…Because yesterday and today, an awesome, AWESOME thing happened. Nearly everyone I follow on Twitter was tweeting. With the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag.
Streams of tweets with reasons for why diverse books are needed, with characters of every race, gender and orientation. Situations that defy the stereotypes.
I’ve never been very much a person to stand on a chair and shout for a cause. Growing up, I knew that my race was different from others, and for the most part, I was fine with it. Of course, I didn’t see too much representation of Asian characters in novels (other than the heavily stereotyped), but it was okay–I still found strength and an identity in myself.
Until I wrote TeaNovel.
Up until that point, I had been writing fantasy novels. And…though it wasn’t at the front of my mind, all my characters were mostly white. Well, some weren’t. But I still wrote in a strictly English-based world.
TeaNovel is something close to my heart. It wasn’t that way at first. I was…scared to love TeaNovel. Scared to write it. Even more scared to talk about it.
Because it is a novel that isn’t set in an English-based world. Because it touches on another culture that, in my opinion, isn’t represented enough in YA literature. Because it has characters that are of another race.
You know what my dad said about it?
“It’s not very marketable, is it? A novel with a culture based on imperial China? They won’t connect with your characters.”
My dad did not mean that in a malicious way whatsoever. In fact, he’s quite supportive of me and my writing. But I know–my dad probably hasn’t read an english book about characters in Asian cultures.
But the way he said it–so matter of fact–it made me a little sad.
And for a while, I believed him. And I worried. I worried that no one would connect with a novel I loved because it was set in a different culture.
I realize now that people love to read about different things. They love to touch on the exotic, the foreign, especially if it’s portrayed beautifully.
And guess what?
The manuscript I originally thought wouldn’t appeal to anyone? It’s actually gotten a few requests from agents, and people have marveled over the world I’ve portrayed. It makes me proud. Proud of my novel and its wonderful culture. Proud of how hard I worked on it, and proud of the world and different characters that I wrote about.
This is amazing, people.
Authors and writers, go on. Write about places you’ve never seen, but have fallen in love with. Characters who are different than you are that touch your heart. Because for once, the book and publishing community come together as one, and from both sides, they advocate: “WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS.”