Derailing The Diversity Train


There have been quite a few awful blog posts, videos and speeches given regarding the discussion of diversity in publishing in the past few weeks. Some of these opinion pieces have led to harassment, to trolling, to people leaving Twitter and blocking half a village.

There has been a push towards inclusiveness in the publishing world lately and it’s normal to see push back. Change always begets fear. Fear sometimes leads to opposition. Like any discussion on any sensitive topic there will be people who get upset, people who take it to the extreme with things like death threats which are completely ridiculous, and people who express their anger pointedly.

The discussion about diversity has largely been about one message: creating space for all of us. Yet, over and over again, I see authors and bloggers choose to focus on the anger that is a part of the discussion instead of the discussion itself. This is taking away from what we should really be talking about and it’s not only frustrating, it’s breeding more anger.

This past week a wonderful initiative called #Diverseathon was started by a group of Booktubers to promote reading diverse titles. #DVpit, a Twitter event geared towards showcasing pitches about and especially by marginalized voices, has had over FIFTEEN successful agent/author matches just since April, there are WoC on the NYT bestseller list, and yet all the think pieces I see by white bloggers and authors are focusing on how horrible the “hate culture” has become on Twitter. Focusing on the fighting instead of the issues and how we can tackle them, only speaking out to complain about how censored they feel or how little they care about diversity in the first place.

I realize this blog post is just another circling the discussion instead of focusing on solutions and the discussion itself but the thing is, I do focus on those things, every day. I live it. I write about it, talk about it, both publicly and privately. I was getting so many questions on Twitter re: Ownvoices, things that could be easily googled, that I had to temporarily close my DMs to get any work done. I do my part by writing books about brown girls like me, by researching even though I grew up in my own skin, so I make sure I get it right. I largely try to keep it positive because I don’t like fighting. But I’m human and I get fed up too.

When there is a dust up on Twitter, it’s not just because we felt like being angry that day. In fact we’re pretty tired of it. That “pointless fight” you’re seeing is likely the result of days of harassment or discussion which escalates, of a completely different post somewhere that has angered us and we’re discussing it openly. People jump into our mentions and demand we explain, try to placate with “we are the world” sentiments, without even understanding what we’re talking about because they’re not part of the daily discussion and struggle. If they were, they’d get it. I see people routinely defended against “bullies” championing diversity, yet when I am told to “go back to Afghanistan” (I’m not from there btw) or that I am “just too sensitive,” or “probably just a shitty writer,” for expressing myself respectfully and not talking about anyone in particular, those same bully fighters are nowhere to be seen. I am not afforded the same luxury of speaking out without being harassed yet I’m asked to not even critique someone’s approach to writing my culture. Where is our “extension of grace?”

When authors get a bad review, the number one rule is do not engage. Because a reader has every right to critique your work. If your work is being called out publicly for being problematic it’s nothing against you personally and you should take the same approach. Nobody I know or respect is trying to censor anyone. How could we? We’re struggling to get into publishing ourselves! The only thing we want is respect. The only thing we want is respect. The only thing we want is respect.

I say this over and over, my friends say this over and over, marginalized voices say this over and over, our supporters say this over and over and yet people will still focus on the anger and not the message. The anger is easy to rail against. It’s easy to say, “I don’t like how volatile things have gotten on Twitter,” because nobody likes that, I certainly don’t. But ask yourself why aren’t you discussing the actual issue? What about the lack of PoC in children’s books? What about the lack of black writers in SFF magazines and books? The small percentage of publishing positions occupied by people of marginalized backgrounds? This is what we’re talking ABOUT and yet that you won’t touch? You rather focus on the fights and there’s a reason for that. The only thing we want is respect and you are not willing to give us even that.





  1. Reblogged this on Sophie E Tallis and commented:
    A very very interesting and insightful blog here on the continuing battle to try and get more diversity into fiction, specifically SFF fiction and how in some quarters, even daring to have that discussion brings derision and harassment and how the issues at the heart of the discussion are being ignored in favour of merely discussing the ‘fights’ and controversy.

    I am not a person of colour, I am white and I know that unjustly comes with certain benefits I take for granted. But what I am is a woman, 50% of the world’s population but without the inherent advantages of the other 50%. As a female writer, specifically a female SFF writer, I myself have come across prejudice in relation to the fiction we create, merely based on our gender rather than ability. Yes, that prejudice is infuriating, unfair and as with any prejudice, is completely inaccurate and based on fear not fact.

    I work in a library too, and sadly it is quite a familiar occurrence for customers (always male) to refuse to read or say they don’t read any fiction written by women, often dismissing it as frivolous ‘chicklit’. I don’t read ‘chicklit’ myself either (personal preference, I like SFF), but I have nothing against the genre and am against snobbery of any kind. I also believe that there are many writers of that genre which are talented, good, accomplished writers. Why have snobbery about any genre?

    But the point is, female writers have a FAR harder time trying to break into publishing, trying to be visible in such a male dominated genre as SFF, trying to be heard and most of all READ. The general prejudice I’ve heard is that somehow, due to our genitals, we are unable to write dark, gritty, bloody work of complexity, that we are somehow lightweight or prone to put romance in. None of which is true of course. As a library worker, I try to open eyes, so I talk to these customers about women writers who write weighty tomes, dark crime, gritty SFF etc, Margaret Atwood, Hilary Mantel, Stella Rimmington, Ursula Le Guin, NK Jemisin, Jen Williams, Susanna Clarke etc. Why this blog post is SO great, is that it is trying to focus people’s attention back on the issue that really matters – not the arguments, the hateful rhetoric on twitter etc, but actually on the issue itself – of trying to bring more diverse voices into fiction. Of trying to make fiction more representative of the diverse cultures and countries we live in. It is not about stopping other people’s voices, or political correctness, or oppression of any kind, it is about inclusion. Including more diversity in fiction, why is that scary to some people? How can inclusiveness and diversity possibly offend or threaten anyone? Great post! šŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Joanne Hall and commented:
    Interesting and thoughtful post by YA Fantasy author Claribel Ortega focusing on how arguments about diversity in SFF are taking attention away from the real and important issues of diversity and representation. Go read it.

    Liked by 1 person

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