Wednesday, May 11, 2016

#ArmchairBEA: Breaking Literary Barriers

Diversity in Contemporary Literature

     The representation of all ethnic groups and genders within literature has been a problem since the beginning of time. Much of the literature in the past was bias towards white, Anglo-Saxon, protestant characters because of the times the stories were written in. Some cultural groups, such as African and Native Americans, were depicted as barbarians because it was the acceptable viewpoint of white society to do so. We still depict some American subgroups, such as Native Americans, as certain stereotypes but this practice as been slowly changing. We've lived so long in a society that has been brainwashed by Hollywood to believe certain things about Native Americans, Hispanics, African Americans and Asians that simply aren't realistic. We accept these negative stereotypes in our media because it has always been so.

Some authors have taken a stand to bring to life characters that have challenged the normally acceptable points of view. Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series is told in the voice of a English woman from the middle of the twentieth century who is transported to 18th century Scotland. Despite being British she supports the Highlanders as they struggle to keep their culture and way of life. Her series works because it brings a fresh perspective into the lives of a culture that hasn't always been so favorably shown in media. It became so popular that STARZ decided to make her books a series. It is currently in the second season and follows the second book of her series. She published the first book in 1991 and it wasn't until 2015 that STARZ picked the series up! 

I started my writing career eight years ago. I was looking for books written from the Shawnee's perspective. I found none. Toni Morrison once said “If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.” That's exactly how I felt. It wrote Calico (Children of the Shawnee: Book 1) in the summer of 2008. I ended up with over 700 pages. I ended it, broke the story down into a series, and had it published in 2010. It became an instant bestseller. I am currently writing the second book of the series. 

Since the release of Calico, I have published two other novels from perspectives that have been rarely heard in history. Elsa, follows a young woman in early 20th century Ohio who falls in love with a man who has Aspergers. Aspergers and Autism were not known back them. Deemed ineligible to marry under the Eugenic Laws because Franklin has a diabetic seizure and has problems in society, Elsa must fight to marry him. 

Bailey's Revenge takes place in early 18th century Ireland during the end of the Penal Laws against Ireland. It is told not from the perspective of the English but from the Irish Catholics who are at odds against the English. 

I am an author who likes to challenge the literary world with characters who make my readers think about historical situations from a different perspective. I've come under attack by readers who don't like the change of voice that I present, especially when reading Calico. Calico is told from the Shawnee people's viewpoint. I've had readers who don't like that. They know Calico's white and they want to read about a white woman rescued from the Native American savages. I'm just not keen on the idea of supporting the racial and gender stereotypes that are prevalent in our society. We need more authors to take a stand to demolish them. 

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