Diversity is a wide umbrella. Obviously, most people aren't white, straight, fully-abled, mentally healthy males. And yet, this is the flavor of person most of our media portrays.
Books are a little bit better, in that especially with the rise of YA, many protagonists are now female. But racial, physical, sexual, and mental diversity are all still underrepresented.
Right now, there's an indiegogo campaign to raise funds for the non-profit organization We Need Diverse Books, which raises awareness about the lack of diverse characters in fiction and encourages publishers and readers to supply and purchase books by diverse authors and featuring diverse characters.
This is a cause that should be important to us all, because everyone deserves to find someone like themselves in the pages of a book. As of this blog post, the campaign is less than $4,000 from its $100,000 goal. If you want to support the cause, please donate at the campaign here.
Yesterday, I was talking to one of my friends at the ranch. Her wife is bipolar and recently had a severe manic episode involving a hospital stay and heavy medication. Her recall ability was severely affected by the episode and my friend has been working diligently to help rehabilitate her. We got to talking about books, and she told me that one of the ways her psychologist suggested helping her wife's recall was to read books.
Well, the problem with that was that it's still very difficult for her wife to read. But she can listen to books on tape! And they have been. My friend says they'll listen to a book for a couple hours, then she'll wait a day or two and discuss what they listened to with her partner. Her wife's recall has improved dramatically just from this simple exercise that many people use for recreation anyway.
This story really touched me. It's so easy to get caught up in the idea of Being Published. Yes, ultimately, most people who want to be published do so because they want their books to be out there and for other people to read them. But so rarely do we really stop and think about how our books will affect and possibly even change people's lives. What we put out in the world could have a profound effect on someone else.
So think about it. What worlds could you be opening up to someone by including diverse characters in your books? Take the opportunity to do whatever you can to make the world in your books more like the world we live in. You never know who you'll touch with your books.
(Note: please don't actually physically touch people with your books, unless you know them.)