Monday, November 24, 2014
Fiction Is Not Always Black Or White: The Importance of Diversity Guest Blog and Giveaway with LK Below
My very first stories, published and unpublished, featured diverse protagonists. In those days, I didn’t stop to think why my characters should or shouldn’t look that way, why they should or shouldn’t be from a certain background. They just were.
But the more I tried to emulate the published books I read and adored, the more I found myself steered toward an empty white slate. I still didn’t think about why my characters had to be white. They just were. Only this time, I used successful and prominent authors as examples.
I admit, I am a white woman. I have been a part of a visible minority only in one place: during the year and a half I lived in Iqaluit, Nunavut, just outside the arctic circle. Even there, exists a white supremacy.
I grew up in a small whitewashed town in the middle of rural Ontario. Before I reached high school, the only family of color in the area moved away. In high school, my sole black role model happened to be my favorite teacher. Perhaps that was a good thing. I grew up with no poor stereotypes of African Americans (or, in my case, Canadians) to draw upon. My high school English teacher is an educated man, who entertained, engaged, and encouraged me during those formative years. I never questioned why he was black in a community that was white. I didn’t question why some of the characters I wrote were also of color. Both these things seemed the most natural thing in the world to me.
I won’t pretend to know the struggles people of color have suffered through in trying to be seen or heard, though I’ve faced down less-than-ideal situations as a woman. But I want to learn. I want to know.
I’m an introvert and a bookworm. The only way I learn new things, being largely cooped up inside as a preference, is through a book. That is why diversity is so important to me in literature. Having lived in it all my life, I find my culture to be mundane, boring. I want to live, vicariously at least, through the eyes of everyone else in this world. Everyone who has lived in a city I’m too petrified to visit. Everyone who is an expert in a skill I fumble through. I want to learn it all.
I’m a little greedy that way.
In my newest release, Hellish Haven, I didn’t stop to think who was black and who was white. I let it form organically. I wanted a successful heroine originally from a tough neighborhood to provide contrast for the illusion the government provides -- the seemingly perfect façade that hides freedoms squashed, versus the squalor the freedom fighters live in while they combat the government’s injustices. I researched neighborhoods and let my heroine form from her environment. She happens to be Latina, but that bears little on the plot.
Other characters, I saw a certain way to begin with. I pictured Third Wing’s military commander, Major Hughes, identical to the way Lance Reddick played Phillip Broyles in Fringe. So, in my mind, the characters look the same.
Other characters still, I leave undescribed. Third Wing -- indeed, the entirety of the resistance -- is composed of the full scope of race. Individual freedom of thought or action, as taken away by force by the government, in my story is not an issue of race. It happens full-scale, across the country, and maybe even the world. The resistance wings are not broken up into Black or White or Hispanic or Asian or Native American. Everybody fights alongside each other, for the good of mankind. For equality and equal freedoms.
I wrote the story that way because that is what I like to read in my fiction. At the moment, I have to hunt for authors of color, and in certain genres for women authors, when I look on the bookshelves. I want to read about stories I can’t yet conceive because I haven’t yet experienced a certain viewpoint. Diversity is important.
Fiction isn’t black or white.
Genre: Dystopian Romance
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corp.,
Lyrical Press Imprint
Date of Publication: November 17, 2014
Number of pages: 72
Word Count: 33,718
Cover Artist: Renee Rocco
Two lives. Two realities. But only one truth.
The Senator reigns all-powerful in a manifested picture-perfect world. No worries. No wars. Only the unspoken threat of oblivion if you step a toe out of line. On the other side of the divide, the rebels face a debilitating war against an invulnerable robotic army. Every day is a struggle to earn back their freedoms. Freedom to feel. Freedom of speech. Freedom of thought.
Sergeant Grant Baker is pivotal to the war effort. But ever since his wife’s abduction, he’s been walking around in as much of a daze as the Senator’s brainwashed citizens. Then Eva reappears—without memories of him or their son. And he’s willing to do anything to keep her. Even if it means jeopardizing the war.
Eva doesn’t know which side to believe. Her predictable life as a single nurse, or the man claiming to be her husband. All she knows is she needs to discover how to end the war, quickly. If she doesn’t choose sides soon, she may lose the man—and the life—she never knew she wanted.
Acting as vanguard for the injured squad, Grant turned a corner and froze. A hulky man carried a limp woman over his shoulder.
Grant automatically reached for his gun. Even if they weren’t yet across the divide, he couldn’t stand idle as a man accosted a woman. Or worse. He aimed the rifle at the criminal. “Set her down nice and easy.”
The man froze. He glanced over one meaty shoulder, his unshaven mouth set in a scowl.
“Set her down, or I’ll shoot.”
A gold tooth flashed as the criminal grinned. He hurled the small woman at Grant and dashed for the slim space between two buildings.
Grant moved without thinking. His gun clattered to the ground as he lunged forward to catch the woman before she split her head open on the sidewalk. He grunted as he caught her with her weight against his bruised forearms. He shot a flickering glance her way. A riot of brown curls obscured her face. He set her gently on the ground.
He dashed for the opening the shady figure had disappeared into, but saw no sight of the man. The delinquent was long gone.
Ashland panted as he jogged to Grant’s side. “What happened?”
If Grant never heard that question again, it would be too soon. He shook his head wearily. “Mugging, I guess.”
“They still have those here? I thought the Senator brought an end to violence.” Ashland drew sarcastic quotes in the air as he spoke.
Grant didn’t bother to answer. He turned to the woman and where his squad was now gathered. A horrified private glanced from the woman to Grant and back again. “What do you want us to do with her…sir?”
If they left her, the Senator’s people might find her and stick her back in the pen with the rest of their brainwashed sheep. Then again, that same goon might double back to continue what he started.
He crossed to the woman and crouched to lift her into his arms. Her tangled hair fell away from her face. He nearly dropped her. “Eva?”
Frantically, he pressed his ear to her chest. Her breathing was shallow, but her heartbeat steady and strong. He clutched her tighter. He couldn’t believe it.
He’d found his wife.
About the Author:
L.K. Below wrote Hellish Haven to bring her love of Orwell’s classic 1984 into the modern day…or near future, as it turns out.
She reads as obsessively as she writes and likes to Tweet about both at @LBelowtheauthor.