Recently, I wrote the article Diversity is VITAL, But Be Genuine, and I received a lot of questions about my personal experiences with tackling diversity in my writings. What better way to show examples than by discussing my upcoming release? I’m going to talk about three examples from my book.
Serena—one of my protagonists—is illiterate. In fact, most of my characters are, but writing from Serena’s perspective was SUPER difficult. That sign over there? Yeah, she can’t read that. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t know what it says. I think a HUGE misconception about illiteracy is the belief that literacy is associated with intelligence…meaning if you’re illiterate, you’re dumb. Not only is this insulting but it completely negates the fact that there are different “types” of learning. I, for one, have a problem remembering anything when I hear it. I’m not an audio learner. I have to read everything. But my brother is the opposite. If he heard it, he knows it. If he reads it, he forgets it, yet we both have a way of figuring things out. Serena may not be able to read that sign, but she knows the road. She’s probably heard people talk about the road or refer to it. Think of little kids who can’t read but still know their name. You don’t have to be able to write your name to know it. In fact, most people might not know she’s illiterate by talking to her, which brings up another misconception: Being literate doesn’t mean you’re automatically well-spoken. I read all the time…and I stumble over my words all the time. The same goes for those who don’t read. Many illiterate people can speak very well. There are many spectrums of reading and writing and speaking. Assuming everyone is on the extreme of any given scale is silly. Think of ancient storytellers before we had a written language. They still told the story so well people later had the memory to write it down.
One of the oldest characters is a veteran named Calhoun Wilson. He is big, strong, and loves to cook. He also has one arm. You see, I knew a woman with one arm…and I didn’t even realize she had one arm until the fourth or fifth time I met her. She often folded her sleeves so you couldn’t tell from an initial glance, but the other reason I believe I didn’t notice was because she was extremely talented at cooking. I think the average person thinks of cooking as a two-armed activity. You know, hold the bowl with one hand, stir with the other. But we’re wrong. People who have one arm can be just as capable—if not MORE capable—than those with two, so I wanted to tackle that with Calhoun, and his hobby became cooking in honor of her. Disabled does not mean “unable to do everything you do.” It just means they do things differently than you. And oftentimes, they do it better.
People of Color/Cultures:
Niki, Tessa, and Briauna are the first characters that come to mind. Originally, none of my characters had physical descriptions of their ethnicity, but when Bad Bloods was first published in 2007, I heard THAT question. “Why are all of your characters white?” I had never pictured all of them as white, but readers white-washed them. So, I added some information I may not have had the abilities to add when I was a first-time novelist. (Fun fact, all their names changed. Niki was originally Daisy, Tessa was Marisa, and Briauna was Brianna.) As an example, I want to discuss Niki. Niki is creole, but creole is never actually mentioned in Bad Bloods. Why? Well, we first have to take in the overall setting. It’s not America how we know it. In fact, it’s a city-state called Vendona, and the entire city is made up of a huge French population. That being said, Niki never speaks or alludes to speaking French. Why? Because her character was homeless and then raised by non-French speaking citizens. But Ami, another character, does speak French, because she was raised in a French household. We also see this from Serena’s perspective when she refers to men as brunet (not the female “brunette”), when Daniel does not. Fun fact, American English doesn’t support “brunet.” It prefers we call men brown-haired or dark-haired and only women brunette. I stood by brunet for the language, and I used blonde/blond differences throughout the novel as well.
In Bad Bloods, mental health is a huge aspect of both of my protagonists’ lives—so much so that I could probably write an entire article on it—so I will save that topic for another day. One of the characters is also deaf—a topic I tackled after I met a family’s friend’s family, all of whom were deaf—and most of my characters’ abilities cause them some sort of disability. Example? Briauna, as mentioned above, has scales. This is her only “power.” There is no rhyme or reason to it, but she is constantly scratching them off, like psoriasis, which runs in my family. She struggles with how it makes her look and feel.
I wanted to explore various issues and diversity as it is—as part of a person, not the entire person. So while my cast is diverse, what makes them diverse does not define them. Niki, for instance, is defined by why she is loyal to Robert, the leader of the Southern Flock, but has disdain for Serena, the second-up in the Southern Flock. Her red eyes are seen more than her skin or hair, and her abilities to hear a pin drop from a mile away is worried about more than the fact that she can’t speak French. So, while you can expect a diverse cast in Bad Bloods, diversity alone does not define them. Their character and choices and aspirations will, and I hope you enjoy their lovely, messed up, conflictions and desires.
In the end, Bad Bloods is about a city eradicating a type of people—bad bloods—because they are different from the majority of the population. This is a terrible tragedy we see happen far too often in real life. Hopefully, by focusing more on the importance of diversity, we will have a day in the future where we accept all types of people without question, without war, without hate, without fear.
Until then, books like Bad Bloods will have to be written to remind us why it’s important we love everyone.
Did you see this week’s #TeaserTuesday? If not, now you do! You can also pre-order BOTH Bad Bloods books. A newsletter will go out later this month with more details and prizes, so I hope you’ll sign up for your chance to win. I may or may not be about to announce another Barnes & Noble book signing, so stayed tuned. 😉
November Rain, Part One, releases July 18, 2016
November Snow, Part Two, releases July 25, 2016
You can officially sign up for Bad Bloods Book Blitz through Xpresso Book Tours! I hope you’ll sign up to support this little author out. (You might also win some awesome prizes while you’re at it!)
Don’t forget! There’s also a FREE Bad Bloods Prequel releasing on Wattpad, and you can now read Adam’s origin story as well as Michele’s. I hope you’re enjoying it!