“We read to know we’re not alone.”
Not too long ago, The #WeNeedDiverseBooks (http://weneeddiversebooks.tumblr.com/campaign ) launched its grassroots campaign to address the need for diverse experiences in children’s books, “including LGBTQAI, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic/cultural/religious minorities.” Their goal is to empower a wide range of readers that will “embrace diversity, acceptance, empathy, and ultimately equality.”
This impact on children especially will hopefully create future generations that view diversity as a necessary norm, but the current representation of different genders, races, and other minority populations leaves somewhat to be desired for the rest of us, particularly in Young Adult literature and popular fiction.
OK Potato is Chebk and Cheri, Japanese-Okinawan writers who have been competing with and encouraging one another since kindergarten. We have been voracious readers all our lives, with very different interactions with diversity in media and hopes for the future of media representation. OK Potato is the space we have created for media reviews (books, films, TV), general discussion on diversity in media, and, really, whatever else we feel is relevant.
Cheri: I grew up on Japanese dramas and picture books filled with talking animals. Growing up in Hawaii, my classes used local literature and other Japanese-centric texts during my elementary years. It was only around middle school when I first began to notice how hard it was to find Asian main characters, male or female, in the young adult section of the bookstore. Somewhere in high school and then throughout college, a dull rage began to grow at the use of minority characters in movies and television, and it has become somewhat of an obsession — and a personal campaign.
I would like to be part of a movement to bring minority writers and casts into the forefront of literature, young adult or otherwise. Currently, I am working on a fiction novel about a kick-ass group of mixed Asian-American women and their token male, all of whom form a transporter crew left behind on an uninhabitable Earth, with all the other people deemed “unnecessary” by those that launched to a new world.
I will be focusing on reviews for the most part, which will hopefully involve suggestions from all of you so we can expand the exposure of books that do represent diversity. 🙂
Chebk: I grew up in a similar environment as Cheri, obviously, but with a completely different mind-set. We grew up where Japanese and local culture infused every part of our suburban middle-class lives. I, for one, found myself being the epitome of the norm, where I could be mistaken for one of thousands of other little local girls.
In this way, I found myself in a position one often thinks of as privileged. Every book I read, all characters were somehow, inexplicably Asian. I later figured out that it was in the characters with no descriptions (that most people assume are white) that I take for granted as being Asian. Again: the mindset of the majority.
As I grew older and found a niche in reading that I felt comfortable with, I noticed that the books I read were rarely considered mainstream high fantasy or fantasy at all. I always wanted a story with some kind of difference — a female hero who accepts her weakness and uses it in her favor, a complex political plot, a new take on an old philosophy. Because of this, it was hard finding people who read similar things and hard to find new books.
I am excited to see the world of literature changing (mostly because it is changing in my favor) and will be using this blog to look for new things to read (and maybe reviewing them, but this is highly debatable as my tastes are specific and eclectic) and to do giveaways and maybe have discussions.
We will be posting bi-weekly (Wednesdays for Cheri, Saturdays for Chebk). If you like what you see, don’t forget to follow us on Tumblr and Twitter! Both are still works-in-progress so bear with us. 🙂
Please let us know in a comment below (ha ha ha, that rhymed) about your experiences with diversity and we’ll be back on Wednesday!