You will hate me for this post. Go ahead. Start hating me now. Why read it? It won't be pleasant. I sweat in fear over writing this for the last several hours, thinking. I should write it. Then thinking, no, I shouldn't. I will get a lot of hate mail. Then thinking, well, I need to get used to hate mail, because the more vocal I become, the more haters I will gather. They're like popularity trophies. Then I thought, well, I'm stupid. Why should I say anything at all? Then I thought, no, I'm not stupid. What if what I think has value? What if I have something important to say? Why shouldn't I say it? Oh, it's the lack of confidence. It's been beaten into my head since I was little. I conveniently hid (hid? HIDE. I still hide.) behind this label of being an abuse victim. Hey, I can't openly talk about shit, because those bad assholes did bla-bla-bla to me... Awww, people would say, poor girl, we need to comfort her. Well, you know what, I need to ditch this and stop hiding. I'm doing it little by little, which is not an excuse, of course, but, hey, if I can't be ME, than how can you read what I write, how can you possibly be interested in anything I have to say if you don't even know who I am? Yeah. That got under my skin today. And I thought, well, fuck it. I will say what I think. And what I think is this.
I DON'T UNDERSTAND THE PREACHING OF DIVERSITY IN BOOKS.
HATE ME NOW.
I will wait. Are you done hating me? No. Go ahead. I'll wait.
Still here? Amazing. Well, let me backpedal a bit. I did participate in the whole Twitter hashtag thingy, the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. It kicked off on May 1st and is supposed to be ending today, on May 3rd. It originated after BEA BookCon announced an all-white-male author panel for kid lit. There was an uproar at this. I joined it. I did it a bit like a monkey. Monkey see, monkey do. I saw big important writers do it, and I did it too. While I did it, I also stumbled on a couple blogs and read them, and slowly I started thinking. I started thinking that I don't fully understand this idea, and, frankly, it bothers me that people shout on every corner that we need diverse books. It started sounding more like frustration over no women authors and no authors of color included on that particular panel. There is more. I don't fully grasp the extent of diversity issue in the publishing world because, 1) I self-publish, and 2) I'm deep in my head most of the time and don't read industry blogs or news.
NOW, I'M ALL FOR DIVERSITY. SO DON'T THINK I'M EVIL.
What I see here, though, is a struggle between underrepresented writers and publishers. This tells me the industry itself needs to change. Simply demanding more diversity in books is not going to help a 13 year old African American girl find a book she loves and wants to read. She won't read a book that's been represented at some BookCon. Sorry. Her mom has no money to buy books. Her mom is drunk out of her mind most of the day (just painting a hypothetical scenario for you here, not meaning to offend any particular race, might be a Russian girl, for that matter). What will that girl do? She will read what her friends tell her they read. Maybe. If she will read at all. And why wouldn't she? Because there is no discovery mechanism for her. She doesn't go to bookstores, she doesn't go to libraries, she smokes pot with her friends, to get over her issues. There is a book she will love. It's out there. Most likely it's been self-published and most likely she will never find it. What we need to do is make sure she reads in the first place. If it's a book by a white male author, so be it! She is reading! Hallelujah!!! And what if there isn't a book out there that she wants to read? What if she never wants to read one?
WE NEED TO COMPEL HER TO WRITE HER OWN.
This is where I think the issue is. Literature is only one way to make art. There is music, songs, paintings, theater, photography. Is there no diversity in music? In art? In cinema? Kids will always find voices that speak to them, and they will not always be books. As artists, we need to come to terms with the fact that we need to continue making art that is true to ourselves. If it's not something we want to do, if there is pressure on us to do it because everyone on the street is shouting about it, it won't be honest art.
Yes, I'm writing a book right now where two main characters are a Jewish gay boy and a Russian pregnant girl. Do I do it because I wanted my book to be "diverse"? No. I did it because it's what bothered me since I was a teen, growing up in Russia, witnessing the hatred, the intolerance toward anyone who didn't fit the clearcut Russian profile, not white, not straight, not whatever. Chauvinism, sexism, misogyny, racism, nazism, whatever other -ism you can imagine, we had it. I hated it. Somehow I managed to grow up color blind, and nationality blind, and sexual orientation blind. How? By letting go of that hate. By forgiving. I was sexually, physically, verbally abused. I'm supposed to hate the whole WHITE MALE image. But I don't. I don't hate anybody. I did. In the past. Not anymore. (That's why it's so hard for me to write this book, I have to go back to that hating.) I forgave. I learned how to love.
I LOVE EVERYONE.
So. Diverse books. I get the premise, the idea. But at the same time, as an artist, I create from something that's deep inside me. I spill out something that's bothering ME, interests ME, inspires ME. If I don't care for something, I can't possibly create honest art. I'm all for writing and reading diverse books, if that is what YOU want to do. But if not, I don't want to be the one telling you that, and I apologize to those of you who follow me on Twitter if you felt like I was preaching. I need to get rid of my fear and keep being more ME and less someone I think people would like me to see as.
I DON'T CARE WHO WROTE THE BOOK AS LONG AS IT'S GOOD.
There. I said it. This is what I think deep inside. I feel a lot of pressure, self-imposed, of course, but pressure nonetheless. I see writers online reading each other, or women writers reading other women writers, or indie writers reading other indie writers, and I don't do any of those things. I just read the books I want to read. For their stories. I feel guilty, idiotic, ignorant. I'm afraid people will tell me, hey, why aren't you reading more books written by women? Or, why aren't you reading more books written by indie authors, you're an indie author yourself, why aren't you supporting them? Or, hey, why aren't you trying to help us to get this thing going, this DIVERSITY IN BOOKS for children thing we think is important? My answer is very simple. I don't care for it. I tried, over these last couple days, I tried to care about diversity in books very much, and I don't. I'm not against it, I'm all for it, yet I don't have the passion to push it. I don't see it as an answer. I see the answer deeper.
If you want to do something worth while, as an artist, share love. That's all you can do. Share your love. Who do you love? Tell us. As you go through your life, you will stumble on things. Things that bother you, things that you want to change, for the better. Do it. Tell others about it. Because you care. YOU care. Not because everyone is shouting about it on every corner. Do you care about diversity in books? Then read them, review them, give them to friends, talk about them. You don't care about diversity in books? Then go and do something else you care about.
We're not enemies. We all want to be loved. We all want to give love. We don't know how sometimes. There shouldn't even be an uproar about lack of diversity in books. We're all human beings, what does it matter what color skin we have? What language we speak? Who we love?
MAKE YOUR ART YOUR OWN WAY.
What does it matter how we share ourselves with each other? What art it is? As long as we share love. This tendency you're seeing, this white male domination, is telling us something. Perhaps we need to look at reader demographics to see a bigger picture. I'm sure there is a bigger picture. There always is one. And if a writer happens to be a white male, should he go kill himself now? Feel guilty for being successful? Dig deeper. Dig into position of women, position of minorities. That's where the root of the problem is. Dig into education levels. Literacy. Can an illiterate person write a book? No. Does that mean they don't share their art with others? No. They do. Their own way. Then why so much hate?
This is what bothers me. I understood it now, after writing it all out. There is hatred here. This shouting at the BookCon for selecting white male authors. Should those authors feel guilty now for being white and male and celebrated? Should the people who selected them feel guilty for selecting them? This is what's bothering me. I can't stand behind something that stems from this. Maybe hatred is too strong of a word. But I wonder how it made these people feel.
So perhaps this needs to be rephrased. Not, WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS. But rather, WE NEED MORE WRITERS.
We need to shift the ratio. We need to write about us. Because there are so many of us. We're all different colors, different nationalities, we believe in different Gods, or no Gods at all, we love who we love, and we need to tell our stories. If all of us wrote a book about our story, the ratio would shift. And from the last I heard, the time for creative writing in my son's school has been cut down from 80% to 50%. He is 10. He is white. But if he was Latino? And a girl? What if this girl never got the skills or the motivation to write a book? Guess what will happen. She will grow up and never do. So, here is what you can do, if you're still reading this.
WRITE. WRITE YOUR BOOK. ABOUT YOU. LET'S FLOOD THE WORLD WITH BOOKS. THAT'S HOW WE CAN MAKE IT MORE DIVERSE.
IF THERE IS A BOOK MISSING OUT THERE , WRITE IT.
Not by pointing fingers at white male authors and making them feel wrong. Not by shouting that your kids don't have enough diverse books to read. Don't wait for businesses to hear you. It will take ages. Make your own revolution. Establish your own publishing businesses. Write books. Help your kids write books. Self-publish them. Give them away. Share your love. That's all that matters. Okay, I'm done ranting. if you want to kill me for this, I'm yours. Much love, as always. XOXO