books · Uncategorized · writing

The Importance of Diverse Characters

0001-5843697.png

I’m sure there have been several thousand posts like this before. Posts about why we diverse characters, about the diverse characters we already had out there, and another million different things.

But I’m going to talk about something else.

I have social anxiety. Probably have had it, my entire life, and will have it the rest of my life, just in different ranges of levels. There are the days where I can’t go to the grocery store without having a small panic attack, then there are days were it’s like I don’t have anxiety at all.

When I was a kid, I was just as big a reader as I am now. I actually taught myself to read, for the most part. My parents taught me the simplest of things, and then I went out and taught myself the rest. I read so much, that I was at a third grade reading level by the time I was in first grade, at a sixth grade reading level by the time I was in second.

I can’t even describe to you the amount of books I read.

And yet. People always talked about seeing themselves in characters, about how they were practically this character or that one, and I never felt like that.

I could understand Hermione’s need for information and thirst for knowledge, but I never understood her bossiness or take-charge attitude.

I could understand Katniss’s love for silence and alone time, but I didn’t understand the way she could stand in front of a crowd of people and know what to do.

I could understand Sam and Grace’s bookishness, but I didn’t understand the way they could be around new people and be comfortable.

I could go on. I saw bits and pieces of myself in characters, but I never actually, truly identified with them. I was-and am-an extreme introvert, socially anxious, easily overstimulated. I was the smallest pieces of characters, but I never felt like I was them, like so many of my friends seemed to claim.

And until Fangirl, until Cath.

I read it when I was fifteen.

Here was a girl, an introverted, socially anxious writer who liked to be alone and yet feared that she would be alone. A girl who ate peanut butter and energy bars for dinner for months because she didn’t know where the dining hall was and was too nervous to actually go and find it. A girl so much like me it felt a physical relief.

I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t the odd one out. I suddenly knew other people felt like this, because if there was a book character like me, there must be other people like me. I nearly started crying throughout the book because of this.

THIS is why we need more diverse books. So there are kids who don’t feel so painfully alone, because they can see themselves in book characters. We need diverse books to become commonplace, so common that we don’t even need to use the term “diverse books” anymore.

Happy Tuesday,

BlogSiggie

 

Advertisements

20 thoughts on “The Importance of Diverse Characters

  1. YES so much this. I also have my issues with anxiety and I could always look to characters as like the ‘ideal’ or whatever, what it would be like if I could just put myself out there more–but even then it would be with those anxious thoughts/feelings in the way. Cath is so relatable, and what’s more I feel like if someone doesn’t understand anxiety I can hand them this book and they’d get a much better understanding of what it’s like.

    Like

    1. YES. I’ve done that before, because one of my best friends was raised by parents who believe that mental illness is a lie to make people take more drugs (which my friend doesn’t believe, but she still didn’t really understand mental illness), and it worked. It did, because she had always imagined anxiety as how it is one television: all hyperventilating and walking in circles and screaming about panic attacks.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s great! And I love that she had enough of an open mind about it to learn more in the first place! I’ve been pushing a lot of mental health books on one of my friends because she’s a psych major so I feel like she’ll appreciate them/know who to recommend them to!

        Like

      2. Yeah. I still think she doesn’t understand it, exactly, but it’s better than her believing that they don’t exist.
        Tell your friend to read How it Feels to Fly. It was recently released and has a character with anxiety and it’s totally on point.

        Like

  2. Omg I relate to this post so very much. THAT WAS EXACTLY ME WITH FANGIRL. I can’t even being to explain how much I adore that book. I even didn’t review it (at that time my little sister was reviewing with me) and just got her to review it because IT MEANT SO MUCH TO ME I COULDN’T ACTUALLY FORM WORDS. Cath = the most relatable character. Especially the peanut butter omg. Ahem. Anyway, I have social anxiety too, although most people online never believe me because I do not act like someone with anxiety here. But I find online a very freeing place. No talking face to face! Such a relief! Huzzah! But IRL…very different story. *nods* So I do think it’s very special and glorious and wonderful to find a friend you can absolutely relate to in a book. Because it’s like “omg someone gets me”. I really honestly felt like Rainbow Rowell GOT ME when she created Cath. ❤ I'm so glad that book exists for us.
    ALSO THIS POST IS WONDERFUL BTW.

    Like

    1. Fangirl -and Cath-will forever be in my list of favorite books. Because just…all of it. All of the book is PURE. GOLD.
      It’s strange how social anxiety works, doesn’t it? I can spiral from just having to talk to a teller at a grocery store but I’ve considered starting a YouTube account where people see my face and that’s perfectly fine to me.

      Like

  3. I completely agree! Especially about how books should all be diverse so that the term “diverse book” doesn’t need to be used anymore! I think a diverse character is a realistic one, we can’t keep churning out the same exact personalities and just slap on a different hair color and name. There’s something special about a book that explores a type of human that other books haven’t, it makes for good writers and happy readers. Especially when that reader can relate. ❤

    Like

    1. Exactly. Like, yeah, it’s one thing to have a, say, Mexican character, but another thing to have a character who’s Mexican who actually speaks Spanish and lives in the Mexican culture, and not just someone who’s discribed as being Mexican and…that’s it.

      Like

  4. I so hear you! I haven’t yet found that one character that is me from top to bottom, but Cath came VERY close! It felt like such a relief and it also made me feel better that so many people liked her.

    Like

  5. I completely agree with you. We need to reach a point where books are just books no matter the character’s race, gender, sexuality, religion, anxieties, personalities, etc, etc. It’s only recently that we, as readers and writers, have started to realize this, which is why they are called ‘diverse;’ at the moment. But hopefully in the years to come, such books will be so commonplace that we won’t need the title ‘diverse’ before it anymore.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s