Why We Need Diverse Books

All across the English-language publishing diaspora, now seems to be an exciting moment for diverse books. The Society of Young Publishers just themed their AGM on diversity in the industry; Seven Stories, the UK’s National Centre for Children’s Books, just published a list of the 50 best diverse children’s books in The Guardian; the hashtag #weneeddiversebooks regularly trends on Twitter whenever there is a fitting new release, or indeed, whenever there appears to have been a lack of fitting releases; the children’s laureate Malorie Blackman has made it the explicit goal of her time in the role to champion diverse books.

In a recent interview with The Guardian  Blackman says, “I once had a bookseller tell me, ‘Your books are just for black children and we don’t have that many black children in this area.’”

What Blackman was told might sound shocking, but that is perhaps due more to the bluntness of expression rather than the sentiment. Whether we admit it or not, statistics show that it is absolutely normal for readers in the UK to exclusively read fiction about people with characteristics that are similar to their own, be that only reading about characters from their own country, social class, race or gender. The assumption that only black people would want to read about black people is perhaps one that is less foreign to our own psyches than we would care to admit. 

Working to change this can take the form of advocating for publishers to bring out more books that are written by, and depict, people from a wider range of backgrounds. Indeed, when 50 representatives from the book industry met this week to discuss diversity in the industry, this is the the course of action they decided on, drafting a new diversity charter for publishers to sign by March of this year. 

It can also take the form of highlighting the times where this has already happened; the slow, daily activism of making sure that the exciting, diverse books that do exist find their readership. 

It is with this in mind that, in four installments over the next two weeks, we will be posting a series of diverse picks from the Turnaround archives.  

‘Diverse’ is, of course, something of a nebulous term. What we mean by it here is, ‘a book that is not by a heterosexual white male British author, about a heterosexual white British man.’ This category, of course, accounts for many wonderful books! It just shouldn’t be the only one that is given critical attention. As our blog posts will evidence, if this is all you’re reading, you’re missing out!

Hunting through the Turnaround treasure troves for titles matching our diverse specification proved to be an utter joy. We dug up so much, in fact, that one list simply wouldn’t do. So we are declaring February  ‘diverse books months,’ and will be publishing a differently themed list of favourites every week in the month. 

  • Wednesday 4ndFebruary – Turnaround’s roundup of our top titles featuring transgender characters.
  • Wednesday 11th February – Fiction in translation and Dual Language Editions – and why they matter.
  • Wednesday  18th February – Great female characters from children’s books.
  • Wednesday  25th February   Great children’s books about other cultures.

To see our picks, you can either check back to this here blog, follow us on Twitter (@turnaround_uk) or like our Facebook and Instagram pages where we will be posting details of individual titles mentioned in our posts.

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