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Friday, September 9, 2016

Diversity in Writing and Publishing

Diversity is a word that is being looked at more and more closely in the writing and publishing world these days. And diversity doesn't always mean what people think it means. Diversity can have everything to do with skin color, and also nothing to do with skin color. Now, you may think that I get to say that, that because my skin is light, I can interpret diversity to mean something other than "non-white." But I would vehemently disagree. This is not me invoking my white privilege, honest. 

I wrote an essay back in college that was published in an introductory text to be read by all incoming freshman for years to come after I graduated, and it was an essay that I was uniquely qualified to write, because of my history. It was an essay on which the premise, there is no such thing as race, was based. Culture exists, culture is a brilliant, amazing diverse thing, but race is a social construct. It's something humanity created to make an "us and them" dichotomy. I know this, because I lived it. I'll give you a bit of a history lesson: my grandmother only dated black men after her third divorce. I had the immense fortune to grow up with six grandparents, three grandmothers, and three grandfathers, though my gram never married Sam, he was my grandfather. At every birthday, at every Thanksgiving and Christmas, etc. It was the most normal, natural thing in the world to me growing up that I had a grandfather who just happened to be a few shades darker than me. 

Now, diversity in writing and publishing does absolutely include voices from other cultures and backgrounds, 100%, but it also means so many other things. I've had the chance through teaching the past few months to do some research into diversity in publishing, both within the romance genre, and from outside of it, and I couldn't be prouder to be in the publishing world than I am right now. 

Looking at the awards, and the accolades, finally being doled out to women who write horror, and self-published authors who write romance, and yes, writers from different ethnicities and backgrounds - all I can think is FINALLY! Finally this industry I love, this industry I want to dedicate my life to is finally taking notice that women can write science fiction and horror, that men can write romance, that readers and publishers alike want diverse voices, authors from all walks of life and backgrounds, all ethnicities and cultures. 

4 out of 16 Bram Stoker winners this year were women, and there were several more women in the running to win in multiple categories. Now, you may say that 1/4 is a piss poor statistic for women in the horror genre, and yes, this is true, but 10 years ago, there was nary a woman even on the docket, and yet, one of the most famous horror authors of all time was a woman. One of the most-used texts that has been made into countless movies and inspired millions of authors, Frankenstein, was written by a woman, a hundred plus years before women writers were really allowed to be a thing. 

Now, when you look at this year's RITA award winners, it's true that they are all women, and that most of them are from "white" backgrounds, but some are not. Moreover, several of the books on the list were self-published. This is a form of diversity in publishing that we don't necessarily talk about all that often - the stigma still associated with self-publishing, as if that was the only option left when the book was deemed undesirable by everyone else - that's just not true. 

Now, I am not saying that we do not need more, many many more, other voices in writing, particularly in genre fiction, because we so do. But I am saying that diversity means a lot of different things, and I for one, see that we are finally moving in the right direction. So, readers, get to demanding more diversity in your reading. Writers, get to writing diversely. Write something unique and unusual for a genre, jump into a genre you "have no business writing in" because we need you to! 

As you may know, I work a lot of diverse characters from different backgrounds into my books. I write about people who are light-skinned and dark, some who have Asian or American Indian backgrounds. I write about straight people and lesbians, and gay or bi-sexual men. Because just because I have light skin and a college education doesn't mean that is the only perspective I can, should, or want to write from. I love writing about different characters from all over the place, and I hope you enjoy reading about them too. 

~ Rach

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