There have long been discussions surrounding representation in books, and those discussions have increased recently. Fact: We need more diverse people in publishing, in various roles, including as agents, editors, in marketing, in buying, in selling. We need people who aren’t going to tell Black men and women they didn’t connect to the ‘voice’ of their character. (What does that even mean?) I wrote a post recently (which you can read here) touching on why we need to actively search out books by diverse authors.
If you’re a writer, as well as a reader, you might now be wondering about your own writing. Is your cast of characters diverse? Do they reflect the world we live in, or are the characters carbon copies of the person writing them? (I’m talking specifically to white, cis authors here, by the way)
There are some stories that are not ours to tell. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t include characters who are different than us in our own stories. Writing the Other gives a brilliant idea of how you can start with this.
In this book, Shawl & Ward do not shy away from hard topics. They outline to us, the reader, why diversity is important, as well as touching upon the fact that not trying is almost worse than getting it wrong. They also briefly discuss the fact that yes, we will get it wrong, we are human, but it’s important to acknowledge that if and when we do and to strive to do better.
My personal opinion is, if you are writing outside your experience, use sensitivity readers. (And pay them) This book is, however, a fantastic starting point, giving direction and guidance on where to start, on what to take into consideration, and there are great exercises included if you like doing that sort of thing.
This book will help you look at your writing (and perhaps the writing of others) in a different light, and help you create a more diverse cast of characters in your fiction. I strongly suggest making this the next writing book you pick up.