As mentioned yesterday, today, I am pleased to host my first ever guest post. :)
Today's author is Rasheedah Prioleau, author of American Specter, which releases on Tuesday, February 4th.
Take it away, Rasheedah! :)
I have to begin by saying the word multiculturalism makes me uncomfortable, especially when what we’re talking about is inclusion of people in fiction who come from the same country. It does seem a little sad that in 2014 many in America still haven’t been able to get past skin color, sexual orientation, and/or racial ancestry especially in terms of entertainment. I believe the generation coming next will have it better. But, for now we have to push for inclusion and I do believe it is best to start in all forms of fiction including books.
I sometimes try put myself in the shoes of a white writer and I do empathize with those who just don’t have a diverse group of people around them. If that does happen to be your true to life experience it does become hard to create a fictional world of diversity and do justice to it or make it authentic. At the end of the day we as writers want to be as authentic as possible but at the same time we have to consider our audience. I am not a transgendered drag queen, but for a transgendered drag queen reading my book, it makes a difference to have a lovely character like Magic weaved integrally into the story line.
When we realize that writing has the potential to shape perspectives about people, especially once you gain a platform, then it does become our responsibility to make the world around us more diverse so that we can do justice to creating a fictional world of diversity. I am fortunate as an African American female to have had a wide array of different experiences involving a multitude of different people from vastly different backgrounds. I went to public schools in the D.C. area, and then I went to a private school in Georgia. I began college at an HBCU then I finished at a Liberal Arts college. I’ve studied architecture, art, marketing, and creative writing; all with a different groups of students. I traveled to Europe. I’ve done Los Angeles, New York, Montreal, Quebec, Mardis Gras and Disney World. I’ve lived on the beach.
I’ve lived in the city. I’ve lived in the suburbs. I currently live in the country. So, I have a wealth of personal experience to draw from. That helps my writing become inclusive and authentic.
To the writers that don’t have a whole lot of experience with diversity but want to I would say just put yourself out there. If you can the best way to gain new experiences is through education. Study abroad, take a foreign language, do an art class, you can even take up ballroom dancing. You will quickly find yourself immersed within a group of very different people. Volunteering is also a great way to work with a diverse group of people. There is always something to do in your local community from beautification projects, to the Christmas parade, to story time at the library. As a writer I’m constantly thinking of new experiences that I could take on someday. I’d love to live on a reservation for a few month or work on a cruise ship for a summer. Whatever you decide to do to get yourself out there, make sure it is in a safe and controlled environment, nothing random or ridiculous, please.
When you embark on your journey to write that extremely interesting character into your next book, think about the audience who will eat that character up, but also think about the person who will be able to look up to that character and feel pride because he or she is a lot like them. If a great author can paint a beautiful picture of a typically marginalized character it goes a long way to changing how marginalized individuals are viewed as well as how they view themselves. Once again it’s not just a great thing to do it is our responsibility as writers to do it.
Authenticity and diversity and authenticity -in- diversity are getting more exposure than ever these days. I can only think of that as a good thing. Conversations that should have happened a long time ago are coming to the fore now. I think Rasheedah's right, that things are improving, understanding on all sides is slowly but surely expanding, and we're just going to see more of that in the days to come.
There are some great suggestions here, and plenty to think about.