Diversity in Books – What it means & How Bloggers can contribute

When I decided to take my reading to the next level and blog, I had no idea that there would be this amazingly large community, waiting with open arms, discussing all the things I love. Not one to succumb to the hype of social media I begrudgingly set up my Twitter account and as I got my head around the way it worked, I was pleasantly shocked to realize I had misjudged Twitter. So as I started my journey to simply blog about books I had read, Twitter notifications nudged me in the side and said “Hey listen up, there is something bigger going on.”

It was at this time I found/came across/excitedly followed Dahlia Adler. For those of you who do not know, Dahlia Adler – In her own words this is Dahlia Adler:

dahlia

I’m an Associate Editor of mathematics by day, a Copy Editor by night, and a YA/NA author and blogger (The Daily DahliaYA Misfits, and at Barnes & Noble Book Blog) every spare moment in between. I’m also on a quest to make the perfect French macaron, and enjoying all the flawed ones along the way. (Except the ones I accidentally made with garbanzo bean flour. Those were gross.)

I live in New York City with my husband, who makes seriously good challah and mostly doesn’t mind when I yell at the TV. My debut YA novel is called BEHIND THE SCENES, and you might like it. My debut NA novel is called LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT, and you might like that one too. I’ve also written a bunch more books and some of them will be available soon; for buy info and updates on my upcoming books, click here.

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What Adler doesn’t put in her bio (and she should) is that she is the Queen of Advocating for Diversity in Books. Adler spends copious amounts of her own time contributing to Twitter discussions, guest posting, participating in discussion forums, promoting other authors and put simply, discussing diversity in every way possible.

Upon realization, it was then I acknowledged and then decided that ‘Diversity in Books’ was a cause that I wanted to join as a reader and book blogger. And in noticing this, I decided upon this interview, wanting to know what I, as a blogger could do to contribute?

1 – This is the most obvious question, but in the hope of raising awareness, diversity in books. What exactly does that mean?

Increasing diversity in books is about increasing representation of marginalized perspectives – expanding and highlighting books that feature characters outside the cisgender, heterosexual, white, able-bodied, Christian, middle-class “norm.” It’s also tied in to diversifying the publishing industry as a whole – getting more people from minority backgrounds into publishing in the hopes it’ll also help change the landscape.

2 – If anyone knows you (or as a bare minimum follows you on twitter) they would know you are a HUGE advocate for diversity in books. When was that moment when you realized, it needs to be addressed? And, I have to do something about it?

You know, I don’t know the answer to that, actually. As an author, it’s always mattered to me; I have no books or even discarded manuscripts with all-white, all-straight casts. As a…blogger? Tweeter? I think it’s just escalated the more of a voice I’ve been lucky to have. I wasn’t always tweeting book recs every day; who would’ve listened to them? Now that people do, and now that I have a huge blogging platform, I take as much advantage of that as I can.

3 – There is a lot of focus on diversity in books; from an Authors perspective do you think it is being addressed accordingly?

I think authors are trying, but ultimately, a lot depends on the publishing side – it’s still about what publishers are buying and who they’re buying from. I don’t see it as a strong emphasis on the part of publishers, publicists, conference organizers, or the media, so while I think it’s great that nearly every author I know is more consciously trying to include more marginalized perspectives, there’s only so far they can go with it.

4 – There are two main people in the literary world relationship. There is the author and the reader, as authors are beginning to become familiar with diversity and advocate for it. What should readers be doing to contribute? Is reading a book enough?

I really wish I could say it was enough just to want the books and read them, but this goes back to the business part of publishing – publishers need to be convinced these books make money. If you want covers with people of color, or same-sex couples, or characters in wheelchairs, you have to buy those books; you have to prove readers want them. Same thing regarding books with diverse content. Readers are the ones who have the power to make that argument to publishers. (And if you can’t spend the money on books, requesting them through a library is every bit as awesome, since libraries will generally purchase them upon request.) Spreading the word about the great ones definitely helps too!

5 – As blogging and social media has become a popular way to express views and share thoughts on books, how can we use these mediums to impact diversity positively?

Recommend, recommend, recommend! And not just in a “Here are diverse recs!” way. I see a lot of pushing diverse books in this “separate but equal” way that’s still very much Othering. But these books aren’t second class. I don’t recommend Pointe or The Wrath and the Dawn or Written in the Stars or Black Iris or This is Where it Ends because they’re diverse; I recommend them because they’re great. If I write a roundup post on great historical fiction, Under a Painted Sky will be on there because it’s great historical fiction, not because the main character and author are Chinese-American. So there’s that balance I think is really important. You should always be talking about diverse books, but I think the real goal is to make that a seamless conversation. And if you don’t feel you know enough of them that you can recommend them in every genre conversation that comes up, keep reading until you do. I never stop.

  1. What are your hopes for diversity in books, in the future?

I hope we’ll see more intersectionality and stop acting like there’s a maximum number of marginalized characteristics a person can have before they’re “unrealistic.” I hope we’ll get to a point where there are just way more options; it’s so depressing how many recs people ask me for that have only one or two possibilities, if that, and they’re so basic – I have more queer disabled friends on Twitter than I know exist in the entirety of YA. I have so many friends on the asexual spectrum, but that isn’t reflected in YA at all. I hope we’ll see the race gap close up in publishing, and see a positive effect on racial diversity in characters as a result. And I hope people will read heavily and support the great titles that go under the radar; so many of the best ones do.

For more current, consistent and constant information on diversity I encourage you to follow Dahlia Adler.

Twitter  Facebook  The Daily Dahlia

Dahlia’s new, very much diverse and highly anticipated novel Under the Lights will be released on the 30th June 2015 – Get your copy here

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In conclusion, as an avid reader I feel that there has been a massive increase in books with diversity. Authors are drawing and becoming more comfortable in exposing their personal experience, through their writing and they are exploring issues pertaining to diversity in today’s society and ultimately, whole-heartedly backing the upcoming and hopefully permanent development of diversity in books.

I think it also needs to be acknowledged that diversity in books is not exclusive to any one genre, there is no one go-to genre for diversity portrayal and more importantly no genre is exempt from depicting diversity.  As committed readers and bloggers, regardless of what books you read & what story lines interest you, I implore you to become aware of diversity or lack of diversity in the books you read. Make an effort to contribute to the change.

Much Love

xxx

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