Thursday, May 1, 2014

Diversity and Revenge

Sometimes I read an article that demands: WE need MORE DIVERSITY! 

There are also those posts with colorful charts to show the tiny percentage of covers representing people of diversity. There’s outrage over a book with a clearly dark-skinned main character who has been lightened a few shades like a tooth-whitening commercial. 

Then silence.

Author Ellen Oh has decided to do more.

Here’s her Tumbler campaign LINK. 

This is a 3-day campaign with something new each day. I hope you participate.

Even though I’m not a person of color, I in a very small way remember not feeling represented as a child and teen.

I noticed when most of the superheroes in cartoons were men.

I remember reading Beverly Cleary’s Fifteen. When I realized the girl in the book had short, dark curly hair that frizzed, I did a double-take. Then why did the girl on the cover have blonde hair? Why couldn’t she look like she was supposed to look? Was having brown curly short hair really THAT BAD?

And I think her eyes were brown in the book too.

I had brown curly hair and brown eyes. And I paid attention to what the media showed me. When I grew up, blondes with blue eyes ruled and brunettes played the sidekick. Those blondes had straight or wavy hair. "Three’s Company" was just one example.

And don’t even get me started on Barbie. By the time they made a brunette version, I’d outgrown playing with dolls.

If there was a brunette who broke the mold, I noticed. Everyone knew that Farah Fawcett ruled Charlie’s Angels, but at least Jacqueline Smith wasn’t a sidekick. Wonder Woman and Princess Leia gave me powerful brunettes. Sigourney Weaver was not only a powerful woman, but she also carried the movie.

Then Flashdance came out—a woman with curly hair was the attractive star.
(Didn’t they do a terrible job with the stunt-double’s curly hair?)

As a girl of European descent, if I felt like that with many representations of people like me on billboards and TV shows and books, then what do Asian, Indian, Muslim, Native American, African American, and Hispanic youth think when they see covers of books?

Where are they?

I was a kid a looonnnng time ago.
So much has changed.

Let our stories and our covers finally reflect us in all our varied glory.

Speaking of, before I heard about this campaign, I had chosen early May to promote Medeia Sharif’s new book. Two years ago, she was on my BLOG  for Bestest Ramadan Ever.

My picture for Ellen's campaign.
I'm not wearing makeup, but it's all about the cover,

Now Snip, Snip Revenge is OUT! Perfect timing for Ellen Oh’s campaign.

SNIP, SNIP REVENGE by Medeia Sharif
YA Contemporary, Evernight Teen
Release Date April 25, 2014

Beautiful, confident Tabby Karim has plans for the winter: nab a role in her school’s dramatic production, make the new boy Michael hers, and keep bigoted Heather—with her relentless Ay-rab comments—at bay. When a teacher’s lie and her father’s hastiness rob her of her beautiful hair, her dreams are dashed. The fastest barber in Miami Beach has made her look practically bald. 

With all her pretty hair gone, Tabby doesn’t believe she fits the feminine role she’s auditioning for. Michael is still interested in her, but he’s playing it cool. Heather has taken to bullying her online, which is easier to do with Tabby’s ugly haircut. Tabby spearheads Operation Revenge, which proves satisfying until all of her problems deepen. After messing up, she sets to make things right.

Author Bio
I’m a Kurdish-American author
who was born in New York City, and I presently call Miami my home. I received
my master’s degree in psychology from Florida Atlantic University. After becoming
a voracious reader in high school and a relentless writer dabbling in many
genres in college, I found my niche writing for young people. Today I'm a MG
and YA writer published through various presses. In addition to being a writer,
I'm a middle school English teacher. My memberships include Mensa, ALAN, and

Find Medeia

Blog   |   Twitter   |   Goodreads   |   Instagram   |   Amazon

Join Medeia's giveaway to celebrate the release of her latest novel.


  1. Yes, we need more diversity! I was brainwashed into believing that feminism is no longer needed (indeed it seems to be a dirty word to some people) and that racism in the western world is a thing of the past - what an effective way to push women and non-white people away and ignore them!
    Not a book, but I am appalled by the casting of the new Star Wars movie. Eleven male actors and two female. Two actors of color, one of whom is R2-D2 so won't be visible. And then I read on the internet that people are glad of the cast's "diversity"...

    The novel I'm currently writing has a character population based on the Moors, so characters look Arabic/African. But what I've realized now is that most people will read this story as if it's about white people who all happen to have dark eyes and dark hair, UNLESS I explicitly state that they're dark-skinned as well. White is the default and that's the very fundament of racism right there.

    1. Andrea, I agree. Star Wars was just about as diverse the first time around. The second time around, the female character was less strong and there was no push for diversity. All these diverse aliens but not people.

      I always give a short description of characters skin and hair, despite race.
      Suzanne Collins made it clear to me that Rue wasn't white, yet some people were (unfortunately) surprised when they saw the movie.

      My fear is that when I write diverse main characters, I might not be able to get them published because I'm not the same ethnicity. But I'll keep writing the characters as they appear to me.

      Good luck with your book!

    2. Thanks, and the same to you! And yes, some people's surprise that Rue isn't white really puzzled me. It was made quite clear that she isn't.
      Reading Toni Morrison and Leslie Marmon Silko (amongst others) has helped me see a little what it's like to be not white and I must say, racism (or any form of discrimination) now infuriates me more than ever. I think that's one of the reasons that it's so important to have diverse stories, because stories (books, movies, plays) are an excellent (if not the best) way to learn to understand others.

  2. This is a great post, Theresa. We need diversity on many different levels. I think this campaign goes beyond seeing diverse people in books. I want to see more diverse people behind the scenes and more diverse writers on the NY Times bestsellers list, on and on. There's always more change to be had. And, hey, brown-haired girls unite!! : )

    1. Absolutely, Melissa! We need the change everywhere. When a person of color or a woman makes it to a high-level position it's still news because it's still all-too-rare. Luckily, if we start with books--their power reaches everywhere else.

      Yes, brown-haired girls unite!

  3. I also grew up with those covers. We still have a way to go to diversify the industry.

    Thank you for featuring me.

    1. Yes, we do. In some ways, we've lost diversity ground.

  4. Perfect timing. I needed something to post about in an online discussion in my multicultural education class...

  5. I am agreeing with you whole heartedly. As a long time middle school English teacher, my mainly Hispanic students had very few characters that looked/ sounded like them in the books available to us. It's about time diversity took off~

    1. Shelly, I agree. The first stories always usually historical or traditional or about the disability. It seems to take a while until they're just stories where the point of the story isn't to be about the group--it's a story.

  6. My hair is technically dark blonde or golden-brown, though I look like a brunette to anyone not well-versed in the spectrum of hair color. I also have brown eyes. My whole life, I've never been that physically attracted to the majority of blonde men, though there are a handful of exceptions. I also never really found many blonde women to be the epitome of beauty, and always preferred people with dark hair and eyes. When I was about three, my father got me a ragdoll whom I named Molly, with brown braids and brown eyes. He wanted me to have a doll who looked like I did, since there were so many dolls with blonde hair and blue eyes. I also never had a Barbie, for reasons including the blonde hair and blue eyes.

    I wish more books would reflect the fact that not everyone is white, middle- or upper-class, WASP, from Middle America, or fair-featured. I'd also love to see more books set outside the familiar settings of North America and England, and if a book is still set there, at least for the characters to be immigrants or descended from, say, Japanese, Russians, or Iraqis.

  7. I think the demand for diversity mirrors our country's shifting culture. America has always been a melting pot, but does the word "minority" really apply anymore? Not really. We're such a diverse country now--and publishers, film/TV producers, and the like are seeing a huge audience for works with people of various cultures as the main characters.

    1. Stephanie, agreed. That's why I love the word "diversity." It's just a reflection of who we are instead of what we used to think we were.

  8. I don't understand why diversity scares some people so much. It's beautiful. How boring to be all the same! And how boring to read books that are all the same!

  9. Love Medeia's story!
    I noticed that about Fifteen and so many other books - they always changed the covers. And no one except stereotyped nerds wore glasses back then. It *still* bothers me when people in stories who supposedly wear glasses can run and jump and leap and do all kinds of things and if their glasses break or fall off or are stolen, then they can still SEE. Ridiculous. Don't give your characters attributes if they're not going to be realistic!

    1. Deniz, you're so right. At least Harry Potter couldn't see when he didn't have his glasses. Come to think of it, why wasn't there a spell to fix eyesight?

  10. This is a great post, Theresa! And thanks for intro to Medeia! Her book sounds fantastic!

  11. Yay!! We must keep up the pressure!! And I will forever thank Gene Roddenberry for that wonderful scene in classic Star Trek where Lt. Uhura, holding a screwdriver in one hand fixes her terminal and discusses tactics with Mr Spock! Yay!

    And huge congrats to the ever so talented Medeia too!! Take care

    1. Old Kitty, I just read something about her role in Star Trek and how MLK encouraged her to stay in the role, explaining why it was so critical.

  12. I so remember that indignant feeling I felt in grade school at knowing that the burnettes were looked upon as the lesser Angels. Though Jacqueline did score her share of fans. You did a wonderful job of giving perspective on the issue.

  13. In early April, four presidents journeyed to Austin to address the Civil Rights Summit and remark on President Lyndon B. Johnson’s legacy on the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act. As you know, it brought an end to legal racial segregation in public places.

    Well in 2014, we are facing a cultural segregation, one not only along racial lines but also along educational and income ones.

    Our cities are increasingly becoming vast outposts of homogeneity and advantage, arcing ever upward, interspersed by deserts of despair, all of which produces in them some of the highest levels of income inequality ever seen in this country.

    This is a perversion of the concept of diversity — of race, culture, identity and class — that dynamic engine that built urban identities and which is now being erased out of them.

    As a report by Kendra Bischoff of Cornell and Sean F. Reardon of Stanford pointed out last year: “The proportion of families living in affluent neighborhoods more than doubled from 7 percent in 1970 to 15 percent in 2009. Likewise, the proportion of families in poor neighborhoods doubled from 8 percent to 18 percent over the same period.

    A Reuters/Ipsos poll last year found, “About 40 percent of white Americans and about 25 percent of nonwhite Americans are surrounded exclusively by friends of their own race.”

    This kind of sorting has real world consequences in terms of behaviors, empathy and socialization. As The Independent of London reported last month, a new study found, “People who live in ethnically diverse streets are less racially prejudiced than individuals living in highly segregated areas and their increased tolerance is due directly to the experience of a more integrated society.”

    My point with my long-winded comment is this: we need to see people other than ourselves in order to empathize. If we don’t live around others we do ourselves and our society damage because our ability to relate becomes impaired.

    Yes, Theresa. We need diversity more than ever.

    1. Michael, you said it so much more eloquently and deeply than I did. And, yes, it's about class.

      I love that quote from The Independent. I raised my kids in a diverse place because my first years were spent in diversity and it had a big impact on my worldview. Two years ago, we had to move a town away, and this town is less diverse. I was worried about the impact, but my kids have more the same kinds of mix of friends as they did before.

  14. I chimed in on the diversity and I was so glad to see how many did.

    1. Cleemckenzie, I love how so many people got involved.

  15. Happy Mother's day to you Theresa!

  16. Super post! I so agree with you about diversity in books. Reading about people who are different gives children/people the opportunity to learn about children/people who are different than them.

    I loved Mediea's book. Reading it gave me the opportunity to have a base of knowledge that I could use when a Muslim family moved in next door to us. ie: I could ask them reasonably intelligent questions about their faith and culture. I recommend it to people all the time.

    1. Sharon, I agree that people need more choices out there!