The discussion around diversity is rapidly growing, and yet there still aren’t enough diverse main characters in literature. Why do we need diverse main characters? We began thinking about this a long, long time ago, but just this morning we read a blog post on Diversity in YA and began thinking about it even more. The post–written by Sona Charaipotra, co-author of TINY PRETTY THINGS–is about championing #ownvoices novels while simultaneously writing outside of your community. We took some time to reflect upon the post, though we agreed with every word said.
And so, this is kind of a response post, if you will. After reading the post, we tweeted Sona saying why we think #ownvoices novels are important, and why we think there should be more books with Indian main characters. She replied saying she’s working on some, and–guess what?–we’re doing the same!
We think it’s important to both write #ownvoices and write outside your ethnicity. Not everything you write has to be directly reflective of your life, culture, and surroundings. There’s a fine line between writing truthfully, and writing for trends–and let us tell you, many people *still* think writing diversity is a trend. Do you see the PoCs around you? Are you a PoC yourself? That’s not a trend–that’s identity.
Which leads us to the point of this post: why we need diverse main characters, and why we, in particular, wish to see more Indian MCs. You know what the saddest thing is? Neither of us have ever read from an Indian MC’s POV. Sarena is, at the moment, reading THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN, but until she’s finished, we can’t truly say we’ve read a book from an Indian MC’s POV. And we’re Indian. We can name a handful of novels (and when we say handful, we literally mean no more than 5 or less), YA novels with Indian MCs. Sure, there are probably more, but the fact that it’s hard to name any at all is both startling and sad.
We think it’s important to mention, also, that we’re not talking about issue-based diverse YA. We want a book where the YA MC is both the hero, and diverse. She can be Indian, and the story won’t have to revolve around the colour of her skin. She can be Indian, and she can do whatever she wants.
Diverse characters are necessary in YA literature–and all of kids’ lit. It’s too late for someone to finally see themselves reflected in a novel once they’re an adult. No–kids, teens, should be seeing themselves in books. The only book we’ve read with Punjabi characters are THE CASUAL VACANCY and THE SECRET OF GRIMM HILL. The latter has a Punjabi side character, and we’ll never forget the way we felt when we first found ourselves in that book. We saw her and thought, hey! She’s like us! But having only PoC side characters isn’t enough for us anymore. We want more diverse characters all around. The publishing industry is a growing and revolving world, and we want to see diversity in all aspects.
Here’s a list of a few new YA novels written (or co-authored) by Indian authors:
THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN by Roshani Chokshi
MIRROR IN THE SKY by Aditi Khorana
TINY PRETTY THINGS by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton
Do you know any other awesome Indian YAs–or diverse YAs in general–that should be on our reading lists? Until next time, readers!