Some people view an all white able bodied cast of characters in a book to be pretty normal. I guess to them it’s pretty normal, a reflection of their daily life, and not an active artistic choice. Or perhaps it is purposeful, and meant to illustrate some truth of the culture or experiences of that group.

You can find that kind of mindset in books from every country though- all Japanese cast in Japanese books, all white Dutch people in Dutch books, all ethnically Middle Eastern people in a Middle Eastern book.

My books aren’t diverse because that’s the thing that sells best in YA. They’re just diverse because my experience of the world has always been a mix of perspectives.

It’s not always a bad thing- Persepolis, a graphic novel written by an Iranian woman who had been a teenager during the rise of the Taliban, depends on all the characters being Iranian to bring the story across.

Then there’s other books where you can get a feeling that the homogenous cast is due to the author wanting to cut out characters of different perspectives and backgrounds, just like they cut the same people out of their real life.

And there’s the third type of author who, funnily enough, is scared to write books with a diverse cast. They are scared they won’t portray the characters perfectly, that they’ll accidentally slip into stereotypes or they’ll make a minority group feel Other with their portrayal of them. I get that. Fear of wanting to be perfect, fear of hurting others, is definitely something I share.

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But I grew up in place where a group of friends like this looks normal. I grew up with a tight knit group of friends in High School that were disabled, gay, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, Polynesian, African American, and white bread American. I grew up receiving New Year’s money in a little red envelope, eating larb and pad prik khing as my comfort foods, taking my shoes off at the front door of most houses I’d visit, hunkering down for a five hour Bollywood movie. For me, a diverse cast of character is just the way I think of characters.It’s not something I have to tweak afterwards because I know how much that means to people in less represented groups, it just happens that way for almost all of my books (except for Family Inflamed, where the choice of having the abusive family be white and the healthy loving family be mixed race was on purpose.)

For the most part diversity isn’t something I think about, because it just is my particular reality. I don’t go through my character lists and try to make sure it is perfectly split between genders, sexuality, race, or anything. I do try to avoid representing characters I know nothing about, but that is only because I am putting those perspectives on hold to explore in future books after I’ve gotten a better understanding of them rather than throwing them out altogether.

So, to sum it all up, my books aren’t diverse because that’s the thing that sells best in YA. They’re just diverse because my experience of the world has always been a mix of perspectives.

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