Diversity Done Right


Diversity and inclusivity in fiction has been a subject of great interest in the last decade.
#OwnVoices are becoming widely accepted and sought after, and more and more people of all genders, sexualities, ethnicities, and cultural backgrounds are finding greater representation in the pages of the books they read and on their TV screens. Diversity done “right” makes for a richer, better-rounded experience for not only those being represented, but all viewers who are open-minded and interested in sharing others’ journeys. Diversity done “wrong”, however, often comes off as a blatant (and sometimes misguided) attempt at pandering to what is current and “trendy”, and ends up falling flat—or potentially even disrespecting the diverse peoples being written about.
So what separates “right” from “wrong” in writing and stories? Below are a few hallmarks of inclusivity and diversity executed correctly in all forms of fiction:
Understanding of the subject matter. An author who attempts to write a story set in feudal Japan or ancient Mesoamerica can’t get firsthand experience on the subject matter, but they can do an immense amount of research using materials created by those who are experts in those arenas. Shifting to more modern genres, there are plenty of real-life people from all walks of life, genders, ethnicities, and sexualities who have their own unique stories and can share their own specific diverse insights. For example, there is no shortage of experts who know what it's like to live in today's world with a missing limb.
If authors are themselves diverse, they can share their own stories and viewpoints. However, there is ample research material available today that can help anyone gain a better understanding of the experiences and perspectives of diverse audiences.
Respect. In some classic literature, there is often an undertone of disrespect for the “other”. The protagonist will often arrive as the “Great Savior” to help those “in need”. Or they will come with solutions to problems that illustrate just how superior they are.
Diversity written with respect will not only embrace equity and equality, but demonstrate how all our societies have evolved and adapted to unique circumstances with unique solutions. Just because something is done one way in mainstream America or Europe, that doesn’t mean it’s a better than how things are done in Southeast Asia, South America, or Africa. Respectful writing showcases the strengths of all societies, rather than playing up one strength over another.

Read the entire article in the May 2022 issue of InD'Tale magazine.

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