The Clasp by Sloane Crosley These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

We Need Diverse Books

Thursday, May 1, 2014

I'm sure by now you've all seen #weneediversebooks on Twitter, which is part of the We Need Diverse Books campaign. Obviously, as a black Caribbean Brit, this is very important to me and I wholly back the campaign. I think it's obvious (or at least it should be) that we do in fact need diverse books and a shame that we have to campaign for it. However, for those who need convincing, here are a few reasons why I personally feel we need more diverse books.

First and foremost, so that young children today can see themselves reflected in the media in the same way I did when I was a child. Looking back on everything, I don't think I ever really questioned my identity. I have always been proud of who I am and where I come from and this all stemmed from good parenting, a strong faith, and the media I had access too. Growing up in the 90's, I never had to look very far to see someone like me reflected on the TV and my parents went to great lengths to make sure our books were diverse too. When we got home, we could watch Sister, Sister and Moesha and Smart Guy and The Proud Family. During the school holidays, our national TV stations had no problem showing The Cosby Show, Hangin' With Mr Cooper, Martin, The Oprah Winfrey Show and so many other shows featuring people who looked like me. This was so important considering we moved from a very diverse area to a predominantly white area. For a long time, my sister and I were the only black children in our primary school but we never experienced any problems and were always healthy, happy children. So much so, I never questioned the diversity issue until I started really getting into this blogging thing, particularly the YA section, and realised actually yes, all the characters in these YA contemporary books that I devour are rather homogenous. Where did it all go wrong?

To avoid tokenism and exoticism. These days, people in positions of authority seem to think they've passed the diversity test (because inclusion is a chore just like a test?) because there's one background character who is from a minority group. Similarly, this character might be added to the mix to 'spice things up'. Let's put in a 'fiesty Latina or a 'sassy' gay character. That's not cool. It perpetuates 'otherness' and elevates one group over another in a seemingly inoffensive way. 

I've seen a lot of people putting forward the vampire/monster example and think that's perfect. If Edward Cullen can make everyone's hearts flutter, why can't a HUMAN from a minority group do the same?! When you put it so simply, it really makes you think. 

So that when children of today go to interviews in 10-15 years time, they will know it is NOT normal or acceptable for the all white office of a multinational corporation to stop working and gawp as you walk by as if you're an alien. So that their interviewer will not go dead in the eyes when they realise you're not like everyone else in the office so won't be a good 'cultural fit', therefore won't even bother to interview you properly. Instead, said interviewer won't bat an eyelid because they will be interviewing the person whose CV/resume/cover letter suggested they are more than capable of sitting at the table. 

Regarding my own people, so that people know that our story is more than just slavery or poverty or rioting or rapping/dancing/entertaining/playing sports.

Finally, so that when another Lupita comes along (and hopefully there will be many more) we won't have magazines going into overcompensation mode because she's so 'different'. We won't have people who are 'pleasantly surprised' to hear someone like her speak so eloquently or be called beautiful. So that people like Lupita can just go on about their business doing what they love rather than having to carry the weight of all the other dark skinned people out there who have a dream because it will just be normal to have a dream of being on the big screen and be able to accomplish it regardless of your skin tone. 

I could go on forever but those are the first points that come to mind. If you feel we need more diverse books, join the campaign! 


  1. I completely agree that YA literature needs more diversity--but I do feel like there have been steps in the right direction. There is always room for more, though! Great post!

    1. Thanks Natalie! Yeah it's good that people are talking about it more and more.


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