Recently, Andrew Smith, author of Alex Crow and Grasshopper Jungle, gave an interview where he was asked about his female characters.
Needless to say, his answer has set off the YA community into two camps: the critics and the supporters.
Having never read any of his books, I am not sure I am qualified to enter my opinion on his characters, but I will say that his answer for why he cannot write a well-rounded female character is problematic to me, and on a much larger scale. This article does a great job of laying out some points for why Smith’s answer was problematic and was instrumental in making me want to write this post.
To be truthful, I have wanted to write a post about diversity in publishing for a while. But I did not know how I want to approach it. There are whole discussions going on by the authors and publishers about how to address the lack of diversity. I did not feel that I had the adequate background information to write a post.
BUT… That article above by Derek Attig made some points that I felt had a broader scope. Attig makes a point about how women are not alien, they are humans with their own wants and desires, and to see them as inherently different is sexism at its core. This is a great point, and it can be a universal message.
No matter your skin color, we as humans are not so different. Yes, there will be cultural differences, but our wants and needs are almost universal. So when I was reading Attig’s first point, I started thinking, this is applicable across the board. Just because a writer is of one race does not mean he/she cannot write compelling, and diverse characters or well-rounded characters of the opposite gender.
Writers, don’t be lazy. Research, imagine, talk to others. Don’t limit yourself.
Readers, demand more. Don’t just read the same characters over and over. Expand your horizons.
And I agree with Attig’s response to Smith’s “I’m trying.” I will only say this: as Yoda said, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”