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.