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The next one that comes to mind is more of an informal guideline that has to do with non-white characters. Often, people seem to feel that as long as they have one character that isn't white they've done their job of representation. However, many of the black characters I've come across—certainly not all, but many—are either slaves, comic relief, or they act kinda ghetto; seeing as I'm a 21st century girl living in the suburbs who, according to some people, is not all that funny, when I see these characters, I don't feel real represented.
So again, what does representation actually mean? It's gotta go beyond simply being featured and it's gotta be more than having a single conversation in an entire work of fiction.
Personally, I think representation is going to mean different things for different people. Because, if the definition of “representation” is to take someone, create their likeness, and then say this is who they are, with so many people in this world, each one so gorgeously different, I don't see how any work can propose to do that with only a handful of characters. Now that's not to say that including minority characters isn't important or that authors shouldn't try to generate more diversity in their work, but because people are so different and there is so much to us, what's representation to one person might not be representation to another, and I don't think that asking authors to attempt to actually represent a people is fair.
So when I look for reading material, I'm not looking for “representation.” I certainly appreciate it when I see it, but all I'm actively searching for is an engaging story, characters that are intelligent, interesting, and inspiring, people who feel human and real. If they happen to be my gender or color, awesome, I'm thrilled. But I'm also not going to write off the story for not “representing” me in it.
In the end, I'd say that representation is definitely important, but being such a broad term attempting to cover an incredible amount of people, I don't know that it actually works. I don't know that you can expect every author to somehow produce a work of art that adheres to this indefinable, lofty idea. Personally, I think the most important thing is for authors to create the art of their heart and populate it with the smart, strong, relatable characters that make sense for their story. If those characters happen to be of color or they happen to be women, awesome. If not, I can still enjoy it, because I'm not looking for characters that represent me as a black person and I'm not looking for characters that represent me as a women; I'm looking for stories filled with fascinating, lovable characters who show me something about what it means to be human. Characters in whom I can see my heart now and who encourage me to be better in the future.
So of course I have to ask, what does representation mean to you? Do you have a certain number, a standard you're looking for? And is it a deal-breaker for you if you don't find it? Can't wait to discuss this with all of you, and thanks so much for having me, Heather! :D
I'm an aspiring author and a beginning blogger. Find me weekly at Summer Snowflakes and Verbosity Book Reviews.