I don't remember the last time I felt the need to rant about TWO IABB Confessions in a single week. (I don't think it's ever happened before.) Once again, neither IABB nor the graphics artist are responsible for the contents of this confession. It was submitted anonymously. IABB and the graphics artists merely provide a platform for their airing and the graphics to make them look purdy.
This is not the first confession recently to negatively broach the topic of diverse books. I suspect that they've all been submitted by the same person. Why that person is so bitter about diversity in books, I'm not sure.
So why am I talking about this confession? I'm an able-bodied, white, cis-gendered woman. The only way I could be any more perfect is if I were born with a penis (this vagina is a real drag, I tell ya.) The point is, I see myself represented out the ass in books, television, and movies. In fact, I don't think I've ever read a book about a character that seemed a lot like me and actually thought "She's like me!" Because I never had to. I was Laura Ingalls Wilder living in the little house on the prairie. I was Caddie Woodlawn spending my winters ice skating on the lake in Wisconsin. When Laurie ended up with Amy in Little Women, it was devastating because I was Jo. I saw myself in Jane Eyre, Ramona Quimby, even Beverly Cleary herself in her autobiography A Girl From Yamhill. And that's just books. I'm pretty well represented. I don't know what it's like to not see myself in popular literature. (In my childhood I used both Laura Ingalls Wilder and Ramona Quimby as Halloween costumes even.) So I'm not the best person to speak about why it's so important for us to have diverse books, and why this shouldn't and won't be "just a trend," but I'm going to do it anyway.
You see, I have friends who aren't like me. I have a friend from high school who is gay. I found out on Facebook years after we both graduated because his profile said he was interested in men. But since getting on friends Facebook accounts and changing that information to make people seem gay who weren't was a thing, I wasn't sure if I could trust it, and since my loving nickname for him in high school was "fag" (yes, I am very ashamed of myself for using that word), I didn't feel like I could just ask him if he was out. So I messaged my younger sister who used to date his younger brother. She didn't know if he was out or not either. It took a couple months for him to start posting things that made it obvious he is in fact a gay man. I am happy that he no longer feels the need to hide that part of himself. I wish he had felt like he could come out in high school. But we lived in a small town, in the middle of Kansas. The environment is not exactly one that is particularly accepting of differences. And I fear that my use of that nickname contributed to the problem, even though it was always accompanied by a hug, and I don't like touching people in general, but he probably didn't realize that. I'm too scared to ask him though. I'm scared to find out that I'm part of the reason he felt like he couldn't come out in high school, even though he always called me "whore" in response (an also somewhat accurate, albeit derogatory, nickname.) And my fear doesn't involve exposing a part of myself to potential ridicule that I don't deserve. What does this have to do with diversity in books? I'd never been in a gay person's shoes through literature at that point in my life. Not once. And I read a lot. It's a pretty safe bet that my friend didn't really see himself represented very well either. So neither of us knew how to navigate that situation at the time. And then in the end, Facebook told me he's gay. This right here, putting my shame in print for all of you to read, that's a truth that hurts. It hurts me right now thinking about the pain I may have caused him, and it probably hurt him when it was happening. This is why we need diverse books, and diversity on television and in movies. Kids who are different need to see themselves in characters in their favorite tv shows, books, and movies. They need to know that they're not alone.
And as long as people are diverse, there will be interest in diverse books. There will always be people that aren't just like me that want to see themselves represented in literature. That's why it won't just be a passing fad. No one is going to be like "Man, diversity is so last year. I think it's time to write about robots now." (Story idea: POC gay alien robot.) And I think, I hope, that as more people of diversity realize that not only do they have a story to tell, but they can actually tell it and people will want to read it, that we will start seeing more and more diverse books on the market. The confessor may think it's a passing fad, but this is one trend that some of us will never tire of. - Katie