I am a supporter of diversity in books. There’s been a huge push brewing and many authors, readers, agents, etc are putting their efforts towards making this a reality. Because a “normal” person isn’t “normal.” Readers come in all shapes, sizes, colors, religions, and abilities. There should be books to match.
As a person with a hearing loss I didn’t have many role models growing up. There was a book, called A Button In Her Ear, that I read as a child. This book appears to be no longer in print (or, at least, not available on Amazon). And it depicts an older hearing aid than I ever wore. A book like this targets a specific audience, rather than targeting a broad audience and giving a child like me a mainstream protagonist to relate to.
My mother wrote a novel (yes, this apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree) called An Elephant In Her Ear. I need to ask her to find it again. It was about a little girl who had an elephant in her ear (as the title suggests), so she went to sleep with peanuts on her pillow to lure them out. (My mom also illustrated the novel, I didn’t inherit that skill from her.)
When I first started being serious about writing I knew I wanted to include characters with a hearing loss. I’ve spent my professional life educating those around me about hearing loss. From this experience I knew there were many misconceptions. Hearing loss is one of those disabilities that everyone knows about, and feels they know what it entails, but in reality knows very little.
As a writer I wanted to spread education through fiction, an education that was not directly related to the main plot. I knew I wanted at least one character in each of my novels to have a hearing loss. It took me until this year to make a main character have a hearing loss. And I love the way this came about. Because this main character was not designed to be Deaf. The hearing loss is not the focus of the story.
And this is the way it should be for other minorities. The books on the shelf should support a rainbow of main characters. The population is not all white, straight, and able-bodied. That’s not real life. I pick up stories to read based on the concept of the novel. There is no reason why these characters can’t be different. And these characters should be different.
I hope you will join this movement. As a writer, write diversity. As a reader, buy diversity. And you can check out We Need Diverse Books and lend a few dollars to the cause. It’s 2014, this should be something we’ve already mastered. If you agree, make your voice known.