Please welcome Sandi Beth Jones, author of the newly released Byronic! (You can read Audrey’s review of it here.) Sandi has stopped by Rich in Color to briefly talk about her feelings on #WeNeedDiverseBooks. Don’t forget to check out the giveaway at the end that Omnific Publishing is holding!
After seeing the wonderful social media push for more diversity in publishing, I was inspired to write this post. Some people tried to talk me out of writing about a biracial MC, which makes me wonder how many authors consider writing about POC, then back down out of fear they won’t find a publisher or that it won’t sell? Now that’s a scary thought.
As an educator, I’ve been on my soapbox about this a long time, commenting on blog posts and tweeting in discussions. Yes, I’ve fought for diversity in publishing for years. For those of you who don’t know me, I’ve spent the past twenty years working with books in some way or another. First as a bookstore manager, then a school librarian, a teacher, and a published adult author. I worked for ten of those years in a rural Delta school with a large minority population, and as their librarian, it was my job to seek out books that my kids wanted. This was my absolute favorite job of all time, because I got to know my students, their dreams, hopes, and interests. I spent my entire budget bringing them books that gave them sooo much joy, as well as diversions from their daily lives, some of which were unimaginably hard. I understand the importance of having escape fiction, because I, too, came from a difficult home life. Reading fiction truly saved my life.
Yet when my paranormal-loving teen students asked for books, I had no choice but to buy books with characters on the cover who they could not relate to because they looked nothing like them. There were a few titles being published with diverse MCs, but these were mostly contemporary story lines, or more commonly, urban fiction. Not what the majority of my students were craving. Consequently, I was outraged at the lack of selection. No librarian should ever have to answer the question “How come there aren’t any kids like me in these books?” It wasn’t that I wasn’t buying them. I was buying every YA book with POC in them. Every. Single. Title. And these books stayed checked out constantly. (Don’t get me started on the comparisons of cover quality, either!) I couldn’t buy what wasn’t being offered. I’m positive if more educators and libraries consciously bought more books with diverse characters, we wouldn’t be suffering this lack of representation. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure if we buy it, they’ll publish more!
So it was during one of these times of frustration that the plot for my gothic/paranormal story, BYRONIC, was born. For my first YA book, I chose a main character who was biracial. I wanted her to be strong, talented, and beautiful, just like many of the young women who came into my school library.
I’m white, so you might ask if my characters are believable. I did my best. I hope my characters are just as believable as those by a woman writing in a man’s POV. My goal was to entertain, not to try to teach any lessons or make a point. I simply love reading books about romance and creepy stuff–the same as many of my students. 🙂
Anyway, I hope another would-be author will read this and find the courage to write about REAL characters, not what they think they’re expected to write.
Born and raised in Arkansas, Sandi is the author of bestselling and award-winning romance. She’s worked with books for the past twenty years, first as a bookseller, then as a library media specialist and teacher. She lives on a river, hoards antique books, and travels to places off the beaten path.