Where Are All The Books That Reflect The World I Live In? Guest Post by Libertad Araceli Tomas

Guest Post by Libertad Araceli Tomas

I asked myself this question a few weeks before I started my book blog with my sister, Twinja Book Reviews. Before we started it, I think it’s safe to say that we barely read any books that featured diverse characters. We only picked up popular reads and unfortunately they only featured the default “white”, able-bodied, thin, cisgendered, male, heterosexual characters.

Before our book blog, my sister and I read but it was only while we were on vacation or bored with whatever was on TV. Unfortunately, due to some cut backs we had to disconnect our cable service and there we were, BORED as ever. Reading became the go to activity and surprisingly we found it more entertaining than anything that could ever be on TV (except for The Legend of Korra and SuperNatural, let’s not get hasty now). One thing we kept noticing when we did our regular “book run” at some local book stores is that while fantasy took us to other worlds, it barely reflected the world we step foot in everyday, a diverse one.

While there are many who really feel as though they don’t see race and don’t discriminate based on sexual orientation, sexual identity, size, religion, or color of skin, it makes me wonder why books don’t reflect that. I’m not talking stereotypes, I’m talking real life, 3-dimensional characters who just happen to be different than that of the “default.” And if some readers do live in an affirming, color blind society as they say, what stops you from picking up a book that has a POC or a transgendered individual as the main protagonist?

Since my sister and I started blogging, we decided that the only way we would stand out in the blogging world (because there are soooo many great blogs out there) is to shed some light on what really drove us and that is Multiculturalism in Fantasy, Science Fiction and Paranormal books (our favorite genres). It was a rough start because to find multicultural books you have to really search a lot! Believe me they are out there but they don’t get half the promotion as let’s say a book like Beautiful Creatures by Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia, will get.

What I’ve noticed in multicultural books is that often they bring something extremely different than mainstream books. They bring legends, myths and lore alive in different cultures that you don’t get a chance to see in mainstream books. And honestly the stories I’ve read so far have been awesome!

Growing up Afro-Latina was difficult. As a child there was no such thing as calling yourself Afro-Latina. You were either a black person or a Latin person. Most people had no idea that Black people had flooded the population in Latin America. I was considered foreign by the things I ate, my unusual first name (which is spanish for Freedom), and the language I heard at home (Spanish). African-Americans and Latinos rarely excepted me because of my very dark skin. This very fact drove me to my love of Fantasy and Science Fiction in books, but what I noticed was people like me were always left out of the “Spectrum.”

I think when some people hear what we focus on with our blog, they hear “Oh, so you exclude books that feature white characters?” But that’s not it at all. We just try to make a home for authors who write books that are easily relatable to anyone regardless of our differences. After all don’t we all fall in love? Don’t we all have issues with our parents? Don’t we all want to take down our corrupt government for a chance of peace?

At first, we didn’t think many people cared about this subject, but the deeper we’re getting into it, we’ve been flooded with requests from authors that write multicultural lead characters (we didn’t think we’d get many requests) and a lot of fellow readers who do want to see more diversity in their favorite genres. I figured the least we could do to spread the word is spotlight authors who make diversity in fiction the everyday thing that it should be.

After all, it’s not about complaining about the authors who don’t include it, it’s about celebrating the ones that do!

About Author

Libertad
Libertad Araceli Tomas is part one of ever so lovely Twinjas @ Twinja Book Reviews. When she’s not busy reading stories featuring multicultural lead protagonists, she’s occupied improving her no hand aerials and working on getting her Black Belt in Tang Soo Do. Her Dream? To publish her Multicultural Fantasy themed book centering Time Travelers.

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19 thoughts on “Where Are All The Books That Reflect The World I Live In? Guest Post by Libertad Araceli Tomas

  1. I know for me at least, it’s fear of being ripped apart by readers for not portraying a person of color or other ethnic background truthfully or realistically. Like what I really want to say is I love your hair! (And Natasha’s too. My hair is straight as a board and I’m jealous of those curls!) But it took me a few moments to type it (and not delete) because I’ve done this in the grocery store or just out and about and women of color look at me like I’ve lost my mind when I compliment their outfit, hair, children, what have you. Very rarely have I gotten a thank you. So I’m afraid to venture into that with my writing.

    I would love to weave myth and legend into my works set here in the US but I don’t want it to come across as stereotypical if I have a POC in New Orleans practicing voodoo. But if I were to make the person white, would readers think I was scared of putting a POC in there? Truthfully, the only person I met in New Orleans that practiced voodoo was white!

    I don’t know if other writers struggle with this or if it’s just me. Unfortunately, there are still some POC out there who would accuse me of trying to make my black characters more “white” if I wrote them into certain situations. Sad to say, but that mentality is out there. I agree with the fact that there is a lack of marketing. I don’t see their names on the bookshelves very often, but since I started blogging and adding authors to FB, I’ve found a very diverse group of writers who are finally getting their work out there.

    Great post Libertad, heading over to your blog to subscribe 🙂

    Melanie

    1. Thanks, Melanie! Love the hair comment, hehe! I’m sure most people struggle with writing outside their own cultures. That’s to be expected. But the fact that you’re even thinking about it is progress! I think you would do a great job at writing anything you put the research in. Lot os Poc really just want to see stories, getting it wrong happens sometimes. Put the effort is totally appreciated!

      Hopping over to follow you!Hope we can get to know one another 🙂

      Libertad

    2. Hi Melanie. Thanks for stopping by and for the compliment! And you’re right, the mentality of characters “acting outside of race” is out there, but characters are who they are. This kind of thing happens in reality, too.

      I admit, I debated the race of my main character in Edge of Truth. I knew from the first draft that having a POC MC would make it a tougher sale, but I stand by my choice. I love how strong Rena is, and think she’s a fine role model for young girls, regardless of race.

    3. @Melanie please don’t take offense to this. Many women of color probably don’t thank you for your compliments because women of color(particularly of African diaspora) are used to being made specticals for a Caucasian person’s amusement. When someone asks to touch our hair, they are usually half way to already reaching out for our hair, and it isn’t usually comforting. It tends to be an invasion of space many don’t often respect.

      Numerous times people will reach out for our hair, touch our children without being asked, and aren’t malicious intentionally, but it does make us question how they see our humanity.

      You can’t simply touch someone’s breasts because you think they look nice can you?

      I don’t think people do this maliciously, but it could be that many women of color have experienced being the object of someone’s “fascination” one two many times to find the geniunity in the compliment being given.

      I’m not sure if you’ll even feel comfortable next time you approach a woman of color about her hair, but maybe you might do better if you ask her how long she’s been natural? This is a liberating experience for us(particularly blacks and Latinas) and may show you a different reaction?

      1. Hi Jeanva! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. People of all colors have been fascinated by my hair. I’ve been told, more than once, that I have “good hair.” People often ask to touch it. I’ve never felt like the intent behind it was for anyone’s amusement or to make me feel like a spectacle. When someone compliments me on my hair, I take it for what it is, a compliment.

        1. I’ve always had somewhat of an issue with the term “good hair”. I’ve been told my whole life that I didn’t have it, and by family members at that. My cousin told me once that I’d be sooooo pretty if I had curls like “una puertorriqueña”.

          So I’ve always tried to decipher what that means to people. Perhaps it means when your hair is not kinky like a non mixed black person. I still really don’t know to be honest, all I know is that I’ve never had it. I’ve always had “pelo malo” or what translates to bad hair, but I’ve never considered my hair to be bad.

          Thinking of a situation when I was young I was telling me mom I wish I had “good hair” like “mulatas” or “trigueñas” and she explained to me that I did have beautiful hair because it was healthy and mine. I never forgot that moment, because whenever I’m feeling like I’m not pretty enough, or light enough, her words always put me in a good mood!

          Sorry for the rant. Just sharing experiences 🙂

      2. I can somewhat understand and relate to this. I’ve had a few times where this has happened to me and it did make me a little uncomfortable. I suppose because I’ve never seen people ask Caucasian girls this. What some people see as compliments, others take offense to. It’s just really about being culturally sensitive to others.

        There was one instance I saw a woman that worked at my local bank at another public place.I had no idea she was married to a black man(she was white)It was obvious her child was mixed race because he was much darker with kinky hair.

        When a woman went out to touch her son to give and compliment him on his hair and complexion, his mother flipped. It was apparent that she was not comfortable with random people touching her son. And she explained that curiosity was one thing but to put your hands on my child without my permission is rude and a clear sign of privilege.

        So I kind of see your point, again it’s just about being culturally sensitive to others.

      3. No offense taken. I’m glad to have this opportunity because it’s such a prickly issue. I know better than to reach out and touch. I wouldn’t want someone doing that to me. And when I compliment them, it’s usually, I love your hair or beautiful dress or hat. Most of the time, their hair is curly or braided or twisted and I simply like the way it looks. As far as asking if their hair is natural, I would think that’s kind of stereotypical. I mean, not all black women or mixed race women have curly hair, do they? So I wouldn’t even know how to approach that, but I understand what you’re saying.

        I never realized that women were encouraged to straighten their hair to look more like everyone else. Not until I started reading more articles. I just thought it was the latest fashion trend and in five, ten years, everyone would go back to playing up their natural curls. I didn’t know it was such a big point of contention. Something more to research and learn! 🙂

        Funny you should bring up the touching. Around here, South Texas, Mexican women come up and touch cute babies all the time without permission because it brings good luck and I think, protects the baby from harm. People did that to my niece all the time and it freaked out my SIL.

        It amazes me that in such a culturally diverse and rich nation, that there are still so many things that we don’t know about each other.

        BTW, I’m loving this discussion.

        Melanie

  2. This has been an interesting post to read. Very thought provoking.

    I guess for me, as far as writing, it’s an issue of ‘write what you know.’ I mean, I grew up in a time where segregation was long gone, but multicultural neighborhoods and schools were few (at least where we lived). Most of my friends were white by default. I hesitate to venture into multicultural characters because, with today’s pressure to be politically correct, I worry that I might get something wrong and offend.

    One thing that crossed my mind as I read this was: Is the reason there are few multicultural books available because people aren’t writing them or because there’s not a large enough market for them to make it profitable for publishers to sign them? If it’s the later, maybe the boom in self- and small-pub will help.

    Good luck with your goals, Libertad. 🙂

    1. Great to “see” you again, Melissa!I remember you from the blog hop 🙂 I totally understand where you’re coming from. My sister’s boyfriend of 3 years is white and if i’m not mistaken, we’ve been the first two Poc he’s spent a lot of time around. Sometimes it’s always a lesson being around us and I think he gets frustrated that there are still a lot of things he doesn’t understand about a world outside of his own.

      As i mentioned to Melanie, yea there’s the backlash of getting it wrong but I think some people just like that some writers try. I read multicultural books that I think probably could have been written better, but I think to myself “Hey, at least it’s out here”.

      I’m not sure if iI really believe that multicultural books aren’t profitable. What I will say is, I don’t think they get as much marketing. If a book featuring an American girl of Asian Ancestry gets a third of the marketing(if that) but a book featuring a let’s say another Bella Swan, has the complete “Next Big Hit” package, which one do you think is going to do waaaayyyy better?

      I do notice more to choose from when I open up the door for self published and small press publishers. I still go to bookstores every once in a while but purchase more books through online vendors. So what I don’t see in stores, I’ll most definitely see on Amazon, or some other vendor that sells books online.

      Thanks for reading, Melanie! Looking forward to your future hops!

    2. *waving hello* Melissa! I come from a blended family and I have a blended family. So I have some advantages in the “write what you know” category, but even I don’t get it right all the time. Sometimes, it’s in the nuisances.

      I agree with you that small presses and indie authors will have a direct effect on multiculturalism in books. For people in this area, it sometimes comes down to niche marketing, reaching out to target audiences to let them know books with characters that ‘reflect the world they live in’ are available.

  3. This is such a great discussion. I think one issue is discoverability, and many indie authors writing books that feature characters of color may not have the marketing dollars to make people aware of their books. So on some level I do think it’s up to us, the readers, to help promote those authors by leaving reviews or tweeting about those books that we love. Definitely looking forward to subscribing to Twinja Book Reviews!

    1. Libertad picked an excellent topic! I’m coming up against this very thing, limitations of marketing dollars and couldn’t agree more with you about needing the help of readers. I am so grateful for each person who took the time to right a review of my book.

      Glad to hear you’ll be connecting with the Twinjas!

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting Quanie!

    2. Hi Quanie,
      Glad to see you again too! I remember you from Goodreads, I think! Clear sign I’m getting old,hehe.

      You’re right! Discoverability is key to finding great titles. Which is why I follow so many great blogs that talk about this. They may know some books my sister and I may have not discovered yet.

      I do hope you check out our blog! We’re always welcoming authors and readers who are open to talking about this and even though our preference is fantasy and sci fi, we love most genres!!!

  4. This is a great, great, GREAT post. I’m sorry I didn’t get to it sooner! I’ve always wondered this, and it’s always driven me crazy – why ARE the made-up worlds full of straight white people???? If we get to make up a brand new world, can’t we be a little more imaginative and creative and courageous than that? And don’t even get me started on scif-fi. I love Star Trek and I always will, but SHEESH, the future seems awfully heteronormative and male-centered for a supposedly utopian culture, doesn’t it? I give them props for casting more diverse actors, but there’s a very,very long way to go.

    I’m white, so I can’t possibly understand everything you’ve dealt with growing up, and continue to deal with now. Because of my sexuality, though, I do have some insight into how frustrating it is to never see yourself represented in books, TV, or movies – or to see a stereotype on the rare occasions that someone like you is there.

    I have to hope that the more we talk about this, and the more we write diverse characters, the better this will be. Thank you, thank you for posting this!

  5. I write multicultural Mythic Fiction and general fiction. My genre’s are Contemporary Urban and Historical Fantasy and some Psychological Thriller. I am by no means J.K. Rowling but I have adequate enough success. I think the focus is TOO MUCH on race and that authors should focus on the story. I do not advertise my work as “multicultural _______” because if you want to get people to read it or be open about it you have take away what would turn them away and appeal to the readers about the story and not the race of the characters. Yes, there is a downfall to this (for example, the backlash of the hunger games) but ultimately the story is all that matters.

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