So as soon as the #WeNeedDiverseBooks blew up on my feed, I wanted to draw Wren and Mari. Thankfully it is Free Draw Friday! (Day 8, Whoo!)
This isn’t finished, but I have work, and in the end, I want to talk some about this whole campaign rather than just drawing something. I had a whole thing written organizing my jumble of thoughts, but I forgot it at home. So cut me some slack.
It is easy to just post the picture and be done with it. Throw some sound bite of #WeNeedDiverseBooks because contrast is beautiful. Which it is, but it is so much more than that.
Know this story. When Mari and Wren first wandered into my head Wren was white. I’ll be the first to admit this was my default, but he was still very undefined. Tall and thin were the only descriptors I knew for sure.
So why did I make him black?
Here is the best explanation I can give. I am a privileged white girl. I know very little about discrimination in the long run. Feeling underrepresented, misrepresented, sure. (Another reason why #WeNeedDiverseBooks, I feel this way, and have more a representation than many.) I’m not always sure I could write a minority. Yes, all strong characters have the same basic make-up. Faults, dreams, goals, everything that goes into a good character. Still there is more to it, let’s be honest. Whenever someone asks “How do I write a strong female character?” yes you start with the same things you would a male, but there are differences. And I would rather celebrate those, not hide them. In a modern setting, while they may not be part of the story, they would realistically change a character. I’ll also fully admit this may be more paranoia on my part. I do not know the balance.
But here is the thing.
My story doesn’t take place in our time nor our world. Race changes nothing. It makes no difference to his story. I pretty strictly write sci-fi/fantasy.
So there was no reason not to.
As I said, maybe my worries are unwarranted. That said there are absolutely instances where it doesn’t matter. Children’s books are a huge example of this.
As an artist, I get to choose skin color. This isn’t much, but it is something. #WeNeedDiverseBooks because it shouldn’t be weird to illustrate a character as non-white if skin color isn’t mentioned.
And skin color is just a tiny piece of the diversity we need more of. In the end, it is only his skin color, and there could be more. There should be more. We should read these books, buy them, support diversity, create them in they ways we can, and even in the ways we might not feel comfortable.
We can all do a lot more.