Where My POCs At: (The Lack of) Diversity in Books

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For my Man Crush Mondays and Woman Crush Wednesdays I try to make them more diverse because I honestly hate the lack of color on my blog, especially since I, myself, am a person of color.

That being said it’s difficult to find characters that are in fact POCs. I’ve recognized this problem in literature before but it becomes abundantly clear when you’re actively look for people of color in your favorite books and can’t find them.

When i first realized this problem my first thought was, “I need to read more diverse books.” Now, this is a fair thought and in the future I will make more of an effort to diversify my reading. But then I had another thought: “Maybe there just needs to be more diverse books.”

I’m not writing this blog post with any stats to back my claims but just on my own general experience the lack of diversity in books, fiction specifically, is sub par at best. And the books that do have a POC they’re almost never the main character. Instead they’re the secondary character. They’re the best friend, the enemy, occasionally the love interest, and sometimes just someone whose name appears once as if to complete some diversity requirement.

As someone who mainly reads young adult fiction I find this lack of color disappointing at best, a serious problem at worst.

Why is it so hard for me to find a teen book that has a person of color as the main character? And why is it when I do it’s not in the “Teen Fiction” section but instead in “African-American Literature,” or “Asian American Novels,” or “Hispanic Books”? Why is it that as soon as it’s written by an author that not’s white it can’t be classified as just a book but as something specialized that needs it’s own section and should be segregated from other books?

If I write a book about a girl dying with cancer who falls with a boy who also has cancer will it be put in a different section than The Fault In Our Stars just because I’m black? And one could argue that it’s good we have our own section. That it makes our books stand out but it shouldn’t be that way because by separating books like that it inherently makes readers think that “those books” are something different. Something foreign. Something not to be read by someone other than of that race.

Therefore when we do have diverse books it’s hard for them to get the same acclaim and sell as many books as books with white protagonists because only people of color are reading books by people of color and that’s just wrong.

This being said I encourage you all to diversify your reading. Read outside of your comfort zone and show your support for more diverse books by tweeting your thoughts on the subject with the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks. There’s also a Tumblr page dedicated to the cause and it’s not only about color/race but also about getting more books that discuss disabilities and the LGBTQ community as well. It’s a great movement and you should be a part of it.

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8 thoughts on “Where My POCs At: (The Lack of) Diversity in Books

  1. Amy Couttas says:

    I do my Top Ten Tuesday’s in advance (I’m not sure if you do TTT) and next weeks (or maybe it’s the week after) but the topic is top ten favourite diverse characters. After doing my list it became glaringly obvious to myself that I do not read anywhere near as many diverse books as I do books with characters who are white, straight, mentally fine, middle class. Since doing the post I’ve decided that I’m going to branch out and leave my comfort zone and read more diverse characters. It’s obvious that’s it’s a problem in YA
    I really liked your post 🙂

    • Zakiya N. Jamal says:

      I’m so glad you liked it! And yes the lack in diversity in YA is astounding. Branching out is the best way to go. 🙂

  2. flowercrownfem says:

    I just read an article on another blog called “19 Reasons Why I Don’t Support #We Need Diverse Books.” It was absolutely shocking to me. (One of the quotes: “Why is it wrong for me to write about Caucasian characters that are Christians and have straight friends and no disabilities?”) I was really appalled and immediately looked for blogs that support #WNDB. So happy to find yours, and I’m following, now! 🙂

    • Zakiya N. Jamal says:

      That’s despicable. I can’t believe still say things like that in this day in age. Thanks for the follow! 🙂

  3. Astrid says:

    Thanks for making me aware of this lack of diversity. As a White person, I only now realize I’ve not read any books yet with a pOC as teh main character. I also imagine that if it is clear that a character is of color, their racial minority status is usually stereotyped. At least, that’s how it is with chracters w ith disabilities, with which I am familiar.

    • Zakiya N. Jamal says:

      No problem. It’s definitely something that I think people don’t really notice/don’t really talk about it. It’s easier to recognize a lack of diversity in TV or movies because we actually see it but for a lot of people you don’t even think about that when you’re reading unless it’s explicitly stated or is a main part of the story. Glad you liked the post! 🙂

  4. Caroline says:

    Wait Zakiya, have you read Americanah? It follows Ifemelu and Obinze and their relationship while growing up in Nigeria, and then moves on to follow Ifemelu who moves to America for college who starts a blog and talks about her discovering what race actually means in America and how experiences for black people may differ in America depending on if you’re African-American or American-African. I literally just finished it about an hour ago and it’s basically one of my favorite books right now.

    But anyway, I just read this post and what stood out to me was when you said, ‘”…but it shouldn’t be that way because by separating books like that it inherently makes readers think that “those books” are something different. Something foreign. Something not to be read by someone other than of that race.”‘ and I realized that if “Americanah” was placed in one of those sections when I found it in Barnes & Noble, I probably wouldn’t have seen it/read it, which is ridiculous! Just because a book is focused on the lives of POC does not mean that I wouldn’t enjoy it, so why must we separate other books that focus on POC?

    So basically I’m saying two things: 1) By you posting this, I just realized that I probably missed out on a lot of books that I would actually enjoy because I was unaware of them due to their placement in different sections, separate from other books. The only reason I actually read “Americanah” was because it was placed within the best sellers section, which is obviously right when you walk in any bookstore.
    And 2) Go read “Americanah” because it was soooo good.

    • Zakiya N. Jamal says:

      Hi Caroline. That was a lot. Lol. But I read it all I love what you said. I’ve started Americanah but I never finished it. Now I have a reason too. I’m glad you liked my post. Thanks for reading. 🙂

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