Today we have the lovely Ana from Ana Loves discussing what diversity means to her as a Puerto-Rican American. This post is so important and I really think you all should read it!
Ana is an 18 year old Puerto-Rican American who has a passion for all things books. When she’s not reading or blogging you can find her baking cookies, binge watching Netflix shows, or working towards her degrees in English and Nursing.
Hi everyone! *waves frantically* My name is Ana and I am super excited to be guest posting during Diversity Month! Diversity in books is something I feel strongly about and I’m really happy that it’s becoming a popular topic.
First things first is my disclaimer: The content in this post is all my opinion and is based on my personal experiences. I am writing to share my views on this topic and in no way mean to offend anyone.
For this post I wanted to focus more on cultural diversity in books, more specifically Hispanic and Latino characters. Before I dive into specifics, I think it’s important that I give you some background about myself so you can get a better grasp of why I have these opinions:
- I am Puerto Rican American, however I am very Americanized- I understand some Spanish but cannot speak or write it.
- I was born in New Jersey and lived there until I was 6, then I moved to Florida and moved within the state 4-5 times.
- I’ve always taken advanced classes and in high school I went to a special program that allowed me to start college in 10th – 12th I graduated high school with 105 college credits.
- I’ve encountered minor brushes of racism in the past (nothing major thank God) and it really shaped my view of society.
It’s no secret that white protagonists dominate in the world of books; in fact the only book series that I can think of with black, Asian, and Hispanic main characters are Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles and Heroes of Olympus series. Take a moment and think of all of your favorite books/series, now tell me how many of them have a Latino, black, Asian, Native American (you get my gist) main character. Not that many are there? I’m pretty sure there are plenty of culturally diverse side characters, but let’s be honest- the story isn’t about them.
Cultural diversity in books is important because our stories need to be heard. We still live in a world with racism, discrimination, and hate and one way we can mitigate these problems is by writing and reading about these different cultures especially in middle grade and young adult books.
Keeping my background in mind, growing up I have always heard whispers of what people expected of me. On more than one occasion I’ve been complimented by teachers because they were surprised that I was as bright as I was. I was even told by my ninth grade teacher that I was a ‘rare exception’ to my race (after that statement I lost respect for the teacher). Although these were all compliments, it still hurt me to think that I had to work extra hard for people to see past my race. On top of that, ALL of my favorite books- Harry Potter, Nancy Drew, Junie B. Jones, Magic Treehouse, etc. feature white main characters, I couldn’t see ‘me’ anywhere.
Due to these instances, I was always unhappy with how I looked. It pains me to say that when I was a kid I thought that the only way I could look beautiful was if I was white, had blonde straight hair, and blue eyes. I distinctly remember planning that when I was older, I would dye my hair blonde, get color contacts, and (this part really sickens me) avoid going outside so I could get white. These are not thoughts an elementary school kid should have, but because I wanted to be like the girls I read about (especially Nancy Drew) I thought about it.
As I got older I began to accept the skin I was in, but I had a different problem. Most of the books I read made the diverse characters the bad guys. I’m not going to put any books on the spot but I will share a few instances where the diverse character is Latina/o:
- She’s the best friend of the MC- but she betrays the MC someway (in most cases she steals the MC’s boyfriend)
- She’s the ‘mean’ girl at school
- She’s the slutty girl that all the guys go to
- He’s a rapist/burglar/criminal/murderer/villain
- He’s the ‘bad boy’ at school (flunks classes, gets suspended, etc.)
- He dates MC and breaks her heart in the worst way
You get my point, this breaks my heart every time- especially when it’s in a story/series I love. What is this saying about Latinos? It’s no wonder why many teens and adults have such negative views of us, they read about how horrible Latinos are and whenever they come across one that breaks the stereotypes they say that that person is an ‘exception’.
So what should we do? Educate people, support positive diverse books, and write positive diverse books. It’s not going to undo everything, but it’ll be a start. Don’t let diverse books be a trend, make it a necessity.
Thank you Ana for sharing your thoughts and for this post! What did you guys think of the post? Let’s discuss in the comments!