Authors: It's OK To Be Different
It has always amazed me how much controversy can amass whenever you mention diversity in connection with the book world. It's almost as if some great literary god has been offended whenever an author even dares to challenge the norm. Yet, the thing is there have been many authors who have successfully challenged the standard quo. There are several ways an author can delve into diversity.
Authors could write a book with a minority as protagonist or have a multicultural cast of characters in their book. People have this mental image of what a character should look like or act all because of their ethnicity or gender. Some authors have challenged their readers to look beyond these preconcieved notions and accept what isn't generally accepted.
A recent shift has been in the use of strong female protagonists. Some historical fiction authors, such as Philippa Gregory and Margaret George have challenged readers to push beyond strong male leads and accept that females could be strong as well, no matter how much history tried to demoralize females in given time periods. I jumped on that bandwagon with my books, Calico (Children of the Shawnee: Book 1) and Elsa (Secret Heritage: Book 1). My readers love it.
I read an article today where author Hilary Mantel was disappointed with female historical fiction authors for empowering their female characters. She urged female historical fiction authors to stop do so stating that it was unrealistic for any woman in historical periods to have that kind of empowerment. My first thought was, she can't seriously mean all cultures throughout history? My character, Calico, is an empowered white female in the 1700's who was raised by the Shawnee. The Shawnee allowed women their freedom to speak openly. In fact, most women who were captured by the Shawnee never wanted to return to their families because they had more freedom with the Shawnee than in their European culture.
Another diversity that can cause problems is when the author writes a book that is not from the voice of a European. Calico is written by the Shawnee's perspective of history. I've had a hard time with that book because of that very fact. A majority of white people who read it don't like it and my Native American readers love that book. Many readers who see the white woman and Shawnee man on the cover think that that story is going to be told from a white perspective all because she's white.
A third issue I see in diversity is when an author has a lover or main character who is disabled. For some reason, society has it ingrained in them that a disabled person can't be empowered. The love interest in Elsa is a man who has Aspergers. It's not diagnosed because no one knew what Aspergers was in the early 1900's. Historical fiction authors have rarely written about the conditions of the disabled or mentally handicapped. But then again, people with these conditions in the past were rarely treated with the respect they are today.
What are some ways you think authors should be different?