This is something I truly believe: We Need Diverse Books. More than that, I believe Christians should support diversity in books as well.
Now, I know this sounds weird, especially if you are a Christian and you know that WNDB actively promotes the presence of minority religions, LGBT+ issues, minority cultures, and people with disabilities, among other things. Because if you are a Christian, you know that we have some stuff to say about those things. If you’re willing, hear me out—sometimes these things aren’t fun to hear and aren’t fun to think about, but if we can’t discuss, then we can’t grow, and that is a problem.
|via Mary Wilson Kerr|
1. This is not a movement to shame non-minorities—maybe you are like me, and are a white, straight, mostly able-bodied Protestant; maybe you are not. This is who I am, and it’s not bad to be me, but what would be bad was if EVERY CHARACTER was like me. Majority rule works when you’re voting for pizza toppings, but when it comes to a cast of characters, then you probably want a variety of people represented, especially if you want a variety of people to connect to the story.
2. This is not a movement to shame existing books—okay, it’s called #WeNeedDiverseBooks, not #BurnBooksLackingMinorities. There are some books out there with a lot of diverse characters and crappy writing, and well-written books with few minorities represented at all. Yes, it’s lovely to see many people represented, but diversity alone is not the measure of a book’s value.
3. This is not going to become a publishing checklist—if WNDB gains popularity then we’re probably going to see more kinds of representation in books, but I seriously doubt that publishers will refuse to publish a book because it doesn’t meet a “diversity quota.” The story still comes first, and today’s ideas about diversity may not factor in depending on what you are writing.
4. This is not actually supposed to threaten you—I think I felt this way when I first heard about the movement. Since I’m not in a minority, does this mean all my values and things will be removed from the literary world? No, they won’t. This isn’t about destroying what was; it is about sharing the stage.
5. This is not an unrealistic expectation—fun fact: books are written for the people that can read them. For a long time (in the U.S.A., anyway), the people who could read were the (you guessed it) white, middle-upper class, Christian-ish, population. Due to some law things about people with different skin colors, religions, and economic circumstances going to the same schools, a lot more people can read than your average WASP. It makes sense to write books against the historical norms of race, sexual orientation, religion, and ability, if not because of the economic opportunity, then because authors are going to encounter people of different races, sexual orientations, religions, and abilities, and nobody wants to read books where they can’t connect to the characters.
To summarize: the point of WNDB is not to freak people out or exclude them, but to have our books reflect the world that we live in today.
|via Reading Rainbow|
I mean, for one thing, trusting in God is not an excuse to pretend that the parts of the world you don’t like don’t exist—stay informed, people. You can’t change something if you’re ignoring it (except to maybe make it worse). But secondly, I think we should care that all kinds of people are written in books because we want to form relationships with all kinds of people.
Now, that sounds like secret code for, “we want to convert people,” but that is not really what I mean.
If we’re Christians, then our purpose is to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. Translated, that means it’s our job, first and foremost, to demonstrate God’s love to anyone and everyone we meet with the same faith and love that Jesus showed us first. Serving people. Being kind to people. Offering people what they need at your own expense. Showing what God’s love means, even if his name never leaves your lips.
I’m not a theological expert or anything but I think it’s really hard to love someone looking down at them from a pedestal.
That’s why Jesus didn’t. He went to people in the temple. He went to people in their homes. He met with people on the roads and in the hills and all over the place—wherever they were, exactly where they were at. Dude, he went to freaking SAMARIA, and if you want to know about people who hated each other, look up Jewish people and Samaritans. Jesus reached out to people—to all people—and in getting to know them, he introduced himself.
Now, reading a book all by yourself is not really the same thing as going out and showing love to the masses—but it can prepare you for going out into them. When you read a book about someone who believes something differently than you, feels differently, looks differently, functions differently, you open yourself to caring about something that matters to them.
It is amazing how much it matters when someone invests their time and energy to care about something you care about, merely because they care about you.
And if you don’t believe me, let me ask you a simple question: who have you loved that tells you so?
Have you ever loved a gay friend, and listened to his stories, his fears, his beliefs? Have you ever loved someone from another culture, and practiced her traditions, her celebrations, her norm? Have you ever loved someone with a disability? Have you ever loved someone with another skin color? Have you ever loved someone of a different religion?
Who have you loved? I’m not talking about affection. Who have you loved more than yourself?
|via Matt Rogers|
For me, encouraging diversity is the first step to reaching out. To making new friends and to sharing ideas. I invariably learn something from the people most different from me, and funnily enough, I also learn to love them most.
When it comes down to it, these people who are so different from me in our diverse little world are meant to be my brothers and sisters. And if they care about something, then I want to care about it, too, even if it’s only so that we can have a conversation together. I’m not going to tell you what to believe about LGBT+ rights or whether your disabilities reflect your sins, but I will tell you this: if something as simple as a book can help me love another person, then hell yes, I’m going to read that book.
We need diverse books because we have diverse people—and more than anything, that calls for a diverse, all-encompassing love.