|Flickr Credit: sandeepachetan|
That’s my definition of fiction. It encapsulates one of the reasons why I love to read fiction: because in a fictional story, all of the horrible things which cause humans to hate each other don’t have to exist.
Oh, and hi, by the way. I’m Shanti, and I blog at Virtually Read and today I’m taking over from Heather to talk about equality in fiction and normalising diversity.
So before I get into my discussion about why I think there should be more equality in fiction, I’ll say my disclaimer: I understand why books do have inequality in all its shapes and forms, because a) it can create plot tension and b) it reflects real situations that real readers deal with.
But a good writer shouldn’t need to have unequal characters to create a good story. And just for once, especially in speculative fiction, I’d love to read a story where women and men; black people, brown people and white people; people of all different sexualities and religions have been equal from the start. Maybe these books exist already, and I just haven’t found them. But fiction should be a place of equality.
Because if fiction is about escaping some of the barriers that people put between each other in the real world, then surely it makes sense to have fictional worlds where the differences between what people look like/do/ believe don’t matter. On this planet there are a lot of historical and cultural reasons why discrimination exists, but I personally think that a narrative without discrimination will often be richer.
Yes, #Weneediversebooks. We also need books where the diverse experience is not a big deal—where, in short, there is equality. I, for one, am sure that it’s totally possible to tell a story where all the characters are equal. Not the same, but equal.
See, that’s the problem with a lot of diversity—if it’s put into books just to be diverse, it can feel awkward or overdone. (and Alyssa has a great post about that here). But if fiction becomes more equal, both in terms of the number of diverse experiences that it shows and the characters themselves being equal, then diversity doesn’t have to be a big deal.
Representation is super important. But for a lot of people (in fact, almost everyone on this planet of ours), diversity of languages, ethnic backgrounds, religion, sexuality and so many other things is just ordinary life. By sectioning books into ‘diverse’ and not, but adding diversity just for the sake of it, it seems as if having that different experience of seeing the world is separate from you. I can say, as someone of multi-ethnic background who speaks more than one language and lives in a place that isn’t West Europe, the US or Australia/New Zealand, that my experience of life is important. But it’s also totally normal to me.
Without equality—in fiction, in the real world, then the experiences of people different from you don’t seem normal. They seem foreign, weird, or other. I love reading—and writing—stories about people who live outside of the developed world, who don’t have white skin. After all, everyone has some story to tell. To me, it seems that telling a good story doesn’t need inequality. It needs compassion and understanding. If diverse experiences can be treated more like the everyday life they are, then that’s a solid first step towards understanding people who are different to you.
So tell me in the comments, Sometimes I’m a Story Readers. Do you agree with me? Would more equality in fiction make the diverse experience more normal? Do you think a story where everyone is equal would be realistic or is discrimination inherent to the human experience?
Shanti is a multitude of things: reader, blogger, student, violist, runner and spontaneous cartwheels. She loves intricate plots with politics and a dash of magic. When not frantically busy doing schoolwork or reading, she can be found hanging out with her family, wearing brightly coloured tights and baking. She loves thinking about reading and life, and can be found at her blog and on Goodreads.