Monday, December 1, 2014

Diverse to whom?

Diverse to Whom?

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For those who don't know I've self-published a funny, quirky, YA science fiction novel entitled Sins Of The Father that details the exploits of three black sisters with superpowers. And yes, it's considered diverse.  But diverse to whom and why? The book is definitely not diverse to me as the three protagonist are remarkably similar to my daughters. So who would consider it diverse? And why label it as such? The story is, in essence, the classic hero journey that is universal and relatable to everyone so why the tags? Well, the publishing industry for one would consider my book diverse.  And their word matters more than most. And they do this out of laziness and or ignorance by assuming any book that contains a 'black' protagonist is a black book and must be marketed as such. Most authors would consider this the soft racism of low expectations but is being labeled diverse a bad thing? Yes, and no.  When you identify a book as black, or gay, or, other you are doing two things; you are letting a segment of the populace know that there are stories and characters out there that they can identify with. Stories told from a POV that is largely ignored by publishing, TV, movies.  But you might also be limiting the reach and scope of that book.  Once you identify a book as other you lower the ceiling for it’s earning potential and limit its audience.  This is something that black movies struggle with. 
They realize the allure Morris Chestnut or Michael Ealy has to a specific demographic but they also don't want their movies to be pigeon holed as being “black”.   The Sony Hack spoke volumes of what movie executives thought about movies with a black lead and it was not flattering. But I am self-published so how do I stand out and make myself be seen? For starters, I am not ashamed to say that you will frequently see me tweeting my book out with the #diverse and #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtags. As a self-published author I have to leverage as many social media tools I can avail myself to and hashtags do provide visibility. But I also want as many people to read my books as read JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series.  I'm not sure how realistic that is if they are labeled as black.  But I also realize that JK Rowling had her challenges as well. The woman is an industry now but she struggled financially and chose to use her initials on the book because it was assumed fantasy readers would not be as enthused to buy books from a female author.  Yes, the struggle is real and all around us.  But are my books really diverse? Shonda Rhimes may have stated best what diversity is or isn't. 

I really hate the word 'diversity.' It suggests something...other. As if it is something special, or rare. Diversity! As if there is something unusual about telling stories involving women and people of color and LGBTQ characters on TV. I have a different word: normalizing. I'm normalizing TV. I am making TV look like the world looks. Women, people of color, LGBTQ people equal way more than 50 percent of the population. Which means it ain't out of the ordinary?"

All this is true but how does it help me? I have books to sell in a landscape that gets more competitive everyday. So yes I'm going to keep using hashtags to bring visibility to myself and my books  because black, white or other,  if people don't know about them they can't read them. And whether we agree the diversity tag is a good thing or not we can agree that it would be nice if someone other than a straight white male was allowed to save the planet from an alien invasion or a mad dictator with a nuclear bomb.  Preferably someone who looks like my daughters...

Link  of Sins Of The Father:
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