In honour of NAIDOC (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) Week this month, we’ve dedicated all our July posts to the issue of diversity in fiction. For more information on NAIDOC Week, visit their website here.
I love reading about diverse characters! It’s great when they are the star of the story, but my preference is to have them scattered throughout books, fitting into the cast just as real people fit into society and the lives of others. There’s actually a bookish term for this; incidental diversity. (Where a character’s difference is mentioned but not highlighted.) Don’t get me wrong, I like reading books with diverse main characters as well, but I’ll be honest … sometimes I find it difficult to connect and that’s all on me. It’s not the author or the character that’s the problem, but like most people, I connect best with characters to whom I easily relate … people like me. Now, I may be a straight, white woman, but I am diverse in my own way. I think we all are — we all have our own things that make us different to everyone else. There is no normal.
Anyhoo, here is a list of my top 5 favourite diverse supporting and leading characters.
Magnus Bane: from The Mortal Instruments / Infernal Devices. There are so many things about Magnus that make him diverse; he’s Asian, he’s gay, he’s a warlock, he’s eccentric. But it’s not his diversity that puts him on my list. It’s his lovability. All of Magnus’s little quirks make him seem so real.
Brian: from I’ll Give You The Sun. Yes, one of the main characters is also gay, but it was this supporting character who grabbed my heart. Perhaps it was because I found Noah difficult to connect with, or perhaps it was because of Brian’s quirks and eccentricities. Brian, like Magnus, felt so real he could have been the boy living next door to me.
Josie Alibrandi: from Looking for Alibrandi. This homegrown book is so awesome it’s been on the school reading list for twenty years. It was an important book long before #weneeddiversebooks was even a thing. Josie is an Italian-Australian struggling to find her true self due to clashes in both sides of her culture. If you’re looking for a character dealing with accepting her diversity, than look no further than Josie.
August Pullman: from Wonder. I’m not sure if this one falls more on the middle grade side of the fence than the young adult side, but I think it rates a mention because WOW. Auggie is one of those characters that moved me so much I’m sure he’ll stay with me forever. Even though he was born with a facial deformity, August is just an ordinary kid, wanting ordinary things … like friendship. Wonder really highlights that despite our differences, we’re all the same underneath.
Evie: from Am I Normal Yet. She’s white, she’s straight, she’s middle class … so why is she diverse? Like many of us, Evie faces a mental illness that leaves her far from fitting into the ‘normal’ mold. What I love about this character is that she shows that diversity isn’t all about race, religion, or sexual orientation. It’s about so much more. I loved that Evie’s struggle feels real. She doesn’t fit in and she knows it, but tackling that … well, it’s not easy.
And those are my top five! Who are your favourite diverse characters? Have you come across any that I’ve missed?
Stacey Nash has written her very own diverse character; a girl who suffers from an usual sleeping disorder. To find out more about this young adult author or to connect with her on social media (where she tries to be engaging), check out these places: www.stacey-nash.com, instagram, twitter, facebook.