Vitality Magazine is now open for submissions!

We’re looking for flash fiction, short stories, poetry, and art/illustrators. Our pay rates are $.05 a word for prose, $50 a poem, and $75-$150 for art/illustrations. 

We are especially looking for pieces featuring characters who are attracted to more than one gender (bi, pan, poly, etc.), on the ace spectrum (ace/aro as well as demisexual, gray-asexual, etc.), nonbinary, and/or transgender, but we accept pieces with all kinds of LGBTQ+ characters. 

For a full explanation of the kinds of piece we are looking for and to submit your work, please click here.

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List of the Week >> Black YA Leads

This week’s list features black YA leads. Meet some black teen protagonists in contemporary, fantasy and historical settings! For more fun lists and all things YA lit, visit our website, follow us here and on Twitter, and subscribe to our weekly newsletter!

For more: Fake ID, When I Was The Greatest, Pointe, Lies We Tell Ourselves, Brown Girl Dreaming, On A Clear Day, How It Went Down, Orleans, Tankborn and X.

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Lemme tell you why this book is so awesome.

I mean, yes, there is a black bisexual hero. And a mad lesbian governess. And a half-Chinese genderqueer sky pirate. THERE IS ALSO A KRAKEN (which may or may not be queer). And an aethership. But the narrative is the real star of this show. Look at this blurb. Look at it.

A breathtaking tale of passion and adventure in the untamed skies!

Prosperity, 1863: a lawless skytown where varlets, chancers, and ne’er-do-wells risk everything to chase a fortune in the clouds, and where a Gaslight guttersnipe named Piccadilly is about to cheat the wrong man. This mistake will endanger his life … and his heart.

Thrill! As our hero battles dreadful kraken above Prosperity. Gasp! As the miracles of clockwork engineering allow a dead man to wreak his vengeance upon the living. Marvel! At the aerial escapades of the aethership, Shadowless.

Beware! The licentious and unchristian example set by the opium-addled navigatress, Miss Grey. Disapprove Strongly! Of the utter moral iniquity of the dastardly crime prince, Milord. Swoon! At the dashing skycaptain, Byron Kae. Swoon Again! At the tormented clergyman, Ruben Crowe.

This volume (available in print, and for the first time on mechanical book-reading devices) contains the complete original text of Piccadilly’s memoirs as first serialised in All the Year Round. Some passages may prove unsettling to unmarried gentlemen of a sensitive disposition.

Plus it’s only the first in a series! (Early next year there’ll be a whole collection of novelettes set in this world.) And it was written by the hilarious, brilliant, Lambda Literary Award nominated Alexis Hall (of Glitterland and Kate Kane: Paranormal Investigator fame)! And it’s on pre-sale for only $4.99 (or $13.59 if you prefer a paper copy with that gorgeous full jacket, or $16.79 if you want both)! Whaaaaaaat is not to love? :D

Nobody really goes out and intentionally writes a story that is not diverse. People aren’t intentionally trying to exclude all this from their stories, consciously. You write what you know, and it comes out the way it does. And what I think is great about [the We Need Diverse Books] campaign is it’s putting that seed in people’s heads so that when they’re thinking of new stories and being creative, they now have this new image in their head that they can work with.
— 

Marie Lu, author of THE YOUNG ELITES (out Oct. 7!) and the New York Times best-selling LEGEND series, on diversity in YA and the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. Listen to her full interview here, or on iTunes or Stitcher!

Do you know what percentage of children’s books feature boys? Twice as many as those that feature girl protagonists. In the most comprehensive study of children’s literature during a period of 100 years, researchers recently found that:

* 57% of children’s books published each year have male protagonists, versus 31% female.
* In popular children’s books featuring animated animals, 100% of them have male characters, but only 33% have female characters.

*The average number of books featuring male characters in the title of the book is 36.5% versus 17.5% for female characters.

It’s not just the quantity, but the quality as well. Female characters, as in movies, are often marginalized, stereotyped, or one-dimensional. For example, in Peter Pan, Wendy is a stick-in-the-mud mother figure, and Tiger Lily is a jealous exotic. The animated books featuring animals are particularly subtle. Think about Winnie the Pooh—Kanga is the only female character, and she’s definitely not one of the gang.

Read This: Gene Luen Yang’s rousing comics speech at the 2014 National Book Festival gala

From the Washington Post, article here.

GENE LUEN YANG, Library of Congress, Jefferson Building:

Good evening. Thank you, Library of Congress and National Book Festival, for inviting me to share the stage with such esteemed authors, and to speak with all of you. I am deeply grateful for this honor.

I’m a comic-book guy, so tonight I’d like to talk about another comic book guy. Dwayne McDuffie was one of my favorite writers. When I was growing up, he was one of the few African-Americans working in American comics. Dwayne worked primarily within the superhero genre. He got his start at Marvel Comics but eventually worked for almost every comic book publisher out there. He even branched out into television and wrote for popular cartoon series like “Justice League” and “Ben 10.”


Dwayne McDuffie

Dwayne McDuffie is no longer with us, unfortunately. He passed away in 2011, at the age of 49. But within comics, his influence is still deeply felt.

I was lucky enough to have met him once. About a year before his death, we were on a panel together at Comic-Con. I had the opportunity to shake his hand and tell him how much his work meant to me.

In a column Dwayne wrote in 1999, he talked about his love of the Black Panther, a Marvel Comics character. The Black Panther’s secret alias is T’Challa, the king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. He has super senses, super strength, and super agility. He’s an Avenger, though he hasn’t yet made it into the movies.

The Black Panther wasn’t created by African American cartoonists. He was created in July of 1966 by two Jewish Americans, Stan Lee (who was born Stanley Lieber) and Jack Kirby (who was born Jacob Kurtzberg).

By modern standards, the Black Panther is not a flawless example of a black superhero. In their first draft of the character, Lee and Kirby called him “the Coal Tiger” and gave him a goofy yellow and black costume. Even in his final form, his superhero alias includes the word “Black.” This is true of many early African and African American superheroes, as if what makes them remarkable is neither their superpowers nor their heroism, but their ethnicity. Most problematic, though, was that Marvel made their most prominent black superhero the star of a series called Jungle Action.

All of these flaws were lost on Dwayne McDuffie when he first encountered the Black Panther in 1973, at the age of 11. What struck him was the character’s commanding sense of dignity. The Black Panther wasn’t anyone’s sidekick. He wasn’t an angry thug. He wasn’t a victim. He was his own hero, his own man. As Dwayne describes it, “In the space of 15 pages, black people moved from invisible to inevitable.”

Dwayne’s love of the Black Panther eventually blossomed into a love of comics in general. Dwayne was a smart guy with a lot of options in life. He’d earned a master’s degree in physics. But he chose to write comics as his career. I would argue that without the Black Panther, this flawed black character created by a writer and an artist who were not black, there would be no Dwayne McDuffie the comic book writer.

Dwayne wasn’t just a writer — he was also a businessman. In the early ’90s, he teamed with a group of writers and artists to found Milestone Media, the most prominent minority-owned comic book company that has ever existed. The Milestone universe have since been folded into DC Comics, so these days characters like Static Shock and Icon – characters Dwayne co-created – fight crime alongside Superman and Batman.

In the early ’90s, I was finishing up my adolescence. I visited my local comic-book store on a weekly basis, and one week I found a book on the stands called Xombi, published by Milestone Media. Xombi is a scientist who became a superhero after he was injected with nanotechnology. He allied himself with a secret order of superpowered nuns. One sister was known as Nun of the Above, another Nun the Less. Together, they protected the world from all kinds of supernatural threats.

Xombi was inventive and fun, but he stood out to me because he was an Asian American male carrying in his own monthly title. And even more notable – he didn’t know Kung Fu. Xombi wasn’t created by Asian Americans – his writer was white and his artist black – but he did make Asian Americans a little less invisible.

We in the book community are in the middle of a sustained conversation about diversity. We talk about our need for diverse books with diverse characters written by diverse writers. I wholeheartedly agree.

But I have noticed an undercurrent of fear in many of our discussions. We’re afraid of writing characters different from ourselves because we’re afraid of getting it wrong. We’re afraid of what the Internet might say.

This fear can be a good thing if it drives us to do our homework, to be meticulous in our cultural research. But this fear crosses the line when we become so intimidated that we quietly make choices against stepping out of our own identities.
After all, our job as writers is to step out of ourselves, and to encourage our readers to do the same.

I told you the story of Dwayne McDuffie to encourage all of us to be generous with ourselves and with one another. The Black Panther, despite his flaws, was able to inspire a young African American reader to become a writer.

We have to allow ourselves the freedom to make mistakes, including cultural mistakes, in our first drafts. I believe it’s okay to get cultural details wrong in your first draft. It’s okay if stereotypes emerge. It just means that your experience is limited, that you’re human.

Just make sure you iron them out before the final draft. Make sure you do your homework. Make sure your early readers include people who are a part of the culture you’re writing about. Make sure your editor has the insider knowledge to help you out. If they don’t, consider hiring a freelance editor who does.

Also, it’s okay if stereotypes emerge in the first drafts of your colleagues. Correct them – definitely correct them – but do so in a spirit of generosity. Remember how soul-wrenching the act of writing is, how much courage it took for that writer to put words down on a page.

And let’s say you do your best. You put in all the effort you can. But then when your book comes out, the Internet gets angry. You slowly realize that, for once, the Internet might be right. You made a cultural misstep. If this happens, take comfort in the fact that even flawed characters can inspire. Apologize if necessary, resolve do better, and move on.

Let your fear drive you to do your homework. But no matter what, don’t ever let your fear stop you.

How to research your racially/ethnically diverse characters

chiminey-cricket asked:

Do any of you have any tips for doing independent research for PoC characters?

This question is super broad, but I’m going to see if I can give it a crack!
First of all, consume media by the group in question. If you want to write a story with a Chinese-American protagonist, read some blogs by Chinese-Americans, read books by Chinese-Americans – both fiction and nonfiction – lurk on places like thisisnotchina so you can get a feel for what pisses Chinese and Chinese diaspora people off about their portrayal in the media, google for stereotypes about Chinese people and try to make sure you’re not doing those (even positive ones), go more general (East-Asian all-of-the-above in general since in many cases the harmful tropes overlap), go more specific (if your protagonist is female, look specifically for blog posts featuring the opiniosn of Chinese-American and other Asian/Asian diapora women; same if your protagonist is attracted to the same sex, is transgender, or deals with any other form of oppression besides anti-Chinese racism.) All of the above applies to Latinxs, Native Americans/Canadian First Nations, African/African diaspora people, Jews, Muslims, etc. Find out what we’re saying about ourselves.

Lots of things are available just from Google. “I have a Black character and I want to know what kind of hairstyles are available for her!” We have a Black hair tag, but apart from that, googling “Black hairstyles” will probably bring up some articles that can at least give you a good starting point to learn some vocabulary to add to your next Google search, like “natural” and “twists” and “dreadlocks.”

Next, you can talk to people in the group, but before you do this, be sure to have some specific questions in mind. “How do I write a Jewish character?” is not a specific question. “Do I have to make my Jewish character follow kosher laws if I’ve made her religious in other ways, or can she go to shul but not keep kosher?” or “What’s a term of endearment a parent might use for a child in Yiddish?” is much more specific. Remember, if you’re talking to someone they’re answering you back with their free time, so expecting them to do most of the work of figuring out what’s most important for you to know is a little entitled.

Besides, a more specific question will give you a more helpful answer. If someone asks me “how do I write a Jewish character” one of the first things out of my mouth will be a list of personality stereotypes to avoid, which isn’t going to be very helpful if what you really need for your fic was whether or not you have to write your character as following strict kosher laws.

If you’re sending a question in to a writing blog or one of those race blogs like thisisnot[whoever], please read through their tags and FAQ to see if they’ve already answered it. Longtime followers of a blog would get very bored if all the blog’s content was nothing but “We answered that here last week at this helpful link!” Those who participate in answering these blogs are usually unpaid volunteers who provide a resource that’s already there to help people; help repay them for what they do by looking through the material on your own first.

How to tell if a source from outside the group is biased and bigoted: obviously, you’re not going to want to listen to Stormfront about Jews, or the KKK about, well, anything. If you’re not on a source created by the group in question, look for dry and academic language as opposed to emotional, informal, or inflammatory words – although dispassionate and technical language is no guarantee it won’t be racist, colonialist, or inaccurate. If you read enough books and blogs from the inside, though, you’ll probably see some of the myths from those other sources debunked before you even encounter them.

Lastly, don’t assume that all people who are Asian, African-American Christians, religious Jews, or Muslims are from cultures more oppressive, more conservative, more patriarchal, more homophobic, more sexist, or more controlling than the one in which you were raised. If your plot calls for homophobic parents or a repressive culture, that shouldn’t be the reason you make your character one of the groups listed. There is plenty of oppressive, anti-woman, and anti-queer thought in white American Christian/Christian-cultured society and personally, I believe such criticisms of the marginalized diaspora peoples I listed above belong in the voices of the cultures themselves.

–mod Shira

I’d not leave looking for dry and clinical information as the ONLY means to distinguish that a work is biased.

While yes it is pragmatic to say “look for academically toned wording,” … in addition to that, these folks really need to look into who the author is. Definitely look into the author. And the year the thing was published (because man if it’s from like the 60s or earlier, 9 times out of 10, throw that shit out).

Because people can disguise hatred and racism in careful diction so that it looks reasonable and polite. A shining example is physiognomy studies from Nazis and anti-Semite eugenecists. And the sad thing is, you really can’t trust people to read it and make the judgement call that this hate-in-disguise they’re reading is hate.  

Somehow, when someone says, “The people of the Levant express features such as […] which, at the risk of sounding untoward, suggest a very rodent-like persuasion,” people are like, “Oh, well, that was worded fancily and there was no angry or profane language, I suppose they’re right,” not stopping to think even for a moment that they just accepted that this book just said to them that Jews look like rats. I saw it happen in my Nazi Germany class when we were given reading material. It was fucking nuts.

So definitely, definitely look every outsider author in the mouth and cross-check any and everything that person says. 

–mod Elaney

Shira again: Elaney is right that you will want to be critical of outside sources, especially older ones. Also, be suspicious of blanket statements about a group such as “X group are” instead of discussing forces in X culture. For example. Because there’s going to be diversity within any group and it’s likely what’s being said isn’t inherently biologically linked to being in X group.

–mod Shira

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LIST OF THE WEEK: GENDERQUEER & TRANSGENDER YA LEADS

We need diverse books - but while we call for more, we should support the ones we have. Here are ten books with genderqueer and transgender YA leads. For more fun lists and all things YA lit, visit our website, follow us here and on Twitter, and subscribe to our weekly newsletter!

[EDIT] While we do our best to research every book to see if people of that group approve it, Luna slipped into the group with the original list. A few of our friends have gently let us know that what our research didn’t reveal was how problematic a lot of people find it. It’s been removed and replaced with Lizard Radio, a book highly anticipated by the team over at The Gay YA.

For more on each book, visit the list on our main site.

It’s a fact that ableism, homophobia, and racism influence countless aspects of people’s everyday lives. Micro-aggressions, stereotypes, internalized prejudice, flagrant bigotry, institutionalised discrimination… There are also other matters to consider: accessibility, hair or skin care, limited dating pools, communities, culture, etc.

When none of these elements are acknowledged in realistic fiction, I notice. When the absence of those elements is praised, I notice especially.

And I wonder — perhaps uncharitably — are diverse characters only OK as long as they’re not too diverse?

—  Great article by YA author Corinne Duyvis on “incidental diversity” in books and the decline of the issues book. Lots worth thinking about. 
Which brings me to a sad, but true, story. Which might explain why these books sometimes, sometimes, don’t get into your hands. Because no-one tells you about them.

When Ash was first launched here in the UK, I went to a ‘meet and greet’ with a large selection of booksellers. Now these were invited to HarperCollins HQ, so were the chosen few.

I waltzed around the room, telling them how excited I was that Ash was coming out, how it delved into mythology, history and just EPIC heroicness.

Then I met a bookseller who nodded politely then said:

“I can’t see the point stocking it. We’ve no Indians in our town.”

Well, I doubt she had any hobbits either but I bet she sold a few copies of The Hobbit and Lord of The Rings in her shop.

Today is the start of our new summer reading series “If you liked ___, Read this next” for diverse books. The #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign is deeply committed to increasing the visibility of the wonderful diverse books that are published, because these books do not get the marketing and promotion that blockbuster books get. We want to do our part in raising the profile of diverse books and bringing them to a larger audience. Help us spread the word! We will have a new “If You Liked” post every day of the summer!

The first book in our series is the YA book Akata Witch by Nnedi Okarafor. You really need to read this author, about whom the great Ursula LeGuin said: “There’s more vivid imagination in a page of Nnedi Okorafor’s work than in whole volumes of ordinary fantasy epics.” So what are you waiting for? Read Akata Witch next!

*For other posts in this series, go to the “About Us” tab and select SUMMERREADINGSERIES

A Campaign for Diversity

Once upon a time there was a princess … No, seriously. This princess lived inside of my head and I wanted capture her on paper. You see, I’m an author of romance and Young Adult stories, and characters like this princess are constantly making their presence known inside my head, just begging to have their stories told. This particular princess inhabited a medieval/fantasy type world, similar to George RR Martin’s Westeros (the realm of Game of Thrones). With excitement I began plotting, researching, and outlining her story, an epic tale of love with a man from a rival family, one her own kin have feuded with for generations. There would be battles, there would be castles and kings, and there would be beautiful medieval fashions to be described in ravishing detail.

There was only one problem with the princess and her story. The princess was black. The world she inhabited was filled with characters fitting every color on the ethnic spectrum—a much needed device in Fantasy fiction. Why was this a problem, you might ask? The Fantasy genre needs heroines of color; it needs people of color, period. A strong, smart woman of color in this genre … where is there a problem?

The problem wasn’t with the black princess, or the person who created her. The problem was with the appalling lack of images that could accurately and beautifully portray this princess on the cover of her book. When searching for her likeness on stock image sites, I could not find her. There wasn’t a single photo of this black princess in her flowing, regal gowns, holding her head high. In fact, there were very few photos of women of color, and when I did find them, their quality was not on par with similar photos of her white counterparts. To make things even more difficult, her love interest, the man from the other clan whose love is forbidden, was white. This left me tasked with finding a beautiful photo of a mixed race couple, both in resplendent historical dress. Actually, I needed three, as this princess’ story has stretched itself out to the length of a trilogy.

When there were none to be found, I struck out to create my own images. With the help of my father, a fashion photographer and editor of Encore HD Hair Magazine, and two models who very generously donated their time and faces to my venture, I was able to conduct my own custom shoot. Overseeing the costuming and posing, we were able to produce quality images for use on my covers and advertising media … photos that I felt proud of.

It would seem that this story had a happy ending. It did, though it was more like ‘happy for now’ instead of ‘happily ever after’. Why? Because there still exists an egregious lack of diversity on book covers, a fact that has always weighed heavily on me.

There is a movement happening in the publishing industry, and all you have to do is search the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks to see it unfolding. People are hungry for stories filled with diverse characters … characters who look like them. There are authors and publishers out there committed to making that happen, book by book.

With that in mind, I began to think of how I could help my fellow authors. While speaking with them at various book conventions, or in online forums, I felt their frustration over the lack of images on stock photo sites portraying women of color, plus sized women, and interracial couples in classy, beautiful ways. As a woman who writes a lot of Fantasy and Historical books, the burden becomes even greater.

No one ever seems to think to put a medieval Victorian era gown on a black woman and take stunning photos of her. No one ever seems to think to portray people of color in futuristic, fantasy, or sci-fi style shoots. Even websites that cater specifically to book cover images are failing in this regard.

Thus, the idea for Mosaic Stock was born. As I mentioned before, my father is a fashion photographer and magazine editor. With his resources and contacts, we have the necessary goods to offer authors and publishers a place to shop for book cover images that color the full spectrum of diversity. Our goal is the change the face of books, one cover at a time. We are in the planning/developing phase, with hopes to launch the site summer of 2015.

Here is where you, the person reading this blog post, come in. In order to fund our first two mass photo shoots and get Mosaic Stock up and running, we are currently running a Kickstarter campaign. We have until March 30, 2015 to reach our goal of $5,500—which would cover the cost of renting studio space large enough to accommodate the shoot, costumes, and hair and make-up artists to ensure that our models look their best. Within our first shoot, we hope to shoot several models in various genre themes, so that when we launch, authors and publishers will have a wide range of choices for their book covers.

If you believe we need diverse books, if you want to see more books with girls that look like you on the cover, and if you want to be a part of making a change in the publishing industry, I hope you will consider donating. There are lower and higher level donation tiers suited to every person and their level of willingness to give and resources. Remember, if we do not reach our goal by March 30, Mosaic Stock will not get its funding. But, I am confident that this will not happen. As a community of readers and writers, we can come together to make positive change.

As well, there are some awesome rewards for both readers and writers alike for your contributions. Everything from ebooks to paperbacks, all donated by fellow authors who want to reward people that join this campaign for diversity. For authors free stock photos and book cover designs are on the menu. Visit Kickstarter by clicking here to donate, and remember to share via Facebook, Twitter, or your favorite form of social media once you have. Together, we can change the face of books!

Check out these samples of our photography, some of which will become available on the Mosaic Site, but mostly serve as proof of the quality we are capable of.

I’d like to counter that diversity in children’s media—and in young adult fantasy—is important because it’s for kids. Children and teens know that books aren’t real, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t also internalizing the messages. When diverse peoples and cultures aren’t a part of these fantasy worlds, young readers are being repeatedly told that they can’t have adventures like the characters because they don’t look the part, that they are less important than imaginary creatures. They’re being repeatedly told that their exclusion is the norm.

“Diversity in books is essential because the children who are reading such books need to be able to see themselves and others in the books they read, [Shelley] Diaz said.

Diverse books help not only the kids whose race is represented, but also kids of other races, [Merri] Lindgren said.

“Children deserve books that reflect their world and the world around them,” Lindgren said. “So when books don’t show the right racial and cultural diversity that we have in this country, then they’re not really reflective of the real world and that does all kids a disservice.””

— 

“UW survey shows uptick in diversity among books for children over the past year.”

For a closer look at the CCBC statistics, you can check out LEE & LOW’s updated infographic here

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Applause and congratulations to We Need Diverse Books™ advisory board member jacquelinewoodson for winning the nationalbook award in Young People’s Literature for the lauded Brown Girl Dreaming

Brown Girl Dreaming was unanimously voted by the judges in this category.

“I love how much love there is in the world of young adult and children’s literature.” -Jacqueline Woodson at National Book Awards ceremony

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Before you say, Write your own! – let me tell you that we do. But this page is a resource for writers, so we thought writers might want to know what kinds of representation would make us more likely to get excited about your book. We don’t speak for everyone in our demographic, just ourselves, but we hope this post gives you some cool writing ideas.

Note: This is additional info writers can keep in mind when writing characters of those backgrounds. We believe it’s a good thing to ask the people you’re including what they’d like to see.

Actually hearing from misrepresented and underrepresented people and asking us what we’d like to see of ourselves is much better than unthinkingly tossing characters into tired tropes or reinforcing stereotypes that do us harm.

Colette (Black): More Black people doing shit! Going on adventures, riding dragons, being magical! More Black characters in prominent roles in fantasy + sci-fi and historical settings and not always and only as slavess. These stories are important, but they’re NOT our only stories. We were kings and queens too. Let us wear the fancy dresses for a change instead of the chains, damn it!

More Black girls being portrayed as lovely and treasured and worth protecting. More Black girls finding love. More Black girls in general who aren’t relegated to arc-less, cliche “Sassy best friends” and “strong black women.”

More positive, dynamic roles of Black men (fathers, brothers, boys…) More positive, dynamic family roles of Black families as a whole, families that are loving and supportive and there. More Black people from all socioeconomic classes. More Black characters that don’t rely on the stereotypes that the media is currently going full force to reinforce.

Yasmin (Arab, Turkish): More Arabs who aren’t token characters. I want to see Arabs normalised in literature. Arab teenagers in high school, Arab young adults behind on their taxes, Arab dads who cook amazing food, Arab moms who refuse to soften their tongue for others. Arabs who aren’t mystical fantasy creatures from another planet. Arabs in YAs and in dramas and nonfiction and comedies and children’s books. We are human just like everyone else, and I’d like to see that reflected in literature. Often we are boxed into very specific genres of literature and made to feel ostracised from the rest. Let’s see some change!

Alice (Black, biracial): I’m hoping for more Black and biracial (mixed with Black) leading characters in all genres, but mainly in SF/F who fall outside of the stereotypes. Characters I can relate to who love, cry and fight for their ideals and dreams. It would be great if their race would play an active role in their identities (I don’t mean plot-related). Some intersectionality with sexuality and disability is also sorely missed, without it becoming a tragedy or it being seen as a character flaw. More mixed race characters who aren’t mixed with some kind of monster, fictional race or different species. Dystopias about problems usually faced by poc having actual poc protags, without all the racial ambiguity which always gets whitewashed. 

Shira (Jewish): More Jewish characters who feel positively about their Judaism and don’t carry it around as a burden or embarrassment. While the latter is definitely a real part of our experience due to anti-Semitism and all we’ve been through as a people, the fact that it overrepresents us in fiction is also due to anti-Semitism, even internalized. (Basically, Jews who don’t hate Judaism!)

More brave, heroic characters who are openly Jewish instead of being inspired by the Jewish experience and created by Jews (like Superman) or played by Jews (Captain Kirk) but still not actually Jewish. I’m tired of always being Tolkien’s Dwarves; I’d like a chance to play Bard, Bilbo, or even Gandalf’s role in that kind of story.

Elaney (Mexican): While we’re discussing what sort of representation we’d like to see, I am using the word “latinista” and I want to quickly address that since you may have not seen it before: “-ista” is a genderless suffix denoting someone is from an area (“Nortista”, a northerner), or who practices a belief (“Calvinista”, a calvinist), or a professsion (you’ve heard ‘barista’).  I find it more intuitively pronounceable than “latinx” and also more friendly to Spanish, French, and Portugueze pronunciation (and thus more appropriate), personally, so I invite you to consider it as an alternative.  If you don’t like it, well, at least I showed you.

1. I want legal Latinista immigrants. The darker your skin is down here, the more likely you are to be assumed to be illegal by your peers, and I want media to dilute this assumption so many have of us.

2. I want Latinistas who are well educated, not just smart, and I mean formally educated, with college degrees, professional skillsets, and trained expertise.  Being in fields which do not require a formal degree is no less legitimate of a lifestyle than being in a field which requires a PhD, but I want you to consider when casting your Latinista character that We, as a people, are assumed to be little more than the drop-out and the janitor by our peers, and People Of Color in scientific fields are mistaken as assistant staff rather than the scientists that they are.  I want media to dilute this assumption.  

3. I want Latnistas who are not marketed as “Latin American” but as their actual country of origin, because “Latin America” is a conglomerate of individual entities with their own, distinct cultures and if you are, for example, Cuban, then Mexican characters may appeal to you but they don’t have the same relatability as fellow Cuban characters. Wouldn’t you be a little more interested, too, to pick up a book that’s about a character who lives where you do rather than about a character who lives somewhere in general?

4. I want rich or well-to-do Latinistas.  Looking back, I notice that several of the character concepts that have been bounced off of us with regards to Latinista characters incorporate poverty despite an astronomical and diligent work ethic. I don’t think this is on purpose but I do think that it is internalized because so often the stereotype of us is poor and uneducated in a vicious cycle (uneducated because we’re poor, poor because we’re uneducated) and I think that there should be more media to dilute this.  

Lastly, I personally do not want these tropes to be explored and subverted by people, I want them to be avoided entirely because I feel that normalizing positive representation rather than commenting on negative representation is far more beneficial and validating to the people these works are supposed to help and represent. We don’t need sympathy, we need empathy! 

Jess (Chinese, Taiwanese): Stories that don’t center around the identity of being Chinese-American. That doesn’t mean “erase any references to protag’s Chinese identity” but I’d definitely like stories that have us go on awesome adventures every now and then and don’t have the Chinese character being all “I AM CHINESE” from beginning to end.

Please round out the Chinese migrant parents instead of keeping them as strict and/or traditional. PLEASE. I could go into how my parents and the Chinese aunties and uncles here are so awesome, seriously, and we need more older Chinese migrant characters who are awesome and supportive and just people. Also! EAST ASIAN GIRLS WHO AREN’T SKINNY AND/OR PETITE. Please. PLEEEEEASE. And more stories about Taiwanese and Chinese folks who aren’t in bicoastal regions (the Midwest, the Plains, etc.) WE EXIST.

More Chinese-Americans who aren’t necessarily Christian. Maybe it’s because of the books I’ve wound up reading, but there seems to be this narrative of Chinese migrants joining churches and converting when they’re in the US. This doesn’t mean I want less Chinese-American Christians in fiction, mind: I’d also just like to see more Chinese families in the US who are Buddhist or who still keep up with the traditions they learned from their homelands, like me, without having it considered in the narrative as ~old fashioned~ or ~ancient~ or ~mystical~. Tangentially, when writing non-Christian Chinese families, I’d rather people keep the assumption of Communism being the underlying reason why far, far away. I have been asked in the past if Communism was why my family didn’t go to church, and needless to say, it’s really, really offensive. 

Stella (Korean): I’d love to see more Korean (and Asian-American) characters that don’t perpetuate the super-overachieving, stressed-out, only-cares-about-succeeding Asian stereotype. These Koreans exist (I would know; I went to school with quite a few of them) but they don’t represent all of us. I want to see more Korean characters solving mysteries, saving the world and having fun. More Koreans that aren’t pale, petite, and a size 2. Not all of us have perfect skin or straight black hair or monolids. And some of us love our short legs, round faces and small eyes!

And fewer stoic&strict Korean parents, please. So many of us grew up with loud, wacky, so-embarrassing-but-endearing parents!  

Recently, there’s been quite a few novels with Korean American female protags (particularly in the YA section) that deal with being in high school, dealing with strict parents, getting into college, and boys. Lots of boys! I think it’s awesome that there are more books with KA protags, and I’m so so so glad they’re out there. But I also recognize that those are definitely not the kind of books I would have read as a teenager, and it’s not the kind of book I want to read now. I want to see more Korean characters that are queer, trans, ace, bisexual. More Korean characters that are disabled or autistic or have mental illnesses. More Korean characters in fantasy, SFF, mystery! Heck, space operas and steampunk Westerns. I want it all! :DDDD

A lot of Korean-Americans struggle with their identity. It’s hard to balance things sometimes! But I’d love to see more stories that *aren’t* overtly about Korean-Americans dealing with their racial identity or sexual orientation, but stories about Koreans saving princesses and slaying trolls and commandeering spaceships. I want a plot that doesn’t center on Korean-American identity, but on a Korean-American character discovering themselves. White characters get to do it all the time; I want Korean characters to have a turn. 

And honestly, I just want to see more Asians in media, period. South Asians, Southeast Asians, Central Asians! Thai, Hmong, Tibetan, Filipino, Vietnamese characters. Indian characters! There’s so much diversity in Asia and among Asian diaspora. I want us to be more than just ~~mystical~~ characters with ancient wisdom and a generic Asian accent. We’ve got boundless oceans of stories within ourselves and our communities, and I can’t wait for them to be told.

I would also love to see more multiethnic Asian characters that are *not* half white. It seems to be the default mixed-race Asian character: East Asian and white. But so many of my friends have multiethnic backgrounds like Chinese/Persian, Thai/Chinese or Korean/Mexican. I have Korean friends who grew up in places like Brazil, Singapore and Russia. Did you know that the country with the largest population of Koreans (outside of Korea) is actually China? 

And while I’m at it, I’d love to see more well-translated works from Asia in the US. Like, how awesome would it be to have more science fiction, fantasy, and historical novels from Asia that are easily accessible in English? SUPER awesome!!

Kaye (Muslim): I am so hungry for Muslim representation, because there is so little of it. You can see one or two (YA) titles I currently think or have heard are good representation on the shelves - notably, Aisha Saeed’s Written in the Stars - on an AMA I did the other day for /r/YAwriters.

However, I’d just love to see stories where Muslim characters go on adventures like everyone else!

I’ve been saying recently that I’d LOVE to see a cozy mystery. Or a series of Muslim historical romances a la Georgette Heyer (there are a LOT of Muslim girls who love romances, and I’m just starting to get into the genre myself!). I’d love to see Muslim middle grade readers get girls who find secret passages, solve mysteries, tumble through the neighborhood with their dozen or so cousins.

I have a lot of cousins and thus I always have a soft spot for cousins. And siblings.

I’m looking forward to Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham because Jen is writing Scarlett as a detective a la Veronica Mars. And she’s Somali-American. How cool is that?!

Let’s see some classic road trip YA with Muslims. Let’s see comedies with quirky characters - for instance, I know one or two tween Muslim girls who are driving their moms MAD by suddenly turning vegetarian and refusing to touch the celebratory biryani at family Eid parties, who join relevant societies at their schools and start preaching to their extended families about the benefits of going vegetarian and all the funny little interactions that are involved with that. Let’s have a story with some wise-cracking African American Muslim girls.

My cousin is a niqaabi who loves YA and hates that she doesn’t see herself in it. Let’s see some stories with teen niqaabis! Let’s explore the full, joyful spectrum of diversity in Islam. Let’s have stories where we talk about how one word in Bengali is totally different in another language, and one friend is hilariously horrified and the other friend doesn’t know what he/she said.

(True story.)

I want to see joy. I want to see happiness. Being a woman of color and a hijaabi often means facing so many daily, disheartening scenarios and prejudice and hatefulness. So many of the suggested tropes recently in the inbox focus on trying to force Muslim characters into beastly or haraam or just sad and stereotypical scenarios. I know that writers are better and have bigger imaginations than that.

You want angst? Push aside the cold, unkind, abusive Muslim parents trope. Let’s talk about the Muslim girls I know who have struggled with eating disorders. Let’s talk about Islamophobia and how that is a REAL, horrible experience that Muslim kids have to fear and combat every day. Let’s approach contemporary angst without the glasses of the Western gaze and assumptions about people of the Islamic faith on.

We can have Muslim novels that focus on growing pains like Sarah Dessen and Judy Blume (and speaking of that, my “auntie” who used to teach in a madrasah used to press Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret on the Muslim girls she knew because of how Margaret approached growing up and had concerns about her faith and her relationships, etc.)

Having Shia friends, I would like to see more stories that aren’t just assumed to be Sunni. How about stories about Su-Shi kids, too? (Sunni and Shia - the name always surprises me!) Let’s see some Muslim-Jewish friendships. Because they exist.

And of course, I always, always hunger for Muslim voices first. Because it’s so important to have these voices there, from the source, and some of the issues with answering here at WWC is how people seem to be approaching certain tropes that a Muslim writer could explore with the nuance and lived experience of their faith behind it.