I’m writing this post and sharing my personal experience in support of the We Need Diverse Books campaign. The campaign started with the desire to encourage more diversity in children’s literature. But the issue also is much too present in adult literature.
I can share an example, unfortunately related to my first novel “Paris, Rue des Martyrs” when it initially was submitted to U.S. publishing houses a few years ago.
For those of you who haven’t read “Paris, Rue des Martyrs,” it is about four main characters whose lives entwine in a Parisian neighborhood. These protagonists aren’t American and come from diverse backgrounds. The publishers’ concern was that the reader wouldn’t be able to sympathize and identify with the characters because they weren’t American. They preferred an “American in Paris” sort of perspective.
I preferred the cultural diversity and still do.
This doesn’t mean that there is a complete absence of diversity on the bookshelves. Of course, you can find books featuring protagonists of different races and cultures – some even bestsellers. But if we as authors are still experiencing scenarios as the one I described above, the publishing industry has a long way to go when it comes to supporting diversity.
I understand that publishers are in business and have to put their money behind books that will bring them revenue. But even from this investment perspective, diversity seems to be the right answer: Our neighborhood, our world is filled with people of different races, cultures, sexual orientations etc.
Don’t these readers deserve to see their lives reflected in literature?
My favorite books are often an illustration of diversity: Try “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, “The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan or one of my more recent reads “Call Me by Your Name” by Andre Aciman.
And in case you are wondering about what happened with “Paris, Rue des Martyrs” (now published through my agent’s e-book imprint “Agency Editions”)… Many of my reviewers have been American women, and according to their reviews, they have enjoyed and have been able to identify with my “foreign” characters.