April 30, 2014

Why we need diverse books

This is just a quick thought I wanted to throw together that was too long to go on Twitter, where #WeNeedDiverseBooks is trending.

A book is fundamentally a perspective: it is an observation of an issue or subject told from what is often a singular vantage point. Even though the book might feature multiple characters and their points of view, the observations are frequently all coming from one localized point.

Now, think of this in terms of science: let’s say you want to figure out a phenomenon. You want to understand what’s happening. So what do you do? Do you record data from only one perspective, exploring only one facet, depending on one singular feed of information?

No, of course you don’t. Instead, you triangulate. You look at the phenomenon from different vantage points, using different methods. You take data samples from multiple perspectives, as many as you can, trying to record all the various impacts and effects this phenomenon could have.

To not do this would be dishonest, dangerous, and lazy. You would gloss the truth of the phenomenon, never coming close to understanding what is actually happening, and, as is very likely, you’d instead simply record the phenomenon in your own preferred terms. Because let’s be honest, the primary reason you’d want to depend on one singular dataset is probably because it’s telling you something you want to hear.

Now, let’s assume that in books, the phenomenon we wish to learn more about is the human condition.

What chance will we ever have of ever coming close to understanding who we are and what we want if we limit ourselves to one perspective?