Open Discussion – Diverse Setting

Happy Saturday, Diverse Reader Friends!

I hope you had an awesome week. I’ve been mulling over potential topics all week and finally, I settled on one.

Y’all, this one is something that falls into stereotypes, yet has truth with it. And isn’t that the problem with stereotypes? Which leads me to the question: what is the appropriate setting for people of color characters?

I think some people believe ethnically diverse characters can only appear in books where the setting itself is diverse. You know places like, Chicago, D.C., New York, etc. But in some genres small-town places are the ticket, and you don’t always imagine people of color in them.

Does that mean you can’t place them there? Let’s face it, there are small towns in the US devoid of diversity. It’s not a stereotype, it’s a fact and if a reader can’t imagine people of color in those locations, it’s not a big surprise.

Still, sometimes the problem is with the reader. My first book, A Life to Live, was set in Nottingham, England. I actually had a person of color complain in their review that Black people weren’t in England.

But isn’t that what diversity is about? Showing the world what’s real? Widening ones’ knowledge of places?

Nevertheless, I questioned my choice, even though I’ve been to England. Met my husband in England and saw other people of color there. After a brief time, I decided to choose more obscure places. Could you imagine a book where people of color were in Montana? Because the assumption is there are no people of color there, right? Well in my novellete in A Spring of Weddings collection, that’s exactly what I did.

The great thing about books is they widen our perspective. Loose the scales over our eyes. Setting is just as important in the diversity discussion as the people we’re portraying.

Let’s open the discussion. Authors: what is the unusual setting you’ve placed people of color in? Did you fear reader backlash?

Readers: What’s the most interesting setting you’ve read that featured people of color? Was it unbelievable or did it give you a deeper perspective?

Discussion written by Toni Shiloh

4 thoughts on “Open Discussion – Diverse Setting

  1. Well, I am currently living in a small city in Virginia (Harrisonburg) where the population is only 30k and is a place where generally you wouldn’t think there would be much diversity, but we are growing to be one of the most diverse cities in Virginia and our high school has the most number of ESL students in Virginia. So I think it is important not to judge a book by its cover…pun intended… 🙂 I tend to be sort of “realistic” in my books, so I suppose the afterschool program was the most diverse I had in one of my books, but even that doesn’t seem strange.
    Also in my children’s book series that should come out next year (Prince Miguel and His Journey Home), diversity popped up often and it was a weird setting in itself…so there were people of color (healers) lifting up a Queen in a magic orb up to her baby in a tree…so I would say that was the weirdest setting. 🙂 I mean, I didn’t really hesitate about throwing people of color in, because I like seeing diversity and wanted to make the different healers from different lands be unique.
    I think it’s cool that you put people of color in odd settings because it happens! Diversity is everywhere. And people who don’t see that, have their eyes closed…or need to get out more!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. As a reader, I’ve seen a representation or two of people of color in Biblical Fiction (stories that take place in biblical times), and it’d be great to see more of it. With settings in the east like Egypt, Arabia, what is now modern day Palestine, etc., I think it’s only fitting to represent the ethnicities that truly existed/exist in those parts of the world.

    I’m also a fan of Vanessa Riley for writing about characters of color in Regency England, as despite what’s often portrayed (or not) in Regency fiction, there were free people of color living in that place and time. And, yes–there *are* black people in England still! 😀

    As an author, I’ve included people of color in my Movement of Crowns series. It’s set in an entirely fictional world–a historical fiction feel, just without any actual history in it. But since I came up as a fan of historical Christian Fiction, but haven’t often come across people of color in that genre (except in novels about the American Civil War/slavery, or Native Americans, usually when they’re fighting for their lands or being forced to reservations), I thought it was important to include different colors and cultures in my historical-like settings. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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