We need diverse books

23:39, May 01 2014

There's a social media campaign going on at the moment called #weneeddiversebooks - which is being run in protest at the lack of representation by when it comes to authors of colour and female writers at some of the biggest book conventions in America (you can google the hashtag and read more about the debate yourself).

While I agree whole-heartedly with the idea of diversity in literature, I also think we need to go even further. We need books by people of different ethnicities, books by LGBT authors, genre books, books about niche interests like raising bonsai kittens on farms, heck...the more diversity the better.

I realise this wasn't the original intention of the #weneeddiversebooks campaign, but literature needs a diversity of voices and backgrounds. People read to think, to learn and sometimes to escape. What better way to do this than through a character, setting or point of view radically different than your own?

It doesn't mean you have to agree with everything being said, but the best sort of books push the envelope and helps you form your own opinion about different topics.

I think there is a need to be cautious about pigeon-holing authors during this campaign too - for sure, I'd love to read writers of colour, but not all African-American authors, for example, should feel that they have to be the next Toni Morrison or Alice Walker. Not all Chinese-American authors should feel like they need to live up to Amy Tan or Lisa See.

What this campaign should do is to encourage readers (and through them, the publishing industry and indie authors) to try something different, to read widely, but also not to be put off by a foreign sounding name on the cover. Or to pre-judge what they think the book will be about by the colour of the author's skin.


The real power of this campaign lies not in shaming the reader, because we all have prejudices that arise from our backgrounds, but in reminding those who read of the reasons why they read in the first place - fun, knowledge, imagination and escape.

The more diverse you make your literary habits, not restricting yourself to one genre or certain authors, or treating the preferences of your youth as a security blanket ("eww, I've hated YA since I was 15!"), then the higher your chances of finding a new book or writer that you really love.

Do you think we need more diversity in books?

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