December 15, 2016 by Sydney Nicole
It’s been a while since I’ve written a post. Like a long while, however I’m going to make my first post back on here an extremely important one.
Let’s talk a bit about diversity. The need for more diversity, the need for all of us to support authors who write well-thought out diverse books and especially #OwnVoices authors.
I would like to start off with this video by WhittyNovels. In it, she talks about the need for more diversity and own voice books, and why we should support these authors and books. Towards the end, there are multiple testimonials from various people (myself included) who are a part of a marginalized group. You guys should 100% check out this video, and also take a look at all the resources in the description box and then come back here!
Are you back? I’m assuming you’re back. Okay cool, let’s get into it.
I first want to be honest, my bookshelves as they are do not scream “Diverse Reads!!” They should, but they don’t. It’s something I am actively working on to change as you are reading this. It’s something that many people have been blind to for a very long time, but as of now I will end my complacency and start actively advocating for Own Voice literature and representation in YA. I think the best way to explain why representation is important in YA and in media in general is to tell a small bit of my personal story.
Let it be known, most of my own family doesn’t know any of this, but it’s something I feel can help people understand what it’s like to not be represented in the surrounding media.
Like I said in the video, I’m Puerto Rican and El Salvadorian. I’m also bisexual, however the only people who know that are my friends, my boyfriend and, now, you guys.
The struggle with my sexuality spans across my entire life, and I’m not going to get into the boring details but I will say this: If I had at least one character in any of the books I read, in any of the video games I played or in any of the TV shows and movies I watched that was bisexual, I probably would have had the self-hatred that I did.
Representation, especially in the YA genre, is so important because teens and young adults are constantly learning about themselves. We need these stories to be told so it can help shape not only our identity, but it helps us understand the perspectives of the people around us.
Being bi in a world where the only thing presented to me was straight relationships between two impossibly beautiful people left me no room to believe that my bisexuality was okay. That I wasn’t a monster, or sick in the head. In fact, my longing to have a relationship with a girl is just as valid if I wanted to have a relationship with a boy. But as a child, going into a teen and eventually a young adult, I didn’t understand that. It wasn’t until I went to my first NYC Pride Parade when I fully understood my sexuality and accepted myself.
For the longest time I grew up in the church, a place where I though everyone accepted one another. However, as I grew up I overheard the things they would say about the LGBTQA+ community. How we were monsters. That we were sick, and needed God. We were disgusting. Being told this on a weekly basis, along with the lack of LGBTQA+ representation in anything I read or watch only reinforced the idea that I was not “normal.”
I was told this by my mom and church, which let’s be honest is expected. But what really hurt the most was that I was essentially told this by my books as well.
Now I’m not saying that I read a book when I was young that said that being LGBTQA+ was “evil” and that we needed fixing, but when you read heterosexual relationships over and over again and you never see any characters that fall in love the same way as you do, it gets pretty discouraging. The lack of diversity isn’t saying that being bi is “bad,” but it’s also not even acknowledging its existence.
And that’s, at least to me, one of the biggest reasons why we need more and more diversity: To acknowledge and validate the existence of every race, religion, sexuality and gender identity. We need to give these groups a voice, and these characters to live like these marginalized groups so young adults and teens who are going through self discovery can find a cast of characters that they can relate to.
In the real world, we are here. Valid. And our stories matter, and deserve to be told along side what is usually put out there.
And we as a community need to support books with a diverse cast of characters, especially Own Voice authors.
If you need any convincing to read more diversely or support diversity in YA, please take my story as an example. Mine is one of millions of stories, stories of teenagers who are from marginalized groups and had no one and nothing to tell them that they belonged.
I hope this post makes sense, it’s currently 2AM here in NY as I am typing this. Sending you guys lots of love and good vibes, and I hope you choose to read and support Own Voice authors and diverse books.
Until next time my bookish friends! xo