Tag Archives: diversity

Searching Out Diversity

I keep coming back to the conversation about diversity in literature. I think it’s important. I heard it several times during the Festival in Faith and Writing and today I came across an article about how to get more diversity in your YA fiction.

That piece has some good advice. You have to actually search out diversity, recommend it and support it. It doesn’t happen automatically: Search, share, support.

Lately I’ve been trying to search out more diversity. If I don’t, my shelves are mostly full of white folks. It’s the same with my music collection. I don’t like most hip-hop, and the alt-rock and punk genres are pretty homogenous. So I’ve been working at it.

You also have to recommend it, and it’s something I need to be doing more. Though I should be clear this isn’t about simply recommending stuff because of the diversity, but because it’s good. So here are a couple recommendations, something I’ll try to do more consistently:

Books

Alif the Unseen by G. Willow WilsonAlif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
The hacker youth culture of a Cory Doctorow novel meets an Arab security state and slips into a fantasy world worthy of J.R.R. Tolkien. The mix of realism and fantasy was pretty great. I’m not a huge fan of this kind of fantasy, but I really enjoyed the glimpse into the Muslim world.

Bud Not Buddy by Christopher Paul CurtisBud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
This is a YA classic but somehow I’ve never read it. An orphaned boy goes in search of his long-lost father in Depression-era Michigan. An early scene of Bud being abused by foster parents made me physically angry, but the story moves to tenderness as Bud encounters more warm-hearted people on his journey.

Music

Music seems like it should be easier to find diversity. But I’ve always been a rock fan, and aside from a few big names, rock isn’t very diverse. I’m not a fan of hip-hop, so that leaves my musical horizons pretty limited.

Thanks to Spotify, I’ve been researching more diverse voices.

“You Can’t Be Told” by Valerie June
This foot-stomping single is a bit different from the rest of her album, but I love her rootsy voice, regardless of anything else.

“Sister Rosetta (Capture the Spirit)” by Noisettes
This one has a swing-dance style that’s just fun. The band has some more recent stuff, unfortunately it’s only available in the U.K.

The Difference Diversity Makes

That whole ‘diversity in literature’ conversation keeps coming up and I think it might help some people to understand why it’s so important.

If you’re never confronted with it, if you’re always finding people who look like you in your entertainment, then it’s a question you might never think about. It helps to step outside of ourselves and see a different perspective.

I came across exactly that perspective in Deza Malone, a character in Christopher Paul Curtis’ The Mighty Miss Malone:

When I was in Gary and would read novels I used to put myself right in the middle of the story. I knew it was a great book when it felt like the author was writing about me. Some of the time I’d get snapped out of the book when I read things that I couldn’t pretend were about me, even if I had the imagination of Mr. William Shakespeare.

Words like “her pale, luminescent skin” or “her flowing mane of golden hair” or “her lovely, cornflower-blue eyes” or “the maiden fair.” I would stop and think, No, Deza, none of these books are about you. Continue reading The Difference Diversity Makes

Where’s the Diversity in Literature?

Illustration by Christopher MyersI read a lot. And in all that reading it’s apparent that diversity is lacking. I like to tell myself that’s because of my own tastes or my own white privilege.

But it’s not just me.

It’s a problem that pervades the publishing industry. Earlier this month I tweeted a story about how 93% of the characters in children’s literature are white. The New York Times has run a pair of opinion pieces on the issue, Where Are All the People of Color in Children’s Books by Walter Dean Myers and The Apartheid of Children’s Literature by Christopher Myers, that gives some context and reality to the dry stats:

“In 1969, when I first entered the world of writing children’s literature,” writes Walter Dean Myers, “the field was nearly empty. Children of color were not represented, nor were children from the lower economic classes. Today, when about 40 percent of public school students nationwide are black and Latino, the disparity of representation is even more egregious. In the middle of the night I ask myself if anyone really cares.”

Continue reading Where’s the Diversity in Literature?

Why I Like My Church

Buddy KevinI was having a conversation with a new couple at church yesterday and the inevitable question came up: How long have you been attending Messiah? It’s been 11 years now.

That’s insane. Nobody my age commits to anything (much less a church) for that long. I’m already part of the old-guard. I remember the previous rector (that’s Episcopalian for pastor). I remember what the building was like before the addition. I’ve earned the right to protest, “But that’s how we’ve always done it!”

That conversation made me think about why we’ve stuck it out at Messiah for so long.

Relationships
Much of it has to do with the people. Some smart folks say that friendships are what keep people in church, and I’m inclined to agree. We tried to fit in at our previous church, tried to move beyond being college students to being regulars, but it never quite took. When we taught Sunday School and the parents didn’t know our names we decided it was time to move on.

But we found those relationships at Messiah. It helped that there were plenty of social dinners organized where you were encouraged to get to know people. I remember several rounds of dinners like that at various people’s houses that slowly pulled us in. It also helped when we were invited over for dinner on Easter Sunday. Who invites people over for dinner on Easter Sunday at the last minute? Really nice people, that’s who. People who understand a young married couple with no family in town.

Diversity
The other thing I like about my church is the diversity. Now I’ll be honest: We’re mostly a bunch of white folks. We don’t quite have the racial diversity. But that’s changing (it’s much more prevalent at the earlier service with an explosion of KaRen). But we do have other diversity. There’s a huge mix of ages (110 kids in 5th grade or under, in a church of 300!) and styles. On Sunday morning you’re sure to hear both an organ and an electric guitar. You’ll also see someone in jeans, a T-shirt and sandals next to someone in a suit and tie.

All that diversity in and of itself doesn’t mean a lot. But it does tell me that the people are able to value what’s different and get along despite disagreements. Nobody is up in arms over the drums or the 18th century hymns, demanding we change to suit their needs. That sounds ridiculous, but I grew up in atmosphere where it was common.

Liturgy
Finally, I was drawn to the liturgy. Growing up in an independent church less than 40 years old, there was no sense of history. There was no connection to the wider faith that went all the way back to Christ. We were somehow disconnected and adrift, which was painfully obvious anytime a pastor left. At Messiah, I was shocked when the rector left without any controversy.

But the liturgy, those words repeated by Christians all over the world and throughout time, well, you can’t avoid that connection. It’s deep. It’s powerful. There’s a danger of it becoming too familiar, but I’ll gladly take that danger than the disconnected prattling of someone in a suit trying their best to sound spiritual and only accomplishing saying ‘Lord’ and ‘Jesus’ every few words.

 

I could go on. Everybody has their own reasons for sticking with a church, moving on, or giving up. But those are the ones that came to mind when I reflected on why I’ve been here for over a decade.

What about you? Why do you like your church?