You may remember that I was going to KidLit2017 on the 20th of May. Among other things I got to hear some really interesting panel discussion with people in the publishing industry – specifically children and young adult publishing.
A recurring theme during these discussions was the idea of diverse voices. Unsurprisingly authors for children and young adults mostly come from white, middle-class, backgrounds. You only had to look around the auditorium to see that. Publishers were saying that they would like to see stories from other groups of writers.
If you are white and middle-class (that’s me) then your first reaction might be to get defensive. Let’s all take a breath. Of course you can write any story you want and from any perspective you want. That is part of the joy of writing. But you should ask yourself, is that story truly yours to tell? Is it best served by you telling it? Is that community best served by you telling their story? Are you appropriating someone else’s story and culture? This may be hard to hear but here’s the truth – it’s not about you.
Encouraging writers from different backgrounds to tell their own stories is a win for everyone. Those writer’s and their communities win because they’re represented in authentic ways. Readers win because they get great stories told from a real perspective. And writers who fall into the ‘white and middle-class’ category win because we get to support other writers and still tell our own stories. And that’s what we, and all writers, do best.