Sunday 1 March 2015

Diversity - Windows and Mirrors

Windows and mirrors is what diversity in children's fiction should be all about. A chance for children to look at how other children lead their lives but also a chance for children to see themselves in stories.

Diversity covers so much: race, heritage, disability including mental health, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation (LGBQT+) and age to name but a few. And people may cover several groups, they are not exclusive. The important thing about diversity in children's books is not that we make these characters stand out as in the 'token diverse' character, which is an insult in my opinion, but that we are writing stories that celebrates our differences and our shared humanity. Where we are writing stories that are driven by great characters who just happen to be diverse but that is not the most important thing, it is unconscious. The story should be the most important thing.

Recently Beth Cox and Alexandra Strick of Inclusive Minds organised A Place at the Table where they invited publishers, booksellers, librarians and teachers to discuss the proposed first charter on diversity for the publishing world. It was highlighted how publishers were trying publish diverse books unselfconsiously, which is important but unfortunately booksellers were then marketing them consciously as issue books thus defeating the point. The idea being that children reading these books should see characters as being like them and a natural part of their life not as an issue that needs understanding. Diverse books are not issue books. The charter should be released shortly and will be based on the feedback from the event which is fantastic news.

Following on from the A Place at the Table we held a #geaqa on diversity which was frantic. One of the questions that came up was do you have a right to write from the point of view of a certain diverse character if you were not a member of particular diverse group. The general consensus was yes as long as you do a lot of in depth research. It was also suggested it was a good idea to find members of the group to act as your beta readers to check whether your character is credible or not. This sort of question is not new though, for many years it has been asked whether a woman can write as a man and vice versa for example. We all know whenever you write you need to be able to walk in your character's shoes. However, there is always the risk of falling into the trap of over emphasizing the stereotypes which is why it is important to do your research. Make your characters believable and someone that children can empathize with.

Don't forget to keep an eye out for the Golden Egg Academy Diversity Bursary for the Editor's Course which was launched at the Big Honk as we hope to continue to support diversity in publishing too.

This is the Piano Guys and What Makes You Beautiful because diversity is beautiful

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