The orange-and-black velvet ensemble Marian Anderson wore during her historic Easter Sunday performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on April 9,1939, is on view to mark the 75th anniversary of the concert.
American History Museum, 2nd Floor, East Wing
April 8. 2014 - September 7, 2014
It is easier to write Neutral characters (white, straight, able-bodied, non-religious, mostly male). Less controversial, strangely. If the major characters of all your books resemble the cast of Friends, you’ll get occasional questions as to why but no major protestations. Because we’re all used to it. It’s the norm.
If you write Specific characters (characters of color, with disabilities, who are religious or LGBTQ or have any other non-neutral traits), you will get more questions. Readers and reviewers who are like the character will challenge you. Will tell you that your portrayal disappointed them. Because the experience of the character wasn’t exactly like their own. Or representative enough. Or positive enough.
This will happen whether or not the author is like the character in question, though more often if a white author writes about a POC, or a straight author writes about an LGBTQ character, or an able-bodied author writes about a character with a disability, etc. Those who protest are engaging in important dialog. They need to have a voice. Their concerns are important. They help challenge writers to be respectful, thoughtful, and truthful in their writing.
But I worry that the concerns will discourage some authors from writing Specific characters. We must continue to do so, respectfully and as honestly as we can. Because it’s our job to represent humanity in literature. And humanity is diverse.
People are white and black and Asian and Latino and mixed. No one is truly able-bodied: we have missing limbs or chronic illnesses or mental illnesses or even glasses or allergies or freckles or fat or some way our bodies or minds aren’t exactly like some impossible transcendent ideal. People are different or weird or confused but always, always interesting.
Right now, the vast majority of characters in books and movies are Neutral, so when you write the rare character in a novel who isn’t, they stand out more. And people worry if the portrayal isn’t perfect (whatever “perfect” means). Because what if a young reader reads that book and it’s the only book they ever read about that kind of a person and they assume that’s how all people like that are?
It is impossible to write a character that should somehow accurately represent the truth of all people like that character. But I hope writers aren’t scared back into safer Neutral Land. The answer is more Specific characters. More and more till we more closely match the world we live in. And then those few Specific characters won’t have to carry the load of representing on behalf of all others like them. Then we can allow them to be their own unique, individual selves with flaws and all and love them all the same.
Stunning images of students attending the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (now Drexel University). The University was founded in 1850 and is one of the first institutions in the world to train women in medicine and offer them an M.D degree. Women came from all over the world to train there.
Just right click open in new tab to see full size
With thanks to Drexel University for maintaining the archives
Vintage Lady Doctors! :D
If it weren’t for these amazing women, I would not be where I am today. Thank you.
that was the worst pun ever but im laughing
black widow/ Чёрная вдова/ chernaya vdova/ natalia alianovna romanova/ natasha romanoff
Hello, world— I want to watch a Black Widow movie because I am a fan of Black Widow, because superhero spy stories are my jam, because I want to see Yelena and Alexi and all of that brought to life and breathing. It is not a generic yearning for a woman-shaped hero movie. I mention gender a lot because that seems to me the big obstacle; the Black Widow film they had in development before Iron Man and the rest was cancelled because of the failure of Ultraviolet and Elektra, cancelled because Natasha’s gender seemed like a box office risk. My desire for a Black Widow film is rooted and specific, it’s not going to be satisfied by anything but a Black Widow film.
No one suggests Ant-Man, instead, when people say they want a Hawkeye film, though both characters are big deal Avengers and Clint used Pym Particles that one time. We are allowed to assume Hawkeye means Hawkeye, and not some other dude. When the internet talks about Black Widow, though, it comes back like lightning: what about Ms. Marvel? Kevin Feige has suggested that the calls for a Black Widow movie are just calls for a female lead, and have nothing to do with Natasha. But when I say I want a Black Widow movie, I mean I want a Black Widow movie.
That doesn’t mean all I want is a Black Widow movie. I’d love to see Carol Danvers punch holes in the sky— but that would be a film about going up, flying further, far-off planets and distant stars. It wouldn’t be anything like a Black Widow movie. I’d love to see Wonder Woman bring love into the language of the superhero action film, I want to see Angela del Toro make hard choices about legacy and what Monica Rambeau’s spectrum of powers could look like with a big budget. But none of these are Black Widow movies, none of them are replacements. None of them should be. They have their own adjectives, their own themes and history. They’re characters, superheroes, not just shapes to fill a gap.
anyway quit complaining. YOUR kids voted for me
Anne Boleyn/ King Henry VIII inspired nail set
I will just leave this here.
TUDOR NAILS FTW!
Within the last few weeks, the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, and CNN have all published articles examining the lack of diversity in children’s and young adult literature — and next month, School Library Journal plans to publish an entire issue devoted to diversity. While all this mainstream interest in diversity is to be applauded for bringing more people into the ongoing conversation about diversity, they still largely fail to tackle the problem of how we can change the status quo.
We at Diversity in YA obviously don’t have all the answers, and we aren’t the first people to talk about these issues. This conversation has been going on for decades. What we do have are ideas for how you can change the status quo right now. If you’re an ordinary reader, you don’t have to wait to show your support for books that show the world as it is. Here are five ways you can help make positive change right now:
1. Look for diversity.
Make a conscious effort to seek out books to read that feature characters of color, LGBT characters, and/or disabled characters. They may not be front-and-center at your local Barnes & Noble; you may have to look around a bit or go online to find them.
2. Support diversity.
Support the diverse books that are published today by buying them, by checking them out at your library, or by requesting that your library buy them.
3. Recommend diversity.
If you use Goodreads, Facebook, social media, or have a blog, talk up the books you love that happen to have diverse characters. Tell your friends! Word of mouth is still key in bringing awareness to books. And remember: You don’t need to recommend them solely for their diversity — they’re great books to enjoy, plain and simple.
4. Talk up diversity.
When discussions around diversity in literature occur online, join in the conversation if you can to express that you do want more diverse books to read and that the issue is important to you.
5. Don’t give up.
There will always be people who dismiss “diversity” as meaningless. They are the reason we must keep fighting for representation. We’re all in this together.
* * *
Want a list of diverse YA books you can get started reading right now? Here are a dozen YA books of all kinds (contemporary, fantasy, sci-fi, mystery — something for everyone!) that happen to have characters of color, LGBT characters, and/or disabled characters.
Want even more book lists? Here’s a link to all of our book lists.