girls at my school when they arrived, wanting me to look up to successful black women such as Shonda Rhimes and Viola Davis when I (briefly) wanted to work in the entertainment industry. And I just never got it, and I think I’ve realized that it’s just because I’m lucky. I have never personally felt that I couldn’t do something because of my skin color or that I can’t be successful. I’ve just never put those types of limits on myself, and I have no reason to WANT to put those limits on myself. I’ve always just relied on me, especially since I’m a very introverted person, and I don’t think I can’t do something.
And I think that attitude just bleeds into my reading life as well. For me, reading is a hobby that I love that helps me de-stress. Blogging is a hobby that I do for fun that I hope is helping me for my future of wanting to work in the publishing industry. And being constantly bombarded with negativity and what’s problematic and what’s not and being told OVER AND OVER again to read diverse books I have zero interest in is not something I want to involve myself in, nor do I need that added stress and negativity in my life.
And that bothers me a little.
Because I sometimes get nervous wanting to make discussions that aren’t on the popular side regarding diverse and problematic books (but I’m going to anyway). Or just saying that a large majority of diverse books just don’t interest me. Or when I say I straight-up hated a diverse book without beating around the bush (like the ones pictured above that disappointed me). Not only because of the reaction, but just for the fact that I feel like it’s my job to be the opposite of all of those things AND MORE, and it’s some sort of betrayal that I’m not championing for diversity every five seconds as a diverse reader myself.
I guess there can’t really be a conclusion to this since it’s still an issue that I’m working through, but I did want to end this post with some recommendations of underrated, already released diverse books and some 2018 diverse releases that I’m very much looking forward to so this post doesn’t seem all Negative Nelly!
Evenfall by Santino Hassel & Ais // The obviously much-better hate to love, slow-burn romance between two guys where one is violent and angry, and one is…less violent and angry, but still violent and angry, with a little bit of sass set in a dystopian world. So basically Illegal Contact, except a ship I actually care about. Don’t knock me for still not having read the damn sequels.
Tattoo Atlas by Tim Floreen//A smart YA sci-fi novel that asks if a bad person can truly change via science and if it’s necessarily right to do so with a gay boy at the helm of it. I literally haven’t said a word of this novel on my blog, but it is freaking amazing and begging to be read.
Boy Robot by Simon Curtis // An action-packed, emotional sci-fi novel brimming with a cast of wonderful diverse characters and beautiful stories and all the feelings and a cliffhanger to boot because SIMON CURTIS HATES ME. This book isn’t talked about enough, and it demands to be.
Release by Patrick Ness // A contemporary novel where a gay boy who has grown up in a conservative Christian family goes through a pretty rough day. The book is so honest! The friendships are so great! The way sex is handled in this book is what I’ve been waiting for my entire life! Please read this book when it comes out!
Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody // A fantastic dark fantasy with a mix of a murder mystery with great world-building and one of the best premises of ever. I know this just came out, but I don’t think it’s getting the attention it deserves!
The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton // I HAVE AN ARC OF THIS AND I CANNOT WAIT TO READ IT! A fantasy world where only certain people get the coveted spot of being a Belle and the idea of working from the inside? I’m loving it.
Lizzie by Dawn Ius // The Lizzie Borden case has begun to interest me ever since I watched the Buzzfeed Unsolved episode about it, and this one dips into the theory of Lizzie having an affair with the maid, and because her parents disapproved of it, she killed them so the two of them could be together. YES, PLEASE.
For any diverse readers out there, do you feel the same way as I do (or am I just silly)? How do you view diversity and representation? I’d love to hear your thoughts!