What follows below is an ever-growing collection of links to things that people have said about why diverse representation in books, TV, films, and other popular culture matters so very much to people with disabilities (or, for friends in the UK, disabled people), people of color, people who are GLBTIQA+, people who have lived with poverty, and so forth. In order to make it easier for people to come back and browse only the newest added links, I usually add the newest links right at the top of this page.
I originally had this collection at the bottom of my own blog post about why diversity in media is so crucial for me as a deaf person, Me, the Bobbsey Twins and Switched at Birth. But then I kept adding to the collection and it started getting ridiculously long, so I decided it was time to put the whole collection into its own page.
The most recent link(s) were added on 18 February 2017.
Why I Write About the Immigrant Experience, by author Reyna Grande. Discusses how the author grew up without the opportunity to read the experiences of other immigrant children like herself, and how this led to her writing her own memoirs about her childhood.
Why Representation in Young Adult Matters–a Guest Post by Elsa Henry: Disability in Fiction, at Intisar’s blog. Discusses how the author Elsa Henry grew up without representation in books as a “half deaf, half blind” girl, and the vital role of writers in filling the void in representation in literature. The author Elsa Henry writes science fiction and horror.
Tumblr user TheAlbinoPrince posted this string of Twitter screenshots from Twitter user Mary @sapphicgeek which describes how Mary used lesbian comic book characters to help a “baby gay” teen girl become less suicidal: The girl had come into her comic book shop after watching SuperGirl and becoming a #Sanvers (Maggie Sawyer / Alex Danvers) shipper. Usually I try to link to the original source of a blog post, but in this case I have linked to it on my own blog so that I can provide image descriptions for the string of Tweets. Because blind “baby gay” readers exist too and deserve to know what the Tweets say. For people who can see images, @sapphicgeek is also active in Tumblr under the same handle as her Twitter account (sapphicgeek.tumblr.com).
The author of the Raphaelsdumort Tumblr blog, says, “Here’s a Little Story About Why I Love Shadowhunters So Much“, which explains how finally seeing positive Arab representation on the screen has impacted her.
The blog, Open Letters to Jason, is filled with letters by fans explaining why it was so devastating for them when a widely popular bisexual woman character was killed off in a science fiction TV series in March 2016.
Author Elsa Sjunneson-Henry at the Women’s Media Center talks about why the portrayals of young Deaf people in the TV program, Switched at Birth, matter to her as someone who had grown up with disabilities in “‘Switched at Birth’ Breaks the Mold in Depictions of Deaf Characters“.
At the FancyFade Tumblr, Fade talks about “Urban Fantasy and Mental Illness“, more specifically, a common and frustrating trope about mental illness that appears frequently in urban fantasy.
Author Stacy Lee in the blog magazine Hyphen–Asian American Unabridged writes an article, “Dear Non-Asian Writer,” about tropes she is tired seeing in the Asian characters she sees in the media.
The author of the Epiphany Tumblr explains why she wishes more children’s shows had lgbtq+ characters to make it easier for her to talk about her own identity with her younger sister, in “Representation”
Jenn Basel explains why seeing representation of a polyamorous relationship matters in “Representation Matters: A Personal Anecdote”
The author of the Never That Easy blog explains why the wealth of disability representation in fan fiction matters so much to them, in “BADD 2015: Where I Talk about Disability and Fan Fiction, A Lot, and You Probably Roll Your Eyes”
The author of the Bialystock-and-bloom blog vents about the frustration of being unable to find asexual representation in the media.
Blogger “TheKnittWitch” shares being excited to discover a character just like them, only to be disappointed to realize part of the character was erased, in “Let’s talk about Jurassic World, Autism, and representation in Media“.
Bloggers TumblingTheology, MadeofPatterns, and Tikkunolamorgtfo have a Tumblr conversation about the important of non-stereotyped, explicitly Jewish representation in “Let Me Entertain You“.
Blogger “I Don’t Give an Effie” talks about what it is like to need to see Indian characters like you in blog post, “On PoC Representation”
Love this quote: “Make your heros, find your heros. Don’t just accept the ones we are given.” by Decepticonyonce.
All the moderators at the Writing with Color blog share their wishes for the kind of representation they want to see in characters of color, in “When We Read … Writing with Color Mod Wish List”
Kelly at the Hawkeyes are Better than You blog explains how seeing themself represented in a character who could be read as autistic helped them accept themself as an autistic person: “On Representation”
Jewish bloggers in Tumblr wish there were more fantasy stories in which Jewish people show up in something other than the Holocaust.
The author of An American Wallflower blog shares how the lack of representation for Indian-American people in U.S. media impacted her when she was younger and why there needs to be more, in her blog post entitled “Media Representation”
A black teenager, “Miss A” at the Black Teens Read Too blog sent this letter to Borders asking them to stock more books with prominent characters of color, including books that show people of color on the cover. (Although the letter was posted in August 2010, I just discovered it in March 2015. Sad that it is still so pertinent today.)
Read the transcript of the speech Shonda Rhimes delivered recently, “You are Not Alone” on why she writes to “normalize” television–making television reflect the women, people of color, and LGBTQ people she knows. Rhimes is creator of Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, and Grey’s Anatomy in television.
Annie, author of the Spidergvven blog, describes what it was like for xer to read about a comic book character coming out as bisexual: xe speculates it might have been easier for xer to come out as bi if only xe could have read more bi characters at an earlier age.
The author of Theoriginalhemibim blog explains her view of “Why Representation Matters” in describing a recent workshop with high school students who were excited that two women characters ended up together at the end of The Legend of Korra.
In the post “Lemme Tell a Little Story“, the author of the DidYouKnowMagic blog explains why representation in the media matters so much by describing how the characters in “The Book of Life” reminded him of so many of his Latino friends and family that he insisted everyone watch it too.
In “Sometimes it Just Hits Me“, the author at A Nocturnal Nerd explains how she never understood why some people were so intensely invested in “shipping” relationships between fictional characters until she finally, at the age of 25, saw a relationship between two women that she related to.
A series of four animated (short video loop) gifs with captions capture how intensely important seeing a black princess is to one black woman, Glozell Green: http://andreashettle.tumblr.com/post/98759248653/glozell-shows-why-cultural-representation-is (Here I link to the four photos at my blog site. Normally I try to link to the original place where things are posted, but in this case that would mean linking to a video that is not accessible to either deaf people or to blind people due to the lack of captions and audio description. At my blog site, I provide a written description for people who cannot see the images.)
The author of the Sleepy Heads Will Roll blog explains “What Sleepy Hollow and Nicole Beharie Means to Me“, and why it matters so much to them that the character played by Nicole Beharie, Abbie Mills, is a black woman.
A whole Tumblr blog site, Character Like Me, was launched earlier in 2014 to give people belonging in minority or marginalized populations an opportunity to speak out about why representation in popular culture is so very important to us. It’s well worth browsing their blog–and following them if you have a Tumblr account. Check them out: http://characterlikeme.tumblr.com/
Cecilia at Veto Power Over Clocks explains what they want to see in mixed race, half-Hispanic characters in their blog post “My Request for More Hispanic and Mixed Race Characters”
The author of The Geekiary, Angel K, explains why bisexual representation matters and why bisexual erasure hurts in “Why We Want A Bisexual Constantine“.
The author of The Writing Cafe blog receives a question from an author asking why it should be considered a problem that white characters are the “default” in fiction. And answers with a collection of links to powerful blog posts on why white-as-default is a problem and why representation matters: http://thewritingcafe.tumblr.com/post/88536187749/my-characters-are-white-because-theyre-the-default
Author Lourdes of the blog Unbound Books explains, “Why I need diverse books: A #WeNeedDiverseBooks discussion“.
Author “Sounds Simple Right” explains her reaction to a fan fiction story with a bisexual character and why it matters to her in a world in which bisexuality is almost never portrayed in the media (and when it is, is not adequately explored): http://sounds-simple-right.tumblr.com/post/90170559238/i-wrote-a-response-to-a-long-winter-i-figured-id
Slashmarks explains why the character River in the U.S. TV program, Firefly, is personally so hugely important as a rare, positive representation of a person with psychosis in fiction while also being problematic: http://slashmarks.tumblr.com/post/86978218475/glompcat-slashmarks-replied-to-your-post
Women of Color in Solidarity explains why the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaigns matters and how much it can hurt to lack representation as a little Puerto Rican girl in “#WeNeedDiverseBooks: Hashtags, Frustrations, Explanations“. For me, the passage with the most powerful, personal resonance was this one: “… [W]hen I was 9, I cried because Emma Watson was Hermione. My world was shattered because I thought that Hermione, brave, smart, cunning, geeky, outspoken, loyal Hermione with her big bushy hair, was Puerto Rican, just like me. And I was 9, and I realized that even though I loved Harry Potter, it didn’t love me back. Because even though Jo Rowling could create this magical world full of mystery and wonder and the impossible I didn’t belong.”
Blogger SeevikiFangirl shares why, when she wants to see more Chinese characters in books so badly, she is also simultaneously afraid of seeing more of them: http://seevikifangirl.tumblr.com/post/85977093828/i-want-more-chinese-girls-in-books-i-want-them-to
Blogger David Bridger shares why he, as a person with chronic illness (ME), is now writing a story about a heroine who also has chronic illness: “Why I’m writing a novel with a chronically ill heroine“.
Esther, author of the A Reading Addiction blog, shares why the need for diversity in young adult fiction is a cause so near to her heart as a person of mixed racial background in “#WeNeedDiverseBooks“.
The author of NarglesBookandPoetry wrote a list of reasons why diverse representation in books matter: “#WeNeedDiverseBooks because we need change”
[Edited to fix spelling of Malaysia, thanks to Creatrix Tiara!) The author of the blog “Not Your Ex/Rotic” shares her experience of growing up without seeing herself represented in Malay fiction as the child of Bangladeshi immigrants to Malaysia and her continued experience with lack of representation now that she lives in the U.S. Her post is entitled “#WeNeedDiverseBooks: On International (Non-)Representation”
Author Savannah Logsdon-Breakstone, at the blog “Cracked Mirror in Shallot”, writes about the experience of feeling like a “side story” in her own life story arc–to the point where she remains a side character even, literally, while dreaming–because she only ever sees people like her as side stories in the media. In her post entitled “I’m Not a Side Story“.
A 15-year old, and a slightly older author, exchange comments on why diversity in books–and among authors–matter to them personally as people of color in a post at We Need Diverse Books on April 28th, 2014.
Blogger TheSnowFlakeMenagerie writes their own story of first meeting themself in a book in, “Can I just say“. And again, but at greater length about other invisibilized aspects of faer identity in “Disability and Representation”
Author Elizabeth Bear writes about writing disability in science fiction. as a guest post at SF Signal. She is herself an author of science fiction who has incorporated many characters with disabilities into her fiction: “Special Needs in Strange Worlds: Elizabeth Bear on Writing Disabilities”
Author Brian G. Wood writes about the experience of watching a character on the screen who, like him, experiences panic attacks in “I am Iron Man, Too: Tony Stark’s Panic Attacks“.
Black-Ink-On-Pink talks about why representation of dark-skinned characters in fiction matters so much to them and their boyfriend in the blog post entitled “Why Skin Color of Fictional Characters are Important“.
In “What is AfroFuturism?” Michael Gonzales writes about black science fiction and fantasy with brief reference to representation of black people in these genres.
In “The Sea of Monsters,” Alex talks about disability representation in the book of that title by Rick Riordan and why it was disappointing.
In “An Open Letter to All Fandoms from a Bisexual Fan“, Rosie shares what it is like to grow up as a bisexual girl who only rarely encounters any characters like herself in fiction.
Jaquira Diaz writes about growing up as a bilingual Puerto Rican girl from a poor family and a chaotic background–a girl who read books about as ravenously as I did but who almost never found characters like her, from backgrounds like her, in the books she read: http://herkind.org/articles/on-my-mind/girl-hood-on-not-finding-yourself-in-books
Sofriel writes on how the paucity of Native American representation in popular culture leads them to want to read a Native American identity into otherwise racially ambiguous characters in “A Brief Explanation of Why Native!Cecil matters to me“.
Julia Bascom, at Just Stimming, in her blog post “Someone Who Moves Like You” shares her experience as an autistic person, seeing an autistic person on TV.
Author Zoe Whitten, in “I have a guest post oh and a ramble about inclusion” describes how it feels as a transgender person to encounter characters in fiction who share her experience with gender variance.
A Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Adichie, writes about the harm that can be done when people only ever see a single “story” about an entire population of people. Yes, this video has a transcript (in multiple languages, actually), just hit the button. This is a good link to share with people who mistakenly believe that the only reason why many of us who belong to marginalized populations only object to stereotypes because they’re usually negative stereotypes. (Um. NO. Certainly it’s not nice to go your entire life being erased only to find that the first time you meet yourself in a book it’s because someone wants to make fun of people like you. But even positive stereotypes still hurt. Because ANY stereotype is ONLY ONE STORY from a very rich, vibrant constellation of interconnecting realities.)
This kind of representation doesn’t only matter in fiction. Author “Kinsey Hope” reacts to cis-women complaining about how they are represented among gaming characters by pointing to the parcity of trans women characters in games: “I saw these posts about …”
The author of Spark of Wisdom says, “We deserve to exist.” He’s writing about the representation of gay men (and GLBT people generally) in fiction, but I think it applies to all under-represented populations of all sexual orientations: “Publishers say no to gay protagonists“.
Reader/writer Rachel Rastad sends JK Rowling an imaginary letter from Cho Chang, the only Asian girl in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, in the blog post entitled “To JK Rowling from Cho Chang“.
A Dad says, “I wanna begin by saying a story about my son” in which he describes his 4-year-old son looking up to superheros–who don’t look like him.
Author Spark of Wisdom, in a guest post at Womanist Musings, on why GLBT representation in the media (as well as the lack of it) can make TV-watching such an isolating and painful experience: “Yes, GLBT representations in the media hurt sometimes”
Spark of Wisdom yet again, on why the advice “Just don’t watch it” isn’t really that helpful when talking about the paucity of representation.
Sparky, at the “Fangs for the Fantasy” blog, “Existence is not Entitlement, Erasure is not Acceptable”
Sparky at the same blog on why members of minority groups should not have to be forced into a choice between complete erasure and totally offensive portrayals of us on television: “The Walking Dead and GBLT Erasure–Two Awful Choices”
Author Laurie Penny on why women need to see female characters who exist for their own reasons with their own stories–not just as supporting characters in stories about men: “I Was a Manic Pixie Dream Girl“.
WhovianFeminism on why it would make a difference if the Doctor in Doctor Who were to someday regenerate as a woman. Why it would matter to girls. Why it would matter to boys. Why it should matter to everyone. Even if we’re also still focusing on other ways of promoting feminism: http://whovianfeminism.tumblr.com/post/58010746979/image-text-i-just-wanted-to-know-as-a-female
If you’re looking for still more readings on erasure, authenticity, stereotyping, etc, then Spark of Wisdom recommends some of the posts listed in the “Discussions, Analysis and Musings” section of the Fangs for the Fantasy blog. As you might have guessed from the name, that blog is focused on science fiction, fantasy, and horror. But a lot of the messages shared throughout its “discussion” posts on people of color, women, GLBT people, and people with disabilities in that genre can apply to pretty much any other genre as well. Because there is no genre that is immune to the problem of BOTH under-representation AND mis-representation (stereotyping) of populations of all sorts who experience marginalization in society.
Here is a whole site that reviews books from the bisexual perspective, including some on representation, etc.: http://bisexual-books.tumblr.com/
And a whole blog site about disability in literature for young adults and middle school grades: http://disabilityinkidlit.wordpress.com/
Check out the Tumblr version of Disability in Kid Lit at http://disabilityinkidlit.tumblr.com
And a Facebook group, “Disabookability”, for people who want to talk with each other (well, type with each other 🙂 ) about books, movies, other kinds of popular culture in which disability is featured in some way: https://www.facebook.com/groups/213950585448006/
What about YOU? Are you someone who wishes that there were “more people like you” in the fiction that you read or watch or listen to? What do you wish more authors or TV/movie directors would do differently when they do include “people like you”? Are there good resources out there that you wish more authors would read in learning how to be more culturally diverse and inclusive in the characters they create in their fiction? Please share in the comments area below. Or if you’ve already said it all in a blog post, please do share the link to it!