by Raymond M. Coulombe
Junot Diaz, Pulitzer Prize winning author, has been dethroned from his lofty public position by charges of sexual harassment. That’s been a huge blow to many Hispanics as Junot was one of the few writers who spoke to them. While there are many great Hispanic writers out there, very few get general public recognition. Sadly, it’s like the publishing world has its Hispanic minority slot filled and they don’t need to promote any other writers.
We have a dearth of minority writers and we have a shortage of minority characters in literature. There are no excuses for that. Okay, there are excuses, but no good excuses. I believe the unspoken reason is that they believe white readers will not relate to the characters so won’t buy the books.
That’s just stupid, especially in the S/F and Fantasy genres. We are used to our characters not even being human. We gladly follow stories where the main characters are Androids or Elves. If the main character is Black, Asian, or Hispanic, we won’t even blink. If we can empathize with a character who grew up in the giant robot cities of Doom Star Eight, we can get into the head of someone who grew up in Honduras, Nigeria, Singapore or on a reservation.
Here’s the weird thing: no publisher has any problem with the idea that people will connect with characters who are of the opposite sex. As a male, I have a lot more in common with a male from Mexico than any woman. Talk about trying to get into the head of an alien.
When it comes right down to it, good stories are good stories. Character or writer diversity can make a story more interesting. In the end, that’s the most important part. If they happen to also make some minorities feel better having people like them in the stories, it’s no loss for me.