Sarwat Chadda, is the author of the fabulous Billi SanGreal books, featuring a teenage female Templar Knight as well as the kick-ass Ash Mistry series featuring Indian Mythology and a badass PoC hero. The third book, Ash Mistry and the World of Darkness just came out in the UK and we are delighted to have the author here today talking about what diversity means to him – and to the kids he writes for.
Please give it up for Sarwat!
Jeez, are we still discussing DIVERSITY?
I don’t know about you but I can feel my eyes roll to the back of my head when I spot this in the title of a blog or article or whatnot. Why can this still be an issue when we all agree diversity is a GOOD THING?
I’m not interested in diversity.
But I am interested in changing kids’ lives.
Hopefully for the better. Obvs.
You know something’s not right when you go to a school filled with beautiful small dark Asian kids and the only heroes they can think of are blonde and blue-eyed and called Lucy or Jack.
You know something’s not right when librarians struggle to think of an ethnic character that’s not in gangs or terrorism or forced marriage plots.
You know something’s not right. Still.
Let’s get one thing straight. My heroes aren’t Nelson Mandela or Gandhi. Sorry, but I am really very shallow. My heroes are, and always have been, Superman, Batman, Judge Dredd and Bilbo Baggins. Not necessarily in that order but I’m listening to the Man of Steel soundtrack as I write this and frankly wasn’t it great? Even if you’re a Marvel fan doesn’t something stir inside you when you see that big red ‘S’? Hey, I’m listening to track 17, ‘So what are you going to do when you’re not saving the world?’, and it makes me want to be a better human being more than listening to a dozen sermons. Of any religion.
Hold on, where was I?
I worship at the altar of BAD-ASS. I just thought it would be cool if my BAD-ASS hero was just a bit more colourful than the usual pale heroes in children’s/YA lit.
Ash Mistry does the things I want heroes to do. He saves the day. He takes on the bad guys with cool weapons and cooler one-liners and gets the girl at the end of it (even if she is a four thousand year old half-demon assassin).
He’s not here to discuss the ‘ethnic experience’, he’s here to discuss the ‘demon-slaying experience’ and please oh please don’t expect to be a better person because of my book. I certainly wasn’t after I finished writing it. If it has any social or cultural importance what-so-ever it’s purely by accident.
That doesn’t mean I don’t take it seriously. I want to deliver the most intense, exceedingly IN YOUR FACE reading experience imaginable. That usually requires demons and really, REALLY epic bad guys.
So, yes, diversity is a good thing to have and we need more of it. We need it in ALL books, not just the worthy ones. We need our brown/black/gay heroes out there slaying dragons because that’s cool. We need them being superheroes because that’s cool. We need them front and centre, not just as the sidekicks.
That’s what I’m interested in.
Thank you, Sarwat!