• Agora

Diversity in Writing.

by Naysa Seth

“It’s just fiction, it doesn't matter.”

"Separate the art from the artist.”

In the writing and bookish community, these are phrases we hear often. Too often. But are they really true?

In most cases, it’s used to defend homophobia, transphobia, racism, lack of diversity, and other such issues within the works of published novels. Bookstagrams, writergrams, and other such fan accounts tend to defend authors for their clear oppression of marginalised communities, by saying that it’s easy to separate fiction from reality. They speak over the voices of marginalised communities, ignoring their points, and repeat these incredibly overused statements again and again.

Fiction doesn't affect reality.

It’s just a book, it isn't real.

Separate the art from the artist.

When authors, with a large following, and a huge fanbase propagate such media, people begin taking it in, and that becomes the norm. The readers of these books start believing the words in it, and if it doesn't include representation of all kinds of people, then that's what they begin to believe as well. Due to this, those who are part of marginalised communities that were oppressed, ignored, or badly represented in the books, have the same thing happening to them in real life.

Furthermore, how can we separate art from the artist? What an author believes, is clearly reflected in their writing. It’s okay to include homophobia, misogyny, Islamophobia, etc. in your novels, because though it’s said, these things exist in our world, and books help shine a light on them. However they must be condemned. If your book is, for example, glorifying rape, instead of making it clear that it’s not right, then you are a problematic author.

Despite what others may say, fiction does influence reality, in a way we may not understand. The things we read, watch and listen to, slowly condition our mind to think a certain way, to believe certain things- and if these things aren’t inclusive and diverse, then we are eradicating entire communities simply due to ignorance. Now, after learning this, there is no way to defend problematic authors.

What should we do next? How can people of non-marginalised communities help?

It’s very simple. Call out authors. Point out their mistakes.

Of course, I’m not telling you to ‘cancel’ them, a term that is once again, used at whim, with controversial consequences. Everybody makes mistakes, and if the author responds to these critics of their books, apologies, and changes in the future, then you may continue reading their books, without worry. However, if the author doesn’t apologise, or, like most authors these days, doesn't even acknowledge the critics, and continues going down the road they were earlier, then please stop.

Stop reading their books. Or if you must, do it in a way that makes sure they don't profit from it. We must take action against these authors, and hold them accountable for their oppression. Is reading certain fictional books more important than the feelings of real people? I think not. How can we prioritize books, fictional worlds, that too those with lack of diversity in them, over people of certain communities who are offended by this?

We can't. And we shouldn’t.

The bottom line remains that fiction does affect reality, and the author’s beliefs are reflected in their writing, so these excuses can no longer be used as cover for homophobia, transphobia, racism, poor portrayal of mental health disorders, islamophobia, or any such thing in books.

-Naysa Seth