Fantasy and play and romance. Play. It’s the space where creativity happens. It’s a place of joy, hope, rejuvenation, innocence, and a throwback to childhood when things are (or should be) carefree. In the vast majority of books featuring people of colour and other marginalized voices, the offerings are of overcoming suffering, the pain of being “other”, and the untimely loss of innocence. Not that there isn’t a place for these novels. They are vital and necessary, and offer a most important mirror for those in similar situations–and I reserve the right to have my next book explore suffering and pain and violence, and maybe even identity. All I am saying is that to only put forward stories of marginalized people suffering nobly or weathering hardship, to the exclusion of other types of stories, is where we once again risk falling into the trap of what Chimamanda Adichie terms the “single story” trope.
It’s this belief—that teens of color don’t read—as well as the assumption that those teens of color who do read need certain kind of books, especially the serious and heavy stuff, that contributes to the dearth of popular fiction for those readers. As a white reader, I can choose to read something “literary” or “popular” about my community from the stock at my local library or bookstore, but readers of color don’t necessarily have that option. Especially when bookstores and libraries buy into the whole “people of color don’t read” hype.
We want it all! Why do so many editors reject the fact that all readers want—and deserve—a range of books that reflect our diverse realities?