I’ve been having some thoughts about recent stirrings and incidents in the YA book community on Twitter, and I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t try to put how I was feeling about all of this into words.
Let me start off by saying that I 100% support diversity in YA. Whether it’s race, ethnicity, culture, religion, disability, neurodiversity, sexual orientation or gender identity, I want to see more diversity of it in YA. As a Russian Orthodox Christian and an ace, I don’t see a lot of those parts of myself in books at all. And I would love that to change. Trust me, I have some 2017 releases I am very excited about for these reasons, but that’s not why I’m writing these posts.
Diversity is incredibly important and discussing it among readers, writers and bloggers is incredibly important, but not at the cost of compassion, empathy and kindness. Something happened on Twitter today that disheartened me so much that for a few moments I questioned the viability of this kind of intercommunity discourse. I won’t mention names or discuss the events in detail as to protect those involved. All I will say is that I saw older YA authors and authors that I respect participating in the dragging of a younger blogger who perhaps doesn’t fully realize the nuanced layers of hurt and sense of separate intercommunity that exists in the larger LGBTQPIA+ community.
For someone not in that in-group, that’s a lot to conceptualize and understand, especially in the fast paced environment of Twitter. What resulted was a spiral of silence where people who believed she was attacking the LGBTQPIA+ community and the way queers tend to largely group themselves off away from straight people as a form of protecting themselves and forming bonds with people who understand their experiences responded to her in a way that can only be described as hostile.
Hostility is not a way to breed understanding. It only fosters separation, suspicions and silence. Twitter is a place where everyone is entitled to one’s own opinions and can speak in whatever way they choose. I’m not suggesting that it’s not. But we should think long and hard about what kind of community we want to provide for up-and-coming readers and book bloggers. What kind of space do we want to give them when they join-somewhere where they can voice their opinion and be compassionately corrected if they misstep or somewhere where anyone who makes a single mistake will be ripped to shreds?
And if we truly want a wider breadth of diversity in stories, then we need to be better about paving the way for aspiring writers and authors to research diverse experiences for books. If we want good, well-researched diversity in stories, I truly believe we need to work together, correct others in an empathetic way when needed and ultimately change the tide of the attitude towards diversity in the community.
It’s hard to know where to start when researching a character whom might be different from you. I’ll save specific tips for another post, but avoid stereotypes, have conversations with people from the groups you’re representing and be open to criticism.
And for the rest of you—the authors, the readers, the writers and the book bloggers—on Twitter: united we stand, divided we fall. Take a moment to consider how kind you are to people whose intentions you don’t entirely know, apologize when you make a mistake and be patient with one another. Treat others the way you’d like to be treated if the roles were reversed and let’s fill YA with as many well-written diverse novels and productive conversations as possible.