Diversity as a trend upsets me.
Life is diverse.
People are diverse.
The world is diverse.
It is not a trend.
And as I wrestle with the term being oddly trendy while the concept is not I find myself straddling the definition, too. You see, I’m a Jewish cis woman. I never thought about myself as diverse. I’m just me, as much as you, however you see and define yourself and find yourself defined, are you.
My husband and I often debate when is being Jewish a minority and when is it a religion? Do both count when talking about diversity? Where do I fall on the spectrum of diversity? My Jewishness informs my writing. It’s an integral part of me and therefore my work. And Jews are the world’s smallest minority, but we are very rarely given the opportunities of other minorities because we are defined by religion.
Anti-Semitism. Anti-Israel fanatics. The KKK. Neo-Nazi’s. BDS movement. These are all organizations that hate me. I don’t know if they hate me because of what I look like. How I pray to God. Or old stereotypes and myths.
I’ve been confronted with this hate in the writing community. A NY Times bestselling YA author once turned to me at the LA SCBWI annual event and said, “You must be a Jew,” after hearing part of a conversation. I was appalled. Shocked into silence. The friend next to me said, “Yup,” and nodded with wide eyes and embarrassment knowing that writer is known for her wild unfiltered mouth. And of course she was drinking so she had that excuse, too.
Outside of the writing community I’ve been asked where I come from. When I tell them I was born in New York, went to school in Washington D.C., lived in LA for 18 years, but now make Charlotte my home they say, “No, what religion are you?”
“Oh,” and some walk away. Some look at me with distant eyes when a moment ago they were friendly. I become something other than the person they were just getting along with.
But why are they asking me that? I’ve been called a kike. My very own JCC received bomb threats this year. I feel threatened and viewed as an acceptable casualty in the war on terrorism because if something bad happened to me, it happening to a Jew is okay with the rest of the non-Jewish world.
DV Pit began yesterday on Twitter and I never even considered pitching. I didn’t believe others thought being Jewish was diverse. Until found this article on the We Need Diverse Books website and it meant so much to me. I always understood #DiverseBooks to mean #ownvoices. Stories written by people sharing underrepresented cultures depicting those cultural stories and truths.
Then I saw Beth Phelan’s Tweet:
You don’t need to be writing an ownvoices ms to participate, tho those are very welcome.
#DVpit’s focus is on the creator themselves.
I always believed when an agent reads a story all they see are words on a page. It’s a blind audition. Why isn’t this true? Why isn’t the slush pile a place of equal opportunity?
I write essays as well as fiction and see how people of certain factions of diversity attack a writer for sharing their experience. That somehow that experience eradicates the readers experiences, belittles, and demeans them. And I think WTF are you doing? Write your own story and share your experience. Would Flannery O’Connor be able to publish today? Would we know about Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer? Would the bigot Archie Bunker make it on TV? Could today’s audiences stand watching All in the Family?
I wonder why the world has to agree. We don’t. We need to have open honest conversations and hear one another. We should try seeing the world through the eyes of one another. Isn’t that the whole point of reading?
And when a terrible book comes out- why is it that people attack the author? Not the agent, publisher, editors, marketing, sales teams and printer of the book?
I wish the world would embrace our differences and not fear them. I sent a message to trusted friends explaining how I felt. And one sent me this
and I want to share it with you. I wish this for us.
I wrestle with feeling I have a right to the opportunities DVPit offers marginalized people. I’m afraid this conversation will end up with many angry at me. But all this policing is silencing some people. Making them into liars and having them doubt their own experiences. I do not know what it feels like to walk in your shoes. Do you know what it’s like to walk in mine?
What does diversity mean to you? How does it affect your habits? I’m curious. This is meant to be an open honest conversation, if you’re brave enough to share your opinion and feelings. If I see any hate I will not include it. Be respectful.