The Best Way to Promote Diverse Books (IMO)

In a society where internet is king and social media is prolific, you would think that the best way to promote diverse books would be obvious. Lots of people and organisations do it this way– We Need Diverse Books has an indiegogo campaign going on at the moment, bloggers talk about diverse titles in hopes of getting people to support and encourage diverse literature and here I am on WordPress and munching on butter cookies pretty much doing the same thing.

But is that the best way to promote diverse books?

Maybe. You might have a bigger reach in terms of audience, but how many people are actually going out there to borrow or buy these titles? Probably a disappointing few.

So my 2 cents? Start small. People don’t achieve world domination in a day and I’m not optimistic enough to think I can influence more than half a dozen people into thinking anything (actually, even six people is verging on optimistic).

Get out there and talk to your friends and family about books you love. Personally, I’m much more likely to read something based on a personal recommendation from a friend because I trust their judgment enough to give it a go. Do the same for diverse titles that you like- Read it, talk about it and pass it on.

Will it become a bestseller because you told everyone in your friend circle to read it? Probably not (unless you’re a mega celebrity and people take your word as law).

But even if it influences just one person’s thought on a topic or shows another different perspective, at least you have made a contribution and that counts for something.

So dear readers, have you ever successfully convinced a friend or family member to read a book you love? Was it well received?*

Till next time,

Not Another Mary Sue

* And isn’t it crushing when you ask them if they enjoyed it when they’re done and they say it was “ok”? Well do you know what else is ok? Me not talking to you for the next few hours. (This is not at all from personal experience…)

A Brief Guide on How to Read More Diversely

In this aspect, I am a huge hypocrite. I am the number one fan of sticking to my favoured genres (sci-fi, fantasy and historical fiction FTW) and my favoured authors. I am hardly one to #readoutsidethebox but I sure would like to change it. If there’s anything other great campaigns on diverse books have taught me, it’s that there’s not necessarily an absence of diverse fiction, but rather it’s not being talked about enough which usually leads to them largely being unknown, which consequently sucks.

"What d'ya mean you don't read diversely?" ft. My Judgmental and Possibly Overweight Cat named Po.

“What d’ya mean you don’t read diversely?” ft. My Judgmental and Possibly Overweight Cat named Po.

So how can you and I read more diversely? Here are some tips (from a complete novice by the way):

  1. Don’t depend on Goodreads

I am an absolute sucker for this one. I read reviews and browse through ratings on Goodreads before purchasing books a lot of the time and it’s a terrible habit. What I should be doing is reading it and then making up my own mind but what I end up doing is setting up expectations pre-read and either not getting the book at all, or being judgmental and nitpicky throughout the entire reading. Of course, Goodreads is still a great site/application. For example, if a book has thousands of reviews and an average of 1 star out of 5, it probably means it’s not that great for a variety of reasons. I also personally enjoy reading hilariously angry reviews by other people but hey, that’s just how I like to spend my Saturday nights.

  1. Have a peek at smaller publishers or authors who self-publish

Many smaller publishers specialise in diverse books or just an array of titles that you may never have heard of in the mainstream book world. Also, many authors choose to self-publish these days to get their books out there without all the red tape involved – google search and have a hunt around blogs and writing communities!

  1. Consider picking up a translated story

Authenticity gets bandied around a lot when it comes to diverse books. Does this author write about this particular culture of group of people well? Is it inauthentic? Or is it *gasp* A STEREOTYPE?! To combat this problem, who better to write a story with a semblance of authenticity to a particular race or culture other than a person from that country/society themselves? It may be hard to track down translated stories but it’s doable and you might discover something amazing (which you can then recommend to me 🙂 )

So, what other ways have you guys found diverse books?

Till next time,

Not Another Mary Sue

The Potential Perils of Writing Diverse Characters

Since it’s a Sunday (in Sydney), I’ll treat you all with a short blog so you can maximise the amount of time you spend in the glorious sun as opposed to laboriously scrolling through my posts on your smartphone/laptop/apple watch etc

So as you can see from the blog title, I’m going to talk about the potential perils of writing diverse characters.

First of all, I feel like I need to offer a disclaimer. I’m not the best at writing – I can come up with stories but implementing them into a cohesive narrative that people enjoy? Nope. In fact, when I took a creative writing class last year at university, I got a “pass” for the subject. A pass. I don’t have wildly high expectations of my grades but hopefully that gives you some idea of how much of an amateur I am when it comes to the whole creative writing business.

Nevertheless, I will endeavour to approach this topic with pretty much no grounds of credibility besides my observations through copious amounts of reading.

In my opinion, the number one reason for authors not writing diverse characters is because it doesn’t fit in with their own experiences. As a result, wanting to write diverse characters becomes a lot more effort and fear of getting it wrong takes centre stage.

This to me is quite understandable. If you asked me to write a books about a transgender character in ancient Egypt, I would have no idea where to begin. On one hand, I love researching history for the fun of it, but on the other hand, what do I know about transgender characters? And even if I did know a thing or two about transgender characters, would I do it justice?

Ramesses II disaproves of my story idea Source: Creative Commons/Flickr DuncanH1

Ramesses II disaproves of my story idea
Source: Creative Commons/Flickr DuncanH1

The answer is no. Well, more accurately, the answer is no if I put absolutely no effort into it.

Like many a lazy bones, effort is not something I exude naturally. But if I were to write a book so far outside my own experience, I absolutely would put the effort in because diversity in books is something I’m passionate about and is so so important. I’ll research the hell out of it, I’ll talk to people who do have these experiences who are willing to share so I can get the characterisation, In an ideal world I’ll even time travel to Egypt to get a feel of the culture and context.

I get that not a lot of people would bother writing something so far out of their comfort zone and that’s absolutely fine. You can still have diverse characters within a setting that you’re comfortable with. You don’t know the culture/background of a character you were planning to write about? Then ask somebody who does. You’d be surprised at how willing people are to share their stories and experiences if you just ask them (nicely. And throw in some free cake too).

As always, feel free to join in on the discussion using #readoutsidethebox and don’t forget to follow me on my Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr!

Till next time,

Not Another Mary Sue.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Have you ever tried writing a diverse character outside of your comfort zone? How did it pan out for you?

BONUS: Head over to my tumblr for this super cool character inspiration drag and drop thing. I take no credit for making it but if you feel like writing a diverse character but are a bit stuck on the specifics, this is great fun! Feel free to forward me the end product because i would love to read 🙂

YA Fiction with Disabilities ft. Lennie Small

When I started wracking my brain for a book to talk about when it came to YA fiction with characters that have disabilities, I realised that there was disappointingly few options to choose from. Which you know, isn’t great considering I’m writing a blog about diversity in YA fiction.

However, one of those very few options that I could remember was “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck which I read in year 10 – and didn’t particularly like.

"Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck

“Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck

Upon reflection, it was probably because it was a compulsory text for school and anything that I have to read and then answer questions for is not something I’m going to enjoy (with the exception of “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini which tugged on my heartstrings like a sad kitten with cotton wool).

But regardless of whether I enjoyed the novella or not, Steinbeck’s character of Lennie Small struck a chord with me that quite possibly warrants a re-read on my behalf (and yours) and further discussion.

For those who haven’t read the book, the general storyline is as follows:

Two migrant labourers named George Milton and Lennie Small are ranch hands at a Californian farm and dream of owning their own one day. George is protective over Lennie who is physically strong and is described as being “simple-minded”. Amidst other happenings (e.g. racism at the ranch against another character and a flirtatious ranch-owner’s wife who doesn’t have a name for some reason), Lennie eventually runs into trouble due to his fixation over petting soft things and George struggles to help his friend from the wrath of others.

Steinbeck’s representation of Lennie Small is as relevant as it was during the late 1930’s as it is today. Although in today’s society, mentally disabled individuals are far more accepted and supported in comparison to Depression era mobs (with their sometimes literal pitch forks), Lennie’s feelings of helplessness may still be reflective of those with special needs.

Lennie in the book is a gentle giant. Society is not understanding of his disabilities. He’s innocent and child-like in so many ways but his brute strength and lack of control leads to some unfortunate happenings and nobody except George really understands or tries to help him.

For those with mental disabilities, feelings of helplessness are a very real thing. They may have good intentions but their lowered degree of cognitive reasoning and understanding of the world could lead to sticky situations where they may do or say things that they didn’t intend to be harmful but ultimately is. Lennie in the book is not only a character I sympathise with, but one that I would like to read more about. As I have come to realize that I know startlingly little about mentally handicapped individuals, I feel like fiction is a great way to even begin to bridge that gap of understanding (or lack thereof in my instance).

So while I probably wouldn’t recommend this book for those who do have a mental disability (Spoiler alert: it is not a happy ending for Lennie), I would recommend it for others who want to be emotionally compromised by how unfair everything is in the story.

As always, I am no expert on the topic so please correct me if I’m heinously wrong about something. Thanks for reading, please comment below or on any of my other social media accounts and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog!

Till next time,

Not Another Mary Sue

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What YA books featuring characters of mental disabilities do you recommend?