The internet has become more than sharing relatable content, it has become a means to voice thoughts, opinions and ideas. Lauren Chamberlin and Vanshika Prusty discuss.
Emma Gonzalez, a survivor of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, is one of many who uses social media as a platform to instigate political conversations. On February 17th, 2018, Gonzalez made a speech in response to gun laws, and subsequently went viral. In this day and age, social media has become a powerful tool for groups and individuals to broadcast thoughts, views, and opinions.
The popular book community on Instagram, otherwise known as Bookstagram, is a place to share the love of all things bookish. Now, the community has surpassed its original purpose, originally a means to share aesthetically pleasing content, and has become a platform that promotes political conversations.
The organisation ‘We Need Diverse Books’ runs a Bookstagram and is a well-known page in the community, @weneeddiversebooks (currently at 33.9K followers). They aim to spread the word about diversity in books, their mission statement “Putting more books featuring diverse characters into the hands of all children.”
In 2015, the non-profit group awarded Angie Thomas with ‘The Walter Grant’. The $2000 grant is a product of their organisation and aims to financially aid unpublished authors. These funds paved way for Thomas’ debut novel, ‘The Hate U Give’, published at the beginning of last year. The novel is inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and recently celebrated a whole year on the New-York Times best-seller list.
In the US, ‘The Cooperative Children’s Book Centre’, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison, regularly updates publishing statistics regarding; children’s books about people of colour and first/native nations, and books by people of colour and first/native nations authors and illustrators. Their statistics of the last five years, as of February 22, 2018:
|Year||Number of Books Received at CCBC (approx..)||African/ African Americans||American Indians/ First Nations||Asian Pacific’s/ Asian Pacific Americans||Latinos|
This exemplifies a rough approximation of the publishing world. Out of the 3700 books that the CCBC received last year, only 122 were BY those of African/ African American descent. It shows the reality of the competitive nature of the book world, but, what the figures also suggest, is that these stories are increasingly heard, every year.
The Bookstagram community is not just for organisations to share their message, it also allows for everyday people discuss their own views, thoughts, and opinions.
Lauren Chamberlin, a ‘bookstagrammer’ known as @dontgobrekkermyheart, currently at 2,190 followers on Instagram, uses her platform to constantly voice the importance of diversity in books.
Chamberlin discusses the significance of social media as a tool, “it allows for topics/ movements to spread easier. It gives a significant voice to young adults who truly did not have a voice before social medias creation,” she said.
This ‘spread’ concerns itself to anything and everything that is shared on the internet. For example, Emma Gonzalez, and her speech amplifying across the world, thanks to social media. And, now with the Box Office hit ‘Black Panther’, diversity and representation has moved into mainstream conversation.
Chamberlin outlines her view, “I think one of the reasons diversity, for example, has become such an important topic is because of the expanse of the Internet and social media linking people together,” she said.
Diversity in the book world, has also be gaining traction over the past few years, especially with the success of such books like; ‘The Hate U Give’ by Angie Thomas, ‘Simon VS The Homosapien’s Agenda by Becky Albertalli and more recently, ‘Children of Blood and Bone’ by Tomi Adeyemi.
Chamberlin expresses that, “diverse books have become my favorite books to read because they teach me cultures and take me to atmospheres I never would have known before,” she continues saying, “It isn’t just about representation but also creating this sense of pride and strength for the individual that specific diverse book represents,” she said.
And, representation stems beyond race. Representation includes everyone; sexual orientation, economic background, racial background, a form of disability, just not the kitchen sink. But, authors can sometimes misuse this representation.
A constant conversation which Chamberlin voices on her page, it that of representation. She discusses that, “Representation used as plot devices is worse than no representation at all because it can be offensive and painful to those who personally have been affected,” she said.
Vanshika Prusty, known as @thatreadingwraith on Instagram, currently has almost 6000 followers, is also constantly sharing and voicing her opinions and remaining unapologetically bisexual. Prusty, also discusses the constant misuse of representation
“People make mistakes, I understand that, and I can forgive that if someone is genuinely sorry. But people like Keira Drake, author of perhaps the most racist book published this year, THE CONTINENT, don’t deserve a second chance, in my opinion, because not only did she get a chance without even genuinely apologizing for what she’d done, but she didn’t fix her problem even when she was given the chance to,” she said.
Many people out there are, what Prusty calls, ‘called-out’ and aim to mend their mistakes. Susan Dennard, author of ‘Truthwitch’, ‘Windwitch’ and most recently ‘Sightwitch’, recently shared on her Instagram page her own issues with her work. She discusses the topic of consent and acknowledges that she should’ve handled her writing more appropriately. Now, she vows to “do better and be better.”
Prusty expresses, “You can make a mistake, but once you do, it’s your responsibility to apologize and fix it. It’s your responsibility to be better,” she said.
The world today is evolving and catching up with the conversations that people are having online. Topics that were, in the past, taboo have become mainstream. Prusty expresses that, “avid readers are strange, and quite particular in the sense that we are all unique in our reading taste. Yet, we came together for one thing: diversity,” she said.
And she ends with, “Social media is a game-changer, and without it, we wouldn’t have the amazing stories with a diverse cast of characters that we do today,” she said.
Diverse book recommendations from Chamberlin and Prusty;
FROM TWINKLE, WITH LOVE (Out May 22, 2018) by Sandhya Menon;
CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE by Tomi Adeyemi;
AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by Sabaa Tahir;
TIMEKEEPER by Tara Sim;
SIX OF CROWS by Leigh Bardugo;
LABYRINTH LOST by Zoraida Cordova;
GIRLS BURN BRIGHTER by Shobha Rao;
THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas;
MARVEL by G. Willow Wilson;
THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN by Roshani Chokshi;
LOVE, HATE AND OTHER FILTERS by Samira Ahmed;
THE CITY OF BRASS by S. A Chakraborty;
THE SONG OF ACHILLES by Madeline Miller;
ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE by Benjamin Alire Sáenz.
[*] By: refers to the novel that were BY these groups.
[†] About: refers to novels that were ABOUT these groups.