Often I have noticed a rhetoric echoed in the blogger community, and that is: Authors should be allowed to write what they know, and as they please in order to, hopefully, teach readers a new perspective. This is a rhetoric I find myself agreeing only partially with.
The issue I have with this rhetoric is simple: it implies that only readers should learn something from the content they read. That, to me, seems harmful.
Authors tend to write things that may harm readers; it can be things that are proposed rhetoric against marginalized groups, or are rhetorics in our contemporary society that cause readers harm by triggering traumatic experiences, or a combination of both. If that is the case, authors should allow ourselves to learn from the voices of our readers, and hope to improve our writing for those who support us and our careers.
I think it is a crucial part of our careers to write content which is healthy for people who we hope to present our books to their friends online, or otherwise, and who support us through their ability to share our work. It is, after all, them who we write for.
The excuse, “I did not grow up in a diverse community,” is not a valid excuse because if we have the time to dedicate hours worth months into our writing, then we surely have time to research and improve representation in our books regardless of what sort of community we have grown up in, or currently live in.
To use that excuse is to commit literary hypocrisy, because where we hope to teach our readers a new perspective through our book, we seem to also say that we wish not to learn of new perspectives through research, or reading other books which is a fundamentally wrong principle to live by.
Look at this like the statement men often say regarding women: “Women are our mothers, sisters, friends and daughters, and so we should respect them.” It implies that women only deserve respect because of their relations with men. Do you see how wrong that is? Apply those feelings to the statement: “I have not grown up in a diverse community ergo I will only write about white characters, or cis-gendered characters, or straight characters, or any combination thereof.” It implies that marginalized groups only should exist in literature when the marginalized groups in a literary piece exist only in relation with you by proximity, or by friendship, etc.
And to bloggers, I say that if we are willing to learn from authors, then authors should be willing to learn from the diverse communities that support authors’ careers.