As some of you know, I'm trying to sell a Middle Grade novel, which means I've been reading a lot about what specific agents and editors want. A lot of them want "diverse" characters, stories from the POV of people underrepresented in published works. They want main characters of color, of different religions, historical fiction outside of Europe, fantasy based on non-Western traditions, etc. Fantastic. They're not getting these works. Terrible.
I'm a white American who was educated in the Western Canon. My current project is specifically based on Northern European mythological traditions, and it is what it is — I'm not going to change that. But going forward, I have three other MG/YA projects in mind and I've envisioned each of them with protagonists of color: one is speculative fiction with a brilliant black boy as the main character, another is a horror-mystery with a mixed race Asian-European girl brought to an all white environment, and the last is asemi-autobiographical fictional memoir with fantasy elements of a multi-race woman who is constantly asked, "What are you?"
Here's my question. Is it right for me to do this? My interest in this isn't about selling these books in the first place, it's because I, personally, am frustrated by the lack of protagonists out there who look like so many kids reading books. But isn't the real issue that so few published writers aren't white? Is it insulting to take that mantel and thereby cover up the underlying issue? Is it patronizing to readers? Or should anyone who has a platform to publish and distribute works (I'm not one of them yet) prioritize the immediate needs of their readers to see themselves in books?
(The one about the boy doesn't especially concern me because in his environment, his race is almost — but not quite — irrelevant. But as I've come to think about the other two projects, it's obvious that their races are absolutely essential to the stories.)
PS: I would be grateful if someone felt this was appropriate to share on thesaladbowl or odeck, etc.