Today, I’m going to talk about diversity in books. What I’m not going to say is that every book needs to include characters of a certain race or lifestyle choice or body type or poverty level. Yes, we all want to find the character that reminds us of ourselves, and for that we do need diverse characters.
What I’m talking about is how we can discuss diversity without relating it to race. I’ll be using examples from the Truth Series by Dawn Cook (First Truth, Hidden Truth, Forgotten Truth, and Lost Truth).
In First Truth, we are introduced to a world where there are two societies: the Plains and the Foothills. They are not defined in terms of race, though each society does have physical features that define them. What’s separates them even more than geographical location or skin tone? Attitude.
We learn that these two societies are dependent on each other. The foothills people spend their days farming while the plainsmen who live in a dessert are craftsmen, purchasing food in return for goods like pottery and fabric.
Instead of forming a symbiotic relationship, they are adversarial, thinking the other is out to see the demise of their society (disregarding the fact that neither can survive without the other).
Without using any terms we associate with race, race is woven into the storyline. Our two main characters must work through the stereotypes, first seeing the person beyond the cliche. Later, they learn why each society creates the culture they have today, and learn to recognize the strengths and weaknesses that they both have because of it.
And it’s all woven into a fantasy story with talking dragons, folklore, high seas adventures, time travel, and evil villains. (Eventually, third and fourth societies are introduced, each with their own strengths and pitfalls, but to talk about them here would make this already long post into a novel!)
My point in a nutshell: let’s keep our eyes open to the messages of acceptance in fiction, especially when it is not wrapped in the package we were expecting.