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 US. And 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.