We hear a lot about diversity these days, how literature in all categories, especially YA and NA, should be more diverse, and I couldn't agree more. But there's a flaw in the system that I see almost every day in the writing world. We concentrate on two things: 1) the books published by our own country, and 2) putting the burden on the author to diversify.

Just recently, I came across a blog post from one of my favorite blogs that talked about diversity in books and what each individual looked for in the race of the main character of a book. After reading through each of the bloggers thoughts on the matter, I realized we often think too locally, instead of globally.

When authors are taught how to write, we're taught a few basic tenants, one of which includes, "Write what you know." A lot of new authors take this direction too seriously and it makes them quit writing. They throw up their hands and say, BUT I'M BORING! If I write what I know, then this book will be a loser. What they are failing to see is that authors should start from a "known" quantity and then build in the "unknown" which includes research. Maybe you are a young, white, American female, so you write a young, white, American girl and then you add in the plot points and characteristics of things you don't know. You want this girl to be a fire fighter? You learn about fire fighting. Or you want her to be a cyclist in the Tour de France? You learn about cycling. But the author is starting from grounds she is already familiar with, a young, American, female.

And, you know what? Some people want that! Readers, too, have opinions about what they want, what they will adapt to, and what makes them comfortable to read. Did you read the blog post I linked to above? You'll see that the race of the person reading has just as much influence on what they want and in reverse too. Publishing is a global economy nowadays. Stories written by Americans are being devoured around the world and vice versa. I'm American and I read books written by Filipinos, Japanese, Germans, etc. Just like Japanese, Filipinos, and Germans read books by Americans. Diversity is a two-way street! And "writing what you know" does appeal to people globally.

Thinking outside of the box is a difficult task as an author. We're expected to come up with a great plot, believable characters, a hook that captures you in the first page, etc etc. Add to that diversity of characters, their races and cultures, and you've got a huge mess of stuff to deal with. So, if you're looking for diverse books, it's time to look globally!

It's even more important to support global authors working on New Adult works. Never before has an age group been so connected globally than the current NA generation. They know more about the world than the generation before them and are more likely to have friends overseas or visit overseas because staying in touch with those friends is easier than ever. Skype, Facebook, Snapchat... They make distance unimportant.

For the next year, I challenge you, the reader, to read outside of your culture. Purchase books from authors that write outside of your own culture, both as a foreigner and as a local. Take a moment to consider a book published from a different country other than your own (translated into your own language, of course, or maybe a second language you are comfortable with), and recommend books written by authors who write about cultures outside their own. If there's one thing I believe in about the publishing business, money talks louder than words or petitions. Take this time to support diversity with your wallet!

Do you read outside your own culture? Do you read books by foreign authors? Post your recommendations in the comments! Extra brownie points for making the recommendations NA :)




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  1. Great points, Steph! I don't know about novels representing other cultures, but I read manga all the time. :)

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    1. I read a lot of manga too :) And books by international authors. I thought the discussion of "what's familiar to me is foreign to someone else" was intriguing.

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  2. Great post! I'm from Finland, and I often think of the same thing. If we want author's to think big, we must, as readers, think big, too. I read a lot of books from foreign authors, mostly in fact. And I'm going to continue that way! One of my goals this year is to read books that are not well known in my country and share my thoughts about them with as many people as possible.

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    1. That's a great way to go about spreading diversity!

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  3. Some of my favorite reads of the last year take place in different cultures. Samantha Young's books all take place in her homeland, Scotland. Although Chanel Cleeton is American, she writes an International School series which really gives a glimpse into quite a few cultures. I love reading books with cultural diversity!

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  4. Awesome post! Diversity, by definition, should include things we aren't familiar with. So, as authors, if we're only writing about places we've been to, etc. we're not covering a lot of ground. I loved your thought on starting a story with nuggets of what you do know and then broadening into uncharted territory.

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    1. That's what I do. I take something I know and branch out from there. That's how I came to write a lot about Japan!

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  5. This is one of the first interestign posts about diversity I've come across! I always find the whole discussion about diversity a bit one sided because like you mention people often don't realize that diversity is a two way street. And sometimes it seems a bit too forced, I think diversity should come natural and indeed it isn't specially the authors who should write more diverse books, but also readers who should look for those books.

    I live in the Netherlands and I love reading books about american people, and that could be considered diversity for me, almost everything I know about america and life there comes from books I read.
    So for me reading outside my own culture actually isn't that hard and I am happy about that, as I enjoy learning about different countries, cultures and habbits. Although I would love to read some books that take place in Europe as well as that is a little bit closer to home. Great post!

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    1. Thank you, Lola! Yes! Your viewpoint is exactly what I was trying to get across. I feel, sometimes, this issue is forced too much, mainly because a lot of the push for diversity comes from the American market (they tend to be the most vocal). But for an Asian kid in the East, a blonde hair, blue-eyed heroine is diverse and definitely the minority in his/her culture. This is one thing I love about the ebook revolution though! We can get books from all over the world! I've read a lot of Filipino work through Wattpad and Japanese translated to English novels. I think if we search out diversity as readers, we'll find a lot to love and champion. Thanks for dropping by, Lola!

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  6. Great post! I'm anxiously awaiting more diversity to come to NA, and I love that you've sought it out through less traditional channels like Wattpad. (As rec'd above, I absolutely love Chanel Cleeton's series for this.) And yes, definitely a two-way street, especially since word of mouth is so important for selling books!

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