Okay this isn’t “The Comics Diversity Times” but, issues of diversity and identity seem to be the most pressing ones these days. And so to cleanse the palette, here’s a transcript of Gene Luen Yang’s speech at the 2014 National Book Festival this weekend. With American Born Chinese, Boxers & Saints and now The Shadow Hero, Yang has become one of the best selling and most important graphic novelists and he’s also one of those heroes I was alluding to earlier, standing up for people who don’t have as big a voice.
We in the book community are in the middle of a sustained conversation about diversity. We talk about our need for diverse books with diverse characters written by diverse writers. I wholeheartedly agree.
But I have noticed an undercurrent of fear in many of our discussions. We’re afraid of writing characters different from ourselves because we’re afraid of getting it wrong. We’re afraid of what the Internet might say.
This fear can be a good thing if it drives us to do our homework, to be meticulous in our cultural research. But this fear crosses the line when we become so intimidated that we quietly make choices against stepping out of our own identities.
After all, our job as writers is to step out of ourselves, and to encourage our readers to do the same.
Yang made a nice splash at erh National Book Fetsival and just to wrap that up, Raina Telgemeier, whose Sisters has just come out, also has a nice post and a photo of the standing room crowd for her talk:
So yeah, graphic novels did oooookay at the National Book Festival. Now on to Balitmore, SPX and the Brooklyn Book Festival!
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.