Indiana Daily Student

Black Voices: Black students reflect on the lack of diversity in fiction books

<p>A collage of books featuring Black main characters is pictured. The characters are represented in mystery, romance, heartbreak and self-discovery books. </p>

A collage of books featuring Black main characters is pictured. The characters are represented in mystery, romance, heartbreak and self-discovery books.

Diversity in literature is limited, whether it's sexuality, gender, race, ethnicity or disability.  

Black characters in literature are usually stereotyped as the Black best friend and the angry Black woman to further the storyline of white main characters. Young Black readers need to be exposed to the idea that they can be a wide variety of characters such as vampires, witches, wizards, werewolves and heroes in a dystopian realm.

Novels which include Black main characters are often under-represented and not easily found in bookstores or on online reading lists unless it is Black History Month. 

IU sophomore Diamond Blevins said it is difficult to access books which offer diverse characters at bookstores.

“You don't really see books with people of color as main characters on display unless it's February,” Blevins said.

IU freshman Maia Crowley noted how difficult it is to find books featuring Black heroines without using the social media app TikTok to find Black creators who post recommendations and reviews of books.

Maia Crowley is seen reading "Seven Days in June" Jan. 17, 2022, at the Indiana Memorial Union. Students, like IU sophomore Diamond Blevins, have noticed a lack of Black main characters in stories that aren't about pain and trauma. Courtesy Photo

“You can't easily find books with Black heroines like you can a regular book with white characters,” Crowley said. “You don't have to do any research for it.”

Crowley said most books featuring Black characters revolve around the trauma Black people endure, such as racial and economic disparities. Rarely offering the audience an opportunity to escape from reality. 

“A lot of the stories are about Black trauma and not Black joy,” Crowley said. “I don't want to have to sit and read about that in every single Black story I'm reading. I want to see them have happy endings too.”

Crowley reflected on the lack of diversity of the books she read when she was younger.

“When I was younger I enjoyed reading fantasy where most of the main characters were white,” Crowley said. “People who looked like me weren’t able to be the hero and if they were in a book they were side characters. Seeing that when I was younger impacted how I act and view myself, I often go to the side and make an effort not to stand out.”

Crowley said books such as “Seven Days in June” and “Get a Life, Chole Brown” show non-stereotypical characters experiencing life events such as heartbreak and romance.

“There are definitely more books featuring Black main characters than from when I was younger but there needs to be more that offer a wide range of the Black experience,” Crowley said.

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