Booktube is a pretty fun, very inclusive, and welcoming community on YouTube. There usually isn’t any animosity between anyone. But there are times, just like in a small town, that some issue pops up that everyone gets involved in.
The most recent drama that’s occurred started when someone criticised author V. E. Schwab on Twitter because of the lack of diversity in her fantasy novels. She responded by saying sorry, that she’ll do better. I don’t know why she should be sorry. Authors aren’t forced to have racial, gender, or sexual diversity in their books.
But what about booktube? Well, a booktuber went on a rant that made her look like she was completely against diversity, but I don’t think that was what she meant. The general idea of her video was to defend V. E. Schwab. But she had poor focus, and her message came across completely wrong. Indie Insomniac has a good response to her video about this.
So, what do I think about this whole thing? Drama is something I try to stay out of. What I want to say in this blog post is my view on diversity in books.
I welcome diversity. It’s important. I live in a very diverse neighbourhood, so if I were to write a novel about my neighbourhood, it would have a very diverse cast of characters. However, if I were to write a novel that took place in rural Saskatchewan, the characters would most likely be all white. If I were to write a novel that took place in a small village in Japan, it’s almost guaranteed that all characters would be Japanese. In V. E. Schwab’s case, she writes fantasy. I haven’t read any of her books, so I don’t know what the setting is, but if I were to write fantasy, racial diversity in Earth terms wouldn’t even be on my mind.
If I’m writing a fantasy novel that takes place on a continent somewhere that has people with pale skin and blond hair, am I obligated to include African or Asian people? Why? It doesn’t take place on Earth. The people of this location happen to be blond.
This reminds me of when people were complaining about Disney princesses always being white. Why is Rapunzel white? She’s German, that’s why. Why are all the characters in Brave white? It takes place in Scotland at a time when everyone who lived there was white. You can’t demand diversity when it would be historically inaccurate or highly illogical.
I’m all for diversity in novels, but only if it’s appropriate. I celebrate diversity. My own work in progress has a very diverse cast of characters. That’s because it’s how life is in the future. Should I be required to include characters from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, different sexual orientations, as well as transgendered people? No. Absolutely not. But I do it because that’s what society is like in my writing.
An author shouldn’t be bullied about the kinds of people in their books. They shouldn’t be forced to include certain groups of people in their next book because some people complained. Authors should write the stories they want to read. If it’s good, then others would want to read it, too. Ideally, authors should ignore this, and just write.
In the end, this is what I think: I will not include an African in a book that’s set in Edo period Japan, because they weren’t there. I will not include a blond, blue-eyed Caucasian in a story about 12th century Pacific Islanders, because they weren’t there. I will not include an Asian elf, because elves aren’t human. I will not include a group of Australian Aborigines in an epic Scandinavian historic adventure novel, because they most definitely wouldn’t be there. As for sexual orientation, since gay people have always existed, I could arguably expect them to appear in a good number of novels from any time period or location. Also, gender is an issue. If it’s a period piece, then gender roles would likely be expected. I don’t expect a female knight in a book that takes place in 15th century England. I would expect a female soldier in a book that takes place in the 21st century, though. I could go on.
Don’t include diversity if people say you should, include diversity if it fits the story. That is all.