Resources for Writing Marginalized Perspectives

Hi, and welcome to my page of Resources for Writing Marginalized Perspectives! Representation is awesome, but is it awesome if done poorly? The answer may surprise you! (The answer is no. Did that surprise you? Lord, I hope not.) Before I kick off with this ever-evolving page, I want to point out that We Need Diverse Books has a page of Resources for Writers. Check that out; I won’t repeat those sites here.

Please note that this page is a work in progress, as resource pages should be! It’s also focused primarily on YA and NA, with a toe dipped into MG, as per everything else I do. Book lists are not meant to be remotely all-encompassing; please feel free to leave recs in the comments.

Before we get to specifics, a few posts on actually writing diverse characters, period:

Also, none of the below research listed is to the exclusion of basics like “Find betas from the group you’re writing about*” and “consume media created by that group for that group” just to be clear!

*Some betas/editors you can hire to do expertise reads on certain backgrounds (read pages for details):

And a collection of important tweets by Kayla Whaley to keep in mind re: having sensitivity readers, Storified here.

And now…

Racial/Cultural/Ethnic Diversity

There is no better research than listening to the perspectives of people around you who walk in the skin and experiences you’re trying to represent. No author is (or should be) representing an entire race or culture with one or two characters, but they are presenting valid experiences based on living them, to which it is incredibly important to give voice. It’s impossible to make a rec list here that isn’t a billion books long, and truth be told, there are far better places to get them; there’s a huge list of resources for racially diverse booklists here. A few of my personal favorite books written by people of color with main characters of their same background include:

The Brown Bookshelf is a great site with kidlit recs of books by Black authors.

Author Justina Ireland has created A Guide to Black Hair for authors writing Black characters, starting with Relaxers, and Curly Nikki is another great resource for that (h/t Megan Erickson and Candice Montgomery).

Dear Non-Asian Writer” is a great post by YA author Stacey Lee (that also quotes a number of other Asian American authors) on things to keep in mind when writing Asian characters

Mitali Perkins has a great Writing Race checklist (h/t We Need Diverse Books)

Really key for historical fiction: Medieval PoC

For all things Native American, see Deb Reese‘s site, devoted to Native kid lit and representation.

This tweet contains great Tumblr posts on writing bilingual characters: https://twitter.com/shsIIuck/status/868899506850373632

Book lists:

  • Since racial diversity is still massively lacking in New Adult, here’s a Goodreads list of NA with main characters of color. (Please note that I cannot control the titles added to a list of my creation. I can only speak for the books for which I have “voted.”)
  • I also have a Goodreads shelf called Interracial Romance, with varying degrees of that aspect being relevant.
  • Author Ava Jae compiled an excellent collection of diverse book lists here.

One thing I think we don’t talk about a lot is diversity of location, and having other cultures represented in YA/NA even if the main character is not of that culture. So, here‘s a list of 20 of my favorite YAs set outside the US.

LGTBQIAP

In case you’re not already familiar, I’ve got a pretty huge QUILTBAG Compendium of info on this very blog, so whether you’re reading, writing, or querying, check that out.

As with books featuring racial diversity, there’s no substitute for reading queer books by openly queer people. While authors aren’t necessarily writing their own experiences, no one can be more intimately familiar with the feelings and issues behind being a queer kid/teen as someone who is/was a queer kid/teen. A few great ones that very strongly focus on the experience here:

*Author is not Intersex, but the book is heavily endorsed by many people who are. To the best of my knowledge, there’s no traditionally published MG, YA, or NA with an Intersex MC by an Intersex author.

Plus a fuller list of LGBTQIAP+ books by authors who identify as such here.

Writing a queer character? Check these posts out:

Gay/Lesbian:

Bisexual:

  • One of my favorite diversity sites is DiversifYA, and I especially love this interview about bisexuality with Tristina Wright

Transgender:

Asexual:

Two-Spirit:

Gay YA did a really excellent Blogathon featuring people in different walks of publishing on the subject of LGBTQ YA. I highly recommend reading basically all their posts from May 2015, but if you only read one before writing your book, make it No Dumbledores Need Apply, by T.S. Ferguson. I’d also recommend Friendships are Hard, by John Hansen, on focusing on friendships in LGBTQ YA and not just the romance, because this is pretty damn underdone in YA. (And, FWIW, I contributed this post on “Making Choices in LGBTQ YA,” which is pretty specifically geared toward writers.)

Amanda MacGregor and Karen Jensen do a great series on sexual violence in YA Lit (#SVYALit), and focused on those issues specifically within LGBTQ YA in the month of August 2015. I highly recommend checking out that series for more on consent, microaggressions, same-sex assault/rape, and more. (My contribution was “Why Heteronormativity in YA Hurts More Than You Think.”)

For my favorite thorough and articulate resource on Asexuality, make your life all about Julie Sondra Decker, especially her book, The Invisible Orientation.

H/t to author Brigid Kemmerer for this Savage Love article called “Father Figures,” which advises a dad on how to broach his suspicion that his son is gay, she said helped her write a gay character by showing a parent’s perspective.

Religion

#FSYALit is a really interesting series on Teen Librarian Toolbox that I strongly encourage people to check out. Some highlights:

Minority Religion in America: a chat transcribed to my blog featuring writers who practice Judaism, Islam, Mormonism, and Santeria

Books I Rec with Jewish Main Characters

Family Structure

Books with adopted MCs

*indicates transracial adoption

YA with Foster Kids

YA with Non-Evil Stepparents/Stepparent Figures

YA with Queer Parents

YA with Incarcerated Parents

Disability/Mental Health Issues

There’s no greater resource on the subject of disability in kid lit than – you guessed it – Disability in Kidlit! So, check that out. You can search by condition, which includes both physical disabilities and mental health issues and is enormously helpful. I’ll only list a few specific ones below, because I know others are well covered on their site and I encourage you to use it. Also definitely check out their Introduction to Disability Terminology and this other great resource for being mindful of ableist slurs to keep out of your work, via Autistic Hoya (h/t S.E. Sinkhorn).

For books DiKL has vetted and found to be solid depictions of disability, see their Honor Roll.

One of the DiKL editors, Kayla Whaley, also wrote phenomenal posts on disability for The Toast.

Teen Librarian Toolbox has a great series on this, called #MHYALit, with a whole bunch of posts to check out.

And, of course, disabled authors writing about their own disabilities is, as with other marginalizations, always a great place to learn. You can check out a list here.

A few select helpful posts on disability:

Posts on Disability and Sexuality/

Books with Focus on Therapy

Main Characters with Eating Disorders

Books with Amputee POV Characters

Wheelchair-Using Main Characters

Main Characters with Chronic Pain

Main Characters with Learning Disabilities

Reading Lists by Me

Socioeconomic Diversity/Poverty

Intersectionality

  • For books featuring characters of color who are also queer (aka QPoC), look for anything written in blue in my QUILTBAG Compendium, and/or check out this Goodreads list. (please note that although I created the list, I cannot speak to the representation and do not control the titles added)

Personal rec list: Ten Books that Celebrate Intersectional Diversity

“Reliqueer” Main Characters

Characters of Color with Mental Illness/Health Issues:

Characters of Color with Physical Disabilities:

Queer Characters with Physical Disabilities:

Queer Characters with Mental Illness/Health Issues:

Miscellaneous

You know how sometimes you read a book that just does a lot of interesting and good but in a whole bunch of different ways that don’t necessarily intersect in one character or maybe don’t include the main character, and it’s hard to know exactly where to put them in the diversity conversation but you know they belong in diversity conversations? So here are some of those I really loved:

  • The Inside of Out by Jenn Marie Thorne – A+ book for gay-straight alliance discussions
  • My Best Friend, Maybe by Caela Carter – interesting exploration of Christianity in the main character, lesbian best friend with brothers who were transracially adopted from Haiti, one of whom is the love interest.
  • The Art of Wishing and The Fourth Wish by Lindsay Ribar – I often get asked why these books are LGBT, and the answer is the love interest, Oliver, is bi, and, in the second book, genderfluid. Yes, it has a lot to do with his being a genie, but it’s discussed a lot in a very real way.
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