we need diverse books
Juliet Takes a Breath
by Gabby Rivera
I’ve been looking forward to this one for some time. The idea of a coming-of-age story for a Puerto Rican babydyke going on a quest to discover herself is pretty amazing. It’s also something that seems like a no-brainer, given how many coming out stories exist. But what sets Juliet Takes a Breath apart from a lot of those stories is that JTaB doesn’t follow the general beats of that story. It isn’t focused on Juliet finding her true love (although she does get to have some romance on the side of her exploration). It’s about her finding how to be herself and about finding her community.
This weekend, I appeared on a panel at The Baltimore Book Festival with other diverse writers about our experiences in publishing and what we wished other potential writers knew before trying to write diversely or, sometimes, about characters out of their normal realm of experience. Here are a few reflections on that below.
Last week has resulted in an even more intense discussion of the need for diverse books than usual. Between Handbook for Mortals attempting to scam the New York Times bestseller list and displacing, however briefuly, Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give from #1 and bumping Nicola Yoon’s Everything Everything off the list, the Linda Howard debacle over diversity in the Romance Writers of America (RWA), and an indignant sci-fi author on Twitter, Jon Del Arroz, arguing that trade publishing agents are only seeking LGBT+ books, we need to talk. The publishing industry is not a zero-sum games, and diverse authors are not stealing from “more mainstream” or so-called “more traditional” writers.