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How diverse books changed me as a person: a guest post
We all like to see diversity in our YA reads. We like learning about different cultures, people, their customs, traditions etc. Some of us yearn for it – hoping to see a glimpse of our own ethnicity in media culture. But more than all of this, we NEED diversity in books. And it’s not just because it works as a gateway for people to know about things which they probably haven’t experienced firsthand.
We need diversity because it has the power to change.
It has the power to change opinions, viewpoints, beliefs and most of all, diversity has the power to change one’s entire attitude and outlook on people, discrimination, orientation and mold them into a different person than what they were before.
I say this, because I have personal experience over having my lifestyle changed because of what I read in books.
Let me give a little bit of a backstory first. I am an Asian. A Sri Lankan by nationality and a Tamil by culture. I belong to one of the most conservative and traditional communities you can ever find in the world. Which doesn’t encourage change, doesn’t want new outlooks and certainly doesn’t tolerate anything that is considered “out of the ordinary”.
So obviously, I grew up with discrimination in my heart. Don’t get me wrong, I really love my culture, but my people are so narrow minded and are reluctant to accept things they’re not comfortable with. And that’s how I grew up as.
I thought that gay people were going against nature. I thought the trans community was disgusting. I looked at white people as “loose” and blacks as “dangerous”. I was not a feminist, and all in all, I was a horrible, narrow minded and opinionated frog in the well when I was a few years younger.
But you know what’s amazing? How much I’ve changed. From that girl mentioned above, I have turned into such an open minded person who actually volunteered to write a post for an event which celebrates diversity. I support the LGBT community fiercely, strongly believe that racial stereotypes should be destroyed and respect the sensitivity of mental illnesses. I urge those around me to be more open minded, less judgemental and lose the stiffness in their opinions.
And all of this happened because of the diversity I’ve come across in YA.
It’s incredible when you think about it! I changed my entire attitude and outlook on these concepts. I learned that whether a person is White, Black, Asian, gay, straight, trans, depressed, happy, a woman or a man, they are human. And they deserve to be loved. They deserve to be treated equally. And most of all, they deserve to live a life without labeling.
And all of this is because – and only because – of the characters I’ve read about in books. Those diverse characters taught me that their diversity doesn’t make them less of a person. Each time I read about a character from a different race, culture and sexual orientation who broke the stereotype and showed me the real truth, the barrier I built around my beliefs started to crack. Little by little, they’ve changed me. They’ve molded me. They’ve made me a better person.
And I know for a fact that this isn’t just me. There are thousands of kids out there who come from marginalized communities and harbor negative feelings and opinions towards the people their communities look down upon. They’re ignorant. They don’t know the truth. You can’t blame them, and when they grow up into adults who are as ignorant as their peers, it will be a lost cause. Because trust me, people won’t change opinions unless they see things. Unless they read the stories. Unless they experience the emotions.
What did you think of this post? Have you learned anything from reading diverse books? Let’s discuss!