Author Topic: #ownvoices/diversity  (Read 595 times)

Offline apcross13

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« on: January 16, 2022, 07:38:01 PM »
So, I'm a white, cis woman. My teenage child is queer. I have been a reading specialist and classroom teacher for a number of years. Some of my students and/or their parents are members of the LGBQT community. I can find books, if I look hard enough, that show a variety of family make-ups, but there are so few stories that represent either my personal kid or my school kids just as characters who happen to be LGBQT. I'm not talking about books that are specifically ABOUT the community, just books where someone happens to belong to the community but it is incidental to the plot.

This is true of every underrepresented group. However, I wouldn't have the least idea how to go about writing an authentic MC who was BIPOC, for example. But even though I am not LGBQT myself, raising my daughter and immersing myself in the community with her makes me very comfortable writing a book with a lesbian MC. I wouldn't try to write her coming out story, but I feel absolutely fine about putting her in my book, just because some people happen to be lesbians.

It's critical to make diversity in books an accepted practice. I've had people angry at me for making my MC a lesbian because I'm not a lesbian. I get that, but I also want my kids to see themselves and their classmates everywhere.

I have really mixed feelings about all of this, and as the white cis woman I really want to listen. I'm curious about what your thoughts are.

Offline Tallis

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Re: #ownvoices/diversity
« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2022, 08:05:41 AM »
Hi apcross,

I appreciate your thoughtful approach.  And I agree that we need more queer characters for whom their queerness is just a fact, not the central theme of the plot.  In the real world, a person's sexuality or gender identity does not serve as the sole driving factor in all of their life adventures.  LGBTQ characters deserve to be as multi-faceted as their real counterparts -- to fight wars, to raise teenagers, to steal jewels, to wrestle with their faith, to build and lose empires, etc.

As for who writes those stories... opinions obviously differ.  My humble, personal opinion is that the world of literature (and the world, period) would be impoverished if writers could only invent people like themselves.  Sensitivity is essential, of course.  If real people who resemble your character question the accuracy/plausibility of your portrait, then you listen.  But I hope they won't question your right to pick up the brush.

I'm curious what others think.

Offline JeanneG

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Re: #ownvoices/diversity
« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2022, 09:06:53 AM »
I think the problem is you can't claim #ownvoices because you aren't LGTBQ. However, your child is, and as an educator and a parent, you have experience raising an LGTBQ child and working with LGTBQ children. Here is where it gets tricky. If you want to call out the fact that your MC is LGTBQ in a query, you're stepping into muddy waters. Some agents may be offended if you are not LGTBQ.

There are two ways to handle this. 1) You could mention the LGBTQ status of your MC and add at the conclusion of the query your personal experience with the community. Or 2) You could not mention it at all, especially if it plays no important role in the plot, and let that info unfold in the story itself. My advice would be to mention your personal experience in your query, but if you want to test the waters, try posting the query in the Query Forum and see how people respond.

By the way, I have a MC in my novel who is bipolar, but like your story, it's incidental to the plot. For the family, that's just the way she is. Their world doesn't revolve around her mental condition because they don't know anything else. I've chosen to say nothing about it in the query and let the information slowly unfold. I'm not bipolar, but I have family members who are.

Debut novel, BLOOD OF A STONE (Tuscany Press) released in March 2015; winner of IPPY in national category of religious fiction and currently a finalist for IAN Book of the Year. My work-in-progress: THE DOUBLE SUN.
Twitter: @JLyetGassman

Offline apcross13

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Re: #ownvoices/diversity
« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2022, 07:36:46 PM »
Thanks so much for your replies - they were really helpful. I have added my personal experience to the biographical section of my query letter, making it clear that I'm not claiming ownvoices status but that I my MC happens to be LGBTQ because of the negative experiences my daughter and many students have had in their reading experiences. I feel much better about it!