How to Respect Diversity When Your Novel Calls for Exclusion

Today, I am writing about a topic that has been constantly on my mind for the last few years: diversity…

As society is increasingly becoming more diverse and as sensitivities towards equality and inclusion grow, I am not surprised that the calls for diversity in fiction are steadily getting louder.

As a writer of Young Adult (YA) fiction, I feel the weight of responsibility to write for the diverse audience of young adults that is out there.

And yet, there is one fundamental issue: my current Work In Progress (WIP) is set in a dystopia that is strictly controlled by science and diversity is not something that is exactly thriving in my story world.

You could say that the regime I am describing is largely concerned with purity and a radical form of equality: every citizen gets exactly what they need to survive and prosper but nobody gets to choose what is provided.

Science determines each aspect of each citizen’s life and conformity is key to survival. Freedom is a concept that is virtually unknown 100 years after ‘The Great Transition’.

I quickly realised that including a range of diverse characters wouldn’t fit into this story world and the credibility of my story would be compromised by being inconsistent with the values of the New World (where Book 1 of my WIP is set).

In order not to disrespect the importance of diversity in YA fiction, however, I came up with the following strategies that help avoid a detrimental world building flaw without openly dismissing the issue:

ONE:
I don’t specify the ethnic background of the New World citizens. It is left to the reader’s imagination.

TWO:
I introduced a sort of ‘underworld’ known as the ‘Closed City’ where the protagonist becomes first exposed to non-heterosexual relationships. To me, this element serves to show that humans cannot be 100% under control. I feel like this actually helps lend credibility to my story world. Nothing’s ever perfect.

THREE:
Book 2 of my YA trilogy is set in the Old World (a slightly futuristic version of the world we all know today). This takes the story outside of the controlled environment that is the New World and allows me to introduce more diversity as I see fit.

 

What is your take on diversity in (YA) fiction? Do you go the extra mile to respect and include diversity in your writing? Do you recognise diversity as your responsibility (as an author) or do you think it introduces unnecessary barriers to storytelling? I have been following this debate for a while and would like to hear your views. Please feel free to contribute via the comments section below. And as always, have a productive Sunday (no matter how diverse your WIP). 

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