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