Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A few hundred words about diversity in fiction, and writing diverse characters without being one

A couple days ago, I read a blog post by Malinda Lo on Diversity in YA that really struck a ... something with me, about whether or not a white person could write from the perspective of a POC (person of color).

For the record, I'm about as un-diverse as it gets. In fact, the only way I could be less diverse is if I were male. A straight, white, physically-able female American with northern European heritage. If I were to stretch myself I could admit that a few years ago, I really struggled with an anxiety disorder (OCD, to be precise), and knowing the nature of the disease, I likely will deal with it again during my lifetime. But right now, it's mostly under control and I can't even claim mental illness as a struggle in my daily life.

I was, however, gifted with: empathy, a strong moral compass, and a VERY vivid imagination.

I have never experienced blatant prejudice directed at me. At least, not that I can recall. It's never ruined a day in my life. There's no lack of characters in books and movies that are like me. There aren't laws preventing me from living my life, being who I want to be, loving the one I love. I realize I'm lucky this is the case. But I also appreciate how unfair it would be to live in that world. How frustrating, how maddening, how scary. How defeating. I have seen it affect friends and strangers, and been infuriated by news articles of beatings/ murders, and the passing of discriminatory laws.

As a result of that empathy, even lacking personal experience, I have very strong opinions on diversity and the importance that there be more of it in the media we consume. My hope is that someday we won't HAVE to have strong opinions, because it won't be an issue. People are people are people, and the sooner we all realize that and get on board, the better.

Prejudice comes, I think, from the fear of the unknown. Therefore, the best way to combat it is to take away the mystery. Exposure makes things less scary. The more people see/ hear/ read about/ LEARN about diversity, the less fear there will be.

So even though I'm a straight white girl, I write books with diverse characters. I hate that it feels a little like I shouldn't, like I can't possibly understand. Because it's true-- I will never 100% get it. For all I know, my characters are way off the mark. But if I don't try-- if I'm too afraid to try-- I will never grow, never learn more than I know, never be part of the solution, just part of the problem.

I stand by my characters in the hope that someday, someone will learn something, be a little less afraid because of me.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Review! HONOR AMONG ORCS by Amalia Dillin!

Soooo my amazing friend Amalia Dillin is releasing another book today! APRIL FOOLS!! (No but really... she really is...)

This one is a bit different from her Forged By Fate series. HONOR AMONG ORCS is a fantasy in the classic Tolkien vein featuring some very well-known and much beloved fantasy creatures, but in ways that turns their tropes on their heads.

The thing that I love about Amalia's writing is how lyrical her prose is. She writes beautifully, but not in a way that feels heavy-handed or overdone. Her writing and characters are still accessible and compelling. And boy, does HONOR AMONG ORCS compel.

HONOR AMONG ORCS is the story of Bolthorn, an orc king/ village chief, and the daughter of a human king, Arianna. The human race thinks orcs and elves and dragons are myth, but it turns out they've just sealed themselves away from humanity to avoid war and exploitation. When Bolthorn comes as an emissary to Arianna's father, instead of dealing with him, the king locks Bolthorn away. Arianna, oppressed by her cruel dad, finds something appealing about the orc trapped in a mirror, and together they forge their way not only out of her father's grasp but all the way to the land where the elves and orcs live. Except it turns out their biggest enemy has yet to be faced, and it will surprise them all who it is.

This book sounds impossible from the outside: a story where the orcs are the good guys, and a human falls in love with one-- but much like the pan-theistic world of her Forged By Fate series, Amalia manages to craft not only an amazing, believable, and interesting story, but characters that will make you root and laugh and cry and want to punch the bad guys for them.

I also love that the skeleton of the book feels familiar-- it is orcs, elves, and humans after all-- but the plot is super twisty and keeps you guessing until the very last page! And! It's going to be a series!

Go pick it up at Amazon today! And, as always, if you enjoy a book, the best way to help the author (besides buying it) is to leave a review of your own.