By Megan Ganesh
The world is made up of many people whose diverse backgrounds, quirks, experiences, dreams, and interactions with others shape their lives.
Everyone is unique. However, we all have things in common, whether they are things we have witnessed or experienced.
One book I love that does this well is the Victor trilogy, by Theodora Taylor. In the book, the son of an organized crime boss lost his tongue as a child and must use Chinese Sign Language (CSL) to communicate. The book shows the implications of how others in the world perceive him.
He meets the heroine when she teaches him American Sign Language (ASL) and of course a dark romance ensues.
Writing multi-faceted, diverse characters that aren’t stereotypes or just there to tick a box means more to those who can see themselves in a book.
Did you know that there were black pirates? What about female pirates and women who snuck into the royal navy? Of course, I’m not saying that any of us want to be pirates now, but how far would someone go knowing that more was possible for them? We come in many colors and that does not prevent us from breaking into any field.
What about writing a character with a disability who finds love? There are so many real-world examples of these experiences happening and few of them are being shown in books.
As authors, it is our job to do better.
One author who has done this well is Alyssa Cole. In Can’t Escape Love, the heroine is in a wheelchair. In the book, the wheelchair isn’t something that is there to scream, look I’m different, but instead it becomes a character itself and we can see how the experiences of others who are differently-abled from ourselves go about everyday tasks and find love and sexual fulfillment.
All these mean the world to a person who has only seen themselves as a flat stereotype.
As writers, we have the power to create change. We can show a better world, a full world, instead of perpetuating misinformation. We can use our words to show that no matter the physical or mental abilities, gender identity, race, culture, language, sexual preferences, backgrounds or experiences, there is something shared that connects us all.
In A Girl Like Her, By Talia Hibbert, the main character is an autistic heroine. Talia Hibbert shows how autism manifests for this specific character. (I mention to show the way your character reacts to being differently-abled or a certain diagnosis is unique to them and we must remember to make that clear in our stories, not use generalizations to paint all people with the same brush.)
Own voices are important, and I think if you are a writer and happen to have a story, by all means share it.
But what if you don’t? Can you still write it?
I know some of you might still be unsure if you can do this.
You might think what gives me the right to write this story?
What if I mess it up?
What if this isn’t my story to tell?
And to that I say, the calling to be a writer makes you capable of telling this story. Fear of messing up means you want to do a good job. You know it might not be perfect and you might make mistakes, but you will keep pushing even if it’s hard and you have to start over.
It’s when you don’t question yourself and feel fully confident that you might want to get more eyes on it. (Hello, do you remember your first novel when you thought you knew everything ... yeah, kind of like that.)
And lastly, what if this is exactly the story you need to tell? What if your readers are waiting to see themselves in a book? Waiting for someone to write that story for them, and you are the one to do it?
Don’t let them be forgotten. Not letting them be forgotten is a big one for me and if you made it this far, you might wonder why this is so important to me.
From a young age, I was an avid reader of all things and I got bitten by the romance bug. I was voracious and, like most readers, loved picturing myself as the heroine and being swept away. (I’m probably dating myself, but in the early 90s there were not a lot of diverse or multicultural romances available.)
I was stuck. I wouldn’t stop reading, but in my heart I yearned for characters who looked like me. I wanted to see how they found love and what their lives were like. I wanted to be inspired. It happened when the lines Arabesque by BET and Kimani Press from Harlequin were created. These books were windows into me, what I could be, and what I could do. They introduced me to new concepts, professions, and to family dynamics that were different from my own, It allowed me to dream and hope and see what is possible.
I still have a lot of my old novels. Books by Francis Ray, Rochelle Alers, Brenda Jackson and more. I treasure books that have characters of color who can be main characters, not the sidekicks or those never seen in books at all. They can be prominent characters who are fully recognized and living their lives on the pages.
I’ve found my own hero, and we share two beautiful children. We are a multicultural family as my husband is Sri Lankan. I want to write books where my children can one day see themselves in the possibilities and dreams of the characters.
This is bigger than Race. Francis Ray was one of the first authors that introduced me to a heroine who had a traumatic past and was able to find love. In her book All I Ever Wanted, she showed it was possible to learn to love again after a traumatic experience.
Books can transverse so many things. Touching on mental health, race, class, gender identity, and sexual orientation. As authors, we can introduce our readers to different cultures and more through the stories we write and share with the world.
What story do you feel called to tell? What are your thoughts on diverse and inclusive stories?
I look forward to connecting with you.
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Megan Ganesh is a stay-at-home mom of two littles. She is a voracious reader and enjoys crafts, cooking, and working out. You can find her at home writing inclusive stories, because we all fall in love. Sign up for her newsletter on her website and follow her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter
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