Why We Need “Bad” Diverse Books

Discussion

I hope the title of this post caught your attention, because that was what I was trying to do. In a literary landscape that is sorely lacking in the diversity we need, why on earth would I want bad books that are actually diverse?

It’s simple: we have bad books that lack diversity – why the hell don’t we have bad diverse books?

OK, let me back up a little to explain. There are all kinds of books with straight, white, able-bodied protagonists and secondary casts: we have contemporary, historical, paranormal, fantasy, mystery, magical realism, nonfiction, and even more. There are books about werewolves, unicorns, spies, criminals, zombies, musical prodigies, and Nancy Drew 2.0. There are so many different kinds of books – and, to be honest, some of them really suck.

I’m not going to call any out, because it’s obviously something that’s really subjective, but I’m sure you know what I mean. There are books with weak characters, bad writing, fragile world-building, and plots that collapse as soon as you poke them. There are stories that everyone loves that just don’t work for you and vise versa. Simply put, if you describe just about any book, from “cheesy romance that makes you swoon in spite of the shallowness” to “well-crafted magical realism story involving talking animals,” you can probably find at least one book that fits that description, and that book will probably have a protagonist who is: white, straight, able-bodied, or all three.

Obviously, I would love it if every diverse book was amazing. Everytime I pick up a book I’m interested in, I want to like it, and I feel that way especially about books that actually take the time to be diverse and reflect our world more accurately, rather than focusing on the same worldview over and over again. However, that’s just not possible – there are going to be at least a few bad apples mixed in, books that don’t live up to your expectations.

I feel like diverse books, because they’re so much more rare, have the added pressure of having to be really good in order to earn their rightful place in the literary world, but that’s just not fair. Diverse books should have the freedom to be as good or as bad as they are without that extra pressure of representing their whole diverse genre. It’s the same thing that happens to diverse people – since the majority of people in power and in the media in the US (and other countries) tend to be white and straight (or at least not openly gay) and able-bodied, the few that don’t fit into these categories are forced to represent their whole race/sexuality/whatever, which is completely unfair, and it’s just as unfair to do this to books.

So, let’s flood the literary world with diverse books. In a perfect world, they would all be amazing, but in our world, I’d be just as happy to have good and bad books, just as long as they manage to bust out of the same, tired boxes.

This is a topic I thought of myself, but I think it can definitely apply to the Dive into Diversity challenge that I’m taking part in this year, so feel free to check out that tag to see some books, good and bad (although I think they’ve all been good so far this year!) that actually have diversity!

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4 thoughts on “Why We Need “Bad” Diverse Books

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