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for the sake of realism
On a recent walk with a friend, we paused to admire a faery garden. You may have seen these art installations designed to invoke a sense of whimsy and wonder. But this one had something I’d never seen before: a sprite in a wheelchair. The chair had hewn wooden wheels, and the sprite had wings that cleared the chair back. Standing near the sprite was a mouse in a long dress and glasses.
This got me thinking once again about the importance of the representation of diversity.
Diversity. It’s not just a buzzword. It’s not just something contemporary people have made up.
Diversity has always existed—even in places our imaginations have told us it has not. If you read stories or saw movies set in the Old West of the US, you’d think those spaces were filled with white people only, and white people bravely battling the natives of the lands they were settling. None of that is true. The Old West was filled with white people settling lands unfamiliar to them, yes. And putting bounties on Indigenous heads in order to clear space and slaughtering buffalo in an attempt to try to bring Indigenous peoples to their knees by cutting off a major food supply. Vaqueros from Mexico were the original cowboys. One out of four cowboys were Black. In 1870, thirty percent of Idaho was Chinese, mostly laborers and entrepreneurs.
The same is true for Medieval Europe. It was filled with racial and cultural diversity. There is ample proof of this in the art and histories of the time. It also only stands to reason that trade would have brought people from all over to England and Europe. But white writers and artists of more recent vintage erased so much of that diversity, that people starting believing the whitewashing was the truth.
European Christians wrote down many histories from around the world, using their own cultural lens. This changed non-Indigenous views of these cultures and religions—including some native European cultures—because of an unfamiliarity with the actual sources.
Queer and trans and intersex people have always existed. There is art and stories from multiple cultures to back that up, too. Women have always worked, and crafted, and painted… Men have cared for children… I could go on, but you get the point.
Writer Mary Robinette Kowal once said of writing: “It's not about adding diversity for the sake of diversity, it's about subtracting homogeneity for the sake of realism.”
I could not agree more. Diversity in film, art, and literature is important.
Diversity makes all ecosystems stronger. Monoculture is weak, and depletes the environment. This includes human systems. Those who want to stamp out diversity crow about how their pure blood is strong.
That is a lie.
This is why it is so important to me, as an author, to write worlds as diverse as the one I live in, and the one I want to live in. It is also important to me to champion, uplift, and read, watch, and share the stories, and art, and music, and movies of people from the cultures that surround and influence mine.
We all influence one another. And the more diversity we allow into our lives, the stronger and healthier all of us become.
What do you think?
Wishing you well - Thorn
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