Why Diversity Matters

 

A lot of people can tell you about diversity and why it’s important. There’s easy ways to explain it. Everyone likes to see a reflection of people that look like they do, love like they do, or share similar experiences and challenges. And when you show only a narrow cross section of people, the consequence is erasure of whole segments of that population. But it goes beyond even that.

Stories are important. They carry our vision for how we see the world, not only as it is, but how it could be. We dream of what could be accomplished, what could go wrong, and who would fight the good fight. We want that good guys to drive back the monsters, the aliens, the demons that are trying to claim us. We want to imagine a world where good can win—and that even if the heroes and heroines do lose, they go down valiantly.

Over the years we have seen movies and television shows slowly begin to change their ideas about writing and casting roles. In the literary world, one of the last corners of genre fiction to reflect diversity has been the paranormal, urban fantasy, and dystopian categories.

In the 1990’s, there was a slew of female kick ass heroines. Buffy, anyone? I loved La Femme Nikita and its television re-imaginings, Nikita and Alias. It’s worth mentioning that a reboot of the television show Nikita came out in the 2000’s starring Asian American actress Maggie Q.

Other than Maggie, most of these action femmes were white. Any women of color who appeared on television in these shows didn’t have a very long shelf life. If they lasted maybe two episodes, you considered yourself and the actress both lucky to have had a chance to even see a woman of color in the role.

Inspired by these stories, I set out to create my own heroine, and a world of characters for her to live with. My story is centered on a young black teenaged girl named Marradith Ryder. She has the power to hunt and kill monsters because of her complicated bloodline. Drawn into the Sojourners for her own protection, she soon finds out that working for the good guys comes with strings. There is action and romance, and bad things to be killed. But at its heart, Hunting in Closed Spaces is about family, those we’re born from and those we make our own through shared experiences and loyalty. The Sojourners are made up of people of all kinds, but they work together to accomplish their goals.

My story is peopled with vampires, werewolves, and shapeshifters. I also endeavored to make these characters look like us: Black, White, Latino, and Asian. I wanted to create a story with people who looked like the ones I grew up with in Los Angeles.

Sigils and Spells is a collection of stories which features diverse characters. Our goal of course is to entertain you. And while we do it, we hope to show you stories which contain all kinds of people. We want you to dream big, and to see some part of your experience reflected in the pages of these stories.

It’s both an honor and a pleasure to have my book included with my colleagues in this collection. I hope you’ll pick up a copy, and that we can give you new worlds to explore for a while.

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Stories are Important

 For those of us who fall outside the majority, representation is vital. People like to see a reflection of themselves, their own families, their loved ones, on the page and on the screen. It’s not about being politically correct or bowing to pressure from one group or another; it’s about not allowing people to be erased from society.

Someone was telling me recently that they believe having so many minorities, and particularly mixed race families shown on television was just unrealistic. What makes her think that? Is it because the people in her community aren’t? Another thing I hear is this: well, this group (insert minority here) is only a small percentage of the population, why should they be seen or represented? A few months back, a writer acquaintance said something like this on Facebook, and she got dragged by various people for the next couple of days over it. Frankly, under-represented people are damned tired of the excuses used for why they shouldn’t be represented or how “it’s better than it used to be in the old days.”

The quick and simple answer to why people should be represented: because people exist. Even three percent of the United States population works out to be several million people. Stories shape perception. We normalize what we see. And we hang the tag of unimportant on things which we don’t see. We don’t value what we can’t know or aren’t comfortable to relating with.

We need to pay attention to history, and not just that of the conqueror. We need every day stories about people and whatever their struggles may be, whether it falls under color, or sexual preference, or gender, culture or any combination or cross-section of those differences. Without stories, told by the people living them, we are all mysterious and unknown to each other. Without knowledge of each other’s experiences, we become woefully inept when it comes to understanding the world around us.

There are common things which we should be able to relate to with any person: the need to be loved, to have our needs met, to feel safe at home and within the larger society. We all want to go about our lives and pursue our own passions, regardless of what those might be. Those are the basics which we should all agree on. No one should have to battle for their basic status as part of humanity.

Yet minorities, women, gays, trans people, and disabled people continue to fight for representation. It’s not just a seat at the table, it’s the consensus that actually other have something worthwhile to contribute. It’s all around us. This is the struggle we see in the workplace, in pop culture, in professional organizations, and in life in general. We see it in micro-aggressions and in your face name calling. It pops up in the ugliest places, including in family members at times, colleagues, people you call friends. It’s having to explain that you really did earn a job or a degree on your own merits, and not being believed. It’s about being a woman ten times more qualified than your male opponent and still not getting the job. It’s also about being told you’re some sort of “unfortunate” combination of things which make you opposite of male, protestant, straight and white.

If people outside the majority are touchy about these subjects, there’s good reason. We learn early how to subsist in negative spaces at an early age. We learn the language of put downs, snubs, and belittling smiles in school and in the workplace. We know how it is to be insulted with a side eye and a nod by others, right in front of us. It’s obvious to us when the narrative being sold is glossing over the truth. You can’t be honest about the story of America if you cut out all the people who didn’t fit into the sanitized neat little box which the media and the education system has sold as reality for all these years.

When I hear people say they aren’t interested in other people’s stories, I am reminded that some people don’t want to hear or connect with other’s experiences. It is easier to pretend people don’t exist or are unimportant when they refuse to listen. For those who don’t want to know about other people, the world is a small, simple place, where they are always in the lead and everyone else is just abnormal in some fundamental way and not worthy of respect.

And this is why some people don’t want to hear other’s stories.

Horror Addicts Celebrates Black History and Women in Horror Month

Sumiko Saulson acted as host to a month worth of posts celebrating Black History Month and Women in Horror! Check out the diverse offerings from Alicia McCalla, Linda Addison, Eden Royce, Balogun Ojetade, Kenesha Williams, Joslyn Corvis, Kai Leakes, and more.

See my contribution by following the link:

https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2016/02/12/15685/

The Heart Remains a Child

I’m not sure who came up with the saying first, but it holds true.

A few years ago, I did an interview with Nancy Holder, author of The Wicked Series, several Buffy novels, and countless other books. One of the things that she told me (and I am paraphrasing) was that the fears of teenagers are really the same ones that we have as adults. Experience teaches you how to cover, how to look confident, but inside, an adult has the same yearnings as a sixteen year old.

I have been reading (and watching) a lot of teen drama lately. Partially because of an editing project that I’m working on, but also because I thought about Nancy’s comment. How many times do we have fears about fitting in, being alone, or finding that special person? Unlike braces and high school, those fears are never completely abandoned.

I think this is why teen related literature is so popular.  It’s okay for a teenager to feel these things, and do it outwardly. Because a teen is inexperienced, their flaws and mistakes seem forgivable. And even endearing, in a way that wouldn’t for someone older.

And there is just something cringe worthy about remembering a time when you were not so grown up as you thought. Even if it does seem like that was last week…

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Case of Real

Real life sucks.

Let’s face it, that’s the reason we (grownups) do things for fun. Movies, sports, hobbies of any sort usually have one thing in common. It’s a distraction from all the little things we have to do: pay bills, work, wash, repeat.

I have noticed that a lot of people (myself included) have had issues of late getting things balanced out. Work, play, obligations, family.  It happens.

One thing to remember is that there are going to be those times when you just have to start from scratch. Best intentions, hard work, and good planning works most of the time, but there are still those instances when things don’t go smoothly.

What can you do? Breathe. Pray. Plan.

Meanwhile? Life goes forward, and while there may be problems simmering in the background, those cannot be the focus. Make sure you have some happiness, even with the tears. Have a smile. Remember good things, even if they do hurt. And don’t beat yourself up because things are not perfect.

Keep going.

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©2011 Lori Titus