When Prejudice Becomes Normalized

When I was a neophyte writer, I was cautious and careful. I tried really hard not to offend anyone. I tried to be polite. I thought that if I took the high road, the low-roaders would give up. I believed the market place was big enough for me, and them, and a lot of others besides. I ignored inappropriate behavior, like the woman (whose name I have now mercifully forgotten) in a writing group in Maryland who asked me why I didn’t just write about “normal” kids, instead of these Indian ones with weird names whose families ate strange foods. Well, okay, I cried and left the group, never to return. But I figured that I wasn’t taking real abuse, just feeling a temporary sting from someone else’s ignorance. It wouldn’t kill me.

It didn’t. Some 20-odd books later, until quite recently, I’d managed to convince myself that things were getting better in our little corner of the publishing universe.

Maybe not so, it turns out. Admittedly, I wasn’t part of the original Twitter debate (too old, too slow, too much writing energy needed for actual writing) but it’s been impossible to ignore all the discussions and counter-arguments, calls for greater insight and understanding, and more. Surprisingly, some commentators admit to not having read the book that sparked the whole thing.

In light of all that, and particularly in light of Charlottesville now make an eloquent case for more debate, not less.

dimplerishiThey quote Sandhya Menon, author of  When Dimple Met Rishi:

“When people who’ve historically held positions of privilege feel their privilege threatened, or like they won’t get a ‘free pass’ anymore, they can sometimes perceive that as reverse discrimination rather than an evening out of the playing field.”

And so it is in reality. Only now there’s another factor at play. Prejudice has become normalized in the United States of America. That is the truth–no other sides to this reality. And the world of YA books, it seems, is not so tidily sheltered from the real world, after all.