I Want Real World Representation

Tuesday, July 19, 2016
I was inspired by this week's Top Ten Tuesday (a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish) to write this discussion post. The topic for this was "Ten Books Set Outside the US", and most people probably figured this out already, but there aren't many books set outside the US. At least not ones that are realistic. Aka they're all fantasy novels. And while I love the diverse settings in fantasy, I don't see why this can't happen in contemporary fiction as well. Guys, I want to see real world representation.

Fantasy novelists draw from other countries' myths, legends, and cultures (which is awesome!), but so often it seems like they're only taking away what they want them and then making it their own. Obviously that's okay since they are creating fantasy worlds, but it doesn't give us enough exposure to the lifestyles and cultures of those around the globe. As much as I love a good fantasy novel, I also want to know more about what life is really like in these places, instead of twisted fantasy versions of them.

To be honest, I can only think of two contemporary novels that take place outside of the USAnd of those two, I've read a ton of reviews that said one of them portrays the country completely wrong and even in a negative light. I know there are other books out there with non-US settings, but not many. And the fact that half of the novels I do know of are inaccurate portrayals is not okay, even though I only know two novels total. That's why we not only need representation, but accuracy. It's not enough to throw characters into another country and act like you know how people there live.

There are so so so many unique people around the world whose stories deserve to be told, whose lives need to be understood. While I'm not saying there aren't stories that still need to be told in the U.S. (because believe me, there are still so many voices that deserve to finally be heard and understood), I want to learn everyone's stories.

To go more into the topic of diversity in books in general, we want to see ourselves reflected in books and the characters that dwell within their pages. We want to be able to read a book and feel good about who we are. We want to feel loved and needed, to be a protagonist on our own adventures, rather than a sidekick or stereotype (or worse, a villain).

While I have started to see a rise in character diversity (whether it be race, sexual orientation, religion, or something else), more diversity can't hurt as long as it's done well and for the right reasons. I understand that research may need to be conducted in order to portray the world accurately (and that research, especially good research, takes time), but we need to see the world as it is, and the people who live here as they are rather than what others believe them to be.


12 comments :

  1. Preach Alex!! I was going to use fantasy worlds because it's really hard to think of contemp fiction that takes place outside the US

    ReplyDelete
  2. Fantastic post, with excellent points! I really want to learn about other cultures throughout the world and books are often a great way to do that — but we can only do that if the books reflect the world and its people accurately!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I never thought of it like this! I've never considered a book's setting to be something we need more diversity in. I see your points though. I don't read a ton of books that are set outside the US. It's not because I don't want to read them, but because I tend to go into books blind and don't pay attention to those details.
    I have read Anna and the French kiss, but my unpopular opinion is I didn't really like it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh I didn't even think of Anna and the French Kiss! I haven't read those books yet, but I'm sorry to hear you didn't enjoy it. I know what you mean about not really thinking about the setting going into books though.

      Delete
  4. I think the biggest issue is that there ARE books that are set outside of the US... but they're not in English. I've seen a ton of contemporary light novels in Japanese and Korean, but they're never translated to English because they don't ever get that popular.

    That being said, I think that writers who can write perfectly well in English should also try to touch this topic, but in a way that gives respect to these different countries and cultures!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah you're totally right! I wish other countries' books were translated into English so we could enjoy them too.

      Delete
  5. YASS Alex I live for your discussion posts. Honestly though I can't tell you how much I want to read about books that take place in like smaller and lesser known states that I know nothing about or different countries like China or Europe. Is it bad that I can't think of any contemporary or realistic fiction books that take place outside of the US? Well I'm sure I've read many but none come to mind automatically. Whereas I can name about 5 different books right now that take place in the US. Maybe a lot of authors don't write about places outside because they either dn't want to do the research or haven't been there before. I've actually read Just One Day by Gayle Forman and it took place in paris. One thing I really have to point out that I loved this book mostly because of the setting, not the characters or anything else.

    Alex @ The Book's Buzz

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Alex! <3 I understand what you mean about the authors maybe not wanting to do the research, but I wish they would! And I've been contemplating reading that book for a while, so now that I know the setting was one of your favorite parts, I might just have to check it out!

      Delete
  6. Yess! I feel like adult books handled real world representation better (and more). Most of the titles on my list that were set outside Europe and were not fantasy was adult literature, like The Tale of A Time Being and Into The Beautiful North. Though I'm not sure how accurate the representation is, but I assume it is accurate because the authors are from said area.

    But yeah, I feel like it is quite lacking in YA. Unless it's about WWII!! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're totally right, Val! I don't tend to read many adult books, but that might change now that you mentioned it. And I totally agree about the WWII representation. I haven't read many, but there are definitely a lot of them out there that I need to read.

      Delete