Last night I finished Huntress. I had been reading it very s-l-o-w-l-y and that pace was oh so worth it. You need to in order to better appreciate Malinda Lo's fantastic worldbuilding and her phenomenal way with words.
My question to Ms. Lo was on the book of Changes aka the I Ching. In following that theme I wanted to know what changes she wished to see in publishing. As you will soon see I took the 'Changes' in the Book of Changes literally but that's not exactly correct. Regardless, I'll let the much-more eloquent and fabulous Malinda Lo explain.
My new novel, Huntress, is a young adult fantasy inspired by many aspects of Chinese culture, including the I Ching, which is a foundational work of Chinese philosophy. The I Ching (or Yijing, as it is romanized in pinyin) is often translated into English as the Book of Changes, and for this guest post, Ari asked me to write about some changes I'd like to see in the publishing industry.
While the I Ching is indeed about change, it's not exactly about change in the way that many people in our society think about it. So I'm going to ask you to bear with me for a minute while I briefly explain what the change in the Book of Changes is about.
Here are a couple of quotes from An Introduction to Chinese Philosophy by JeeLoo Liu, which I found to be a great resource for the basics about the I Ching as well as Daoism and Buddhism, which were also key influences in the world I created in Huntress:
“What Yijing teaches is that we need to adapt our conduct in accordance with your changing relations to the environment. Even if we do not change, other people and other things are constantly changing. Therefore, adapting to changes is far superior to ignorant persistence.” (Liu, page 31)
“Nothing is fixed forever. Neither the good nor the bad will last long. What one needs is a keen perception of the incoming development. If one sees where one is in the whole progression of events, then one can take appropriate action either to enhance the trend when it is auspicious, or to alter it, at least to slow it down, when it is inauspicious.” (Liu, pages 33-34)
What this means is that change is inevitable. Your task as an actor within the world is to adapt to that change, and to make decisions on how to act given the broader context. An individual does have freedom of choice, but that freedom is situational; it is limited by the situation the individual is in.
Now if that's not too confusing, let me explain how I fit into the grand scheme of publishing within this philosophy!
I am one person — one agent or actor — within a web of other actors that include editors, publishers, literary agents, other authors, booksellers, librarians, readers, book printers, ebook manufacturers, and any other actors that have anything to do with book publishing. I can certainly make choices about what I do within this industry. I can choose to write about lesbians, as opposed to straight people. I can choose to write about people of color, as opposed to white people. I can choose to be frustrated by the lack of diversity on bookshelves in general, or I can choose to co-found Diversity in YA (www.diversityinya.com) with my friend Cindy Pon.
A lot of people are upset about the lack of diversity on book covers in the YA department. A lot of people are angered by those who seek to remove books that include queer people from libraries and schools. A lot of people feel like they're up against a monolithic corporate giant (the book publishing industry); they see it as a David vs. Goliath situation (to borrow an analogy from an entirely different faith).
I absolutely have been upset, angered, and made to feel like I can't make a difference. But I also know that change will always happen. It is inevitable.
Your hair grows without you even noticing. Once I was terrified of saying "I'm gay," and now I can say it easily. Once the United States was predominantly white; now, it is 35% non-white, and it's estimated that by 2050, whites will be a minority.
There are changes happening within the ecosystem of the publishing industry, too, which is part of the broader web of human society. In addition to adapting to changing technology, the publishing industry will have to adapt to the changing demographics of its readers if it wants to stay in business.
Every actor within the industry can make decisions about how he or she will act in their situation. I want to see an industry that invests in stories about people of color and LGBT people, so I am choosing to act in ways that will contribute to that. I am hoping that projects like Diversity in YA can raise awareness of the fact that readers exist who are diverse, and who want to read about a diverse world.
I want to enhance the trend of diversity in YA publishing, because I believe it truly is auspicious. Everybody reading this post can help enhance that trend, too. I hope you'll join me in taking action that does exactly that.
Thank you so much Ms. Lo! And stay tuned for my Huntress review later this week.