Friday, March 30, 2012

What Diversity Means to Me - Featuring Jaime Reed

There's still time to get in on the giveaway for Karen's book, Tankborn so don't forget to comment on that post.

Today I am excited to bring you Jaime Reed, author of Living Violet, the first in the Cambion Chronicles and a paranormal book with a very different twist. And more importantly for me, it has a smart, funny, sarcastic female lead who just happens to also be biracial. I love this book!

The other great thing about having Jaime here today is because she is an author who cares deeply about diversity and who blogs about it at her own blog Write or Die

So I'm very happy to turn over my blog to Jaime today and also to give you guys a chance to win Living Violet. All you have to do is leave a comment and we'll pick a winner by next Friday. Take it away Jaime!

Ellen has asked me to talk about why diversity is important to me and honestly, I don’t know where to start.  I’ve written a few blog posts on this topic, and I’m glad that I’m not alone in feeling that there could be more variety and ethnicity represented in the YA genre.

I wrote Living Violet about a cynical teenager named Samara who juggles the duality of being of two different races. It’s not the main plot of the book, but it adds a new dimension to her character and helps her understand the inner struggle that her love interest, Caleb, has to deal with.

Growing up, I used to read teen books and watch teen shows and wondered why there weren’t any Hispanic, Asian or black characters. There were never any black super heroes, or shy Mexican girl that gets asked to the big dance. There was no (vampires/were-animal/fallen angel/ insert supernatural creature here) fighting for the love of a poor Indian girl. I was under the impression that girls like me were the helpful sidekick with little else to offer outside of comic relief. 

Whenever I did see a minority character, they were the most hackneyed and offensive stereotypes possible or just in the background to fill some politically correct quota. It became clear that in order for you to be desired by the hot mysterious guy you had to look a certain way. And if you didn’t, odds were the bad guy would kill you off, because hay, you were just there to make the lead character look good by comparison anyway.

Samara is biracial and her best friend is Filipino and their ethnicity doesn’t deter from the plot in the slightest. So it is possible. The story takes place in the suburbs in an upper-middle class area, which removes most of the inner-city “hood mentality” that is normally depicted. This is a different side that very few have seen.

I wasn’t trying to make a political statement or raise social issues. I just wrote a cool story where the lead saves the day, and oh by the way, she’s mixed. I like to read about a character I can identify with on a cultural level. Identity is a delicate thread with young girls. I should know, I was one. When reading—if it’s good—you’re automatically sucked into the world and become the character. Most kids feel different and don’t fit in and they shouldn’t have to feel that way while escaping the real world.

I wanted young girls to be able to pick up a book and enjoy a character who doesn’t have long flowing hair, or is thin with ivory skin and still get swept away into the supernatural. I felt it was time to have minorities take center stage for a change. That’s what diversity means to me. To have a good number of books on the shelves representing real characters from different cultures and have as much attention and press as other books in its genre. We have a long way to go, but I and other authors mentioned in this blog hope to get the ball rolling.

Thank you Jaime! And I wanted to link to Jaime's great posts here so that if any of you want to read more of Jaime's thoughts on diversity, you can:

Color Outside the Lines:

Life Imitating Art Imitating Everything Else


Danette Vigilante said...

Thanks, Jaime!

Jenn said...

Awesome post, Jaime. I agree. :)
I'm biracial, so writing mixed characters and non-Caucasian main characters is very important to me for all the reasons listed.

I literally grew up believing the hype of the 70s, that blondes had more fun, and since I was a child, that equated to "better".

Young girls need to see all shades, sizes and personalities of young women on TV, in books and movies. Thank you. :)

G.M. said...

Thanks , Samara, for sharing your views and best wishes with your book. For a moment I was smiling when I read about Vampires fighting for the love of the indian girl .. and why not?

G.M. said...

Thanks , Samara, for sharing your views and best wishes with your book. For a moment I was smiling when I read about Vampires fighting for the love of the indian girl .. and why not?

Tere Kirkland said...

So glad to hear about this book, Jaime! Not just because it sounds like a fun read, but because not every book with a character who isn't white has to be about that non-whiteness, ya know? The issue of "otherness".

A book with a black main character doesn't have to have a plot that revolves around the black experience, contrary to what the publishing industry would have you believe. There can be an adventure that kids (and adults) of all ages and races will enjoy. Thanks for the guest post, ladies!

Megan Smith said...

Thanks, Jamie! I'm really interested in reading the book. Diverstiy should just be there, not always needing to be the main plot.

Jennifer said...

Wonderful, Jaime! Books like yours are so important for young girls everywhere who need to see a range of types. They're not all alike, so why should their books be? (Also, what a great cover!)

Jodi Moore said...

I love this post. It's so sad, yet so true. Adding this book to my to-be-read list!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post; and I think this is such an important issue. On the one hand, it's great for folk to get to see themselves represented so that they don't feel cut out of things - as if not being a perfect white girl means that you're somehow forever sidelined. On the other, its great in helping those who are part of the dominant group to get over their own assumptions and stereotypes. Books about race as an issue are great; but I think it works even better when it is just one aspect of the story, just as it is only one aspect of people. It's something that matters; but people are still bascially people and having books that depict that should make us all feel more at home with ourselves.

I always love a touch of diversity if for no other reason than it just feels more real to me. I particularly love it when there is a touch of cultural diversity, not just morphological difference. And getting some diversity of gender and sexuality - and not just in the background - is something of great appeal to me personally.

Annie said...

Thank you Ellen and Jamie y'all are giving so much to think about

andimjulie said...

Just stumbled upon this blog and LOVED this post!

Anonymous said...

Eeek! In my post above, 'perfect' in the phrase 'perfect white girl' should have been in scare quotes! Otherwise there is an very unfortunate and inintended implication of actual perfection... Sorry!

Rampion said...

Great explanation. Thanks, Jaime.

Jae Young said...

The other reason I love this series of posts is I am learning about thoughtful authors writing books that sound like my cuppa. And of course the more bronwn people, the better <3

Llehn said...

Thanks for sharing!

Tyhitia Green said...

Hi Ellen,

I love the post about diversity. But I'll add that there's not enough diversity in genre fiction as a whole. Whether it's horror, sci-fi, fantasy. We need more diversity for all audiences; adult, YA, middle grade, etc. You get the picture. :-D Thanks for talking about it! ;-)

I'm not entering the contest because I already own and have read Jaime's book, which I love, by the way!

Ani Louise said...

Great post Jaime! Living Violet sounds like a great book - can't wait to read it!

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