Hi! I’m Kayti Nika Raet author of the Outsider Chronicles which is a YA dystopia with an African American main character set in a world of acid rain and flesh eating monsters. I read all types of genres but my go to genres have always been Sci-fi and fantasy, genres in which there should be no limits to the imagination, though sometimes it ends looking very homogeneous.
Q: When growing up, who were your inspirational role models and how did they help you become the person you are today?
I was lucky enough to grow up in a really diverse area and have parents that knew the value of diverse images and media, so for me it’s pretty normal way of viewing the world. As far as role models, I’ve always been one to pick and choose an aspect of a person’s personality or find a work ethic that I’ll want to emulate rather than have a single person that I idolize.
Q: Explain how you feel about present day role models, in particular, for young people who read or watch Genre Fiction / Shows.
Someone once said that art and media provides both a mirror of oneself and a window to the world. So if we only see one type of imagery held up as normal and ideal, it gives people a skewed version of the world and limits the scope of our imaginations. In some ways we’ve gotten better. There are a lot of strong female characters now, but they still have to look a certain way to achieve so-called relatability. And they live in worlds that rarely represent what people encounter every day in real life.
Q: How do you think society can change the representation of role models?
Create people as they are and not how you’re told to see them. Easy characterization makes for flat, one dimensional characters. View them as actual human beings in all their motivations and contradictions. And don’t be afraid to try different things and make mistakes. Can’t learn anything if you’re only doing it to be liked.
Q: How do you feel about the “whitewashing” of fiction?
Hm, the only thing coming to mind is whitewashed book covers which always suck. I always view it as trying to project the business’ bigotry onto the customer. It limits growth, and robs people who have a hard time finding representation of a chance to see themselves.
Q: Recently, J.K. Rowling supported the casting of a black actress as the adult-aged Hermione for a London stage play. If you are familiar with Rowling’s work, do you feel that she represented Hermione as a potential black character? Is not specifying skin colour enough to open to diversity? How do you think authors/writers can properly represent diversity without deferring to stereotypes of race or culture?
I haven’t read Harry Potter or watched the movies *ducks* so I can’t say much. I know that as a black person I will read a book with an eye out for potential descriptors that indicate that the person is non-white (since currently, white is the default unless otherwise stated).
I always like when a characters skin color is described without beating the reader over the head with it. It’s part of who they are and nothing to shy away from or be coy about. But they’re also more than their skin color, or sexuality, ability, or trans experience. I think if authors view their characters as people and not tokens or brownie points to checked off of a diversity checklist, as well as being open to different voices they’ll do fine.
Q: Here’s the kicker: should white authors, and able-bodied authors, write about diverse characters, or should that opportunity only be for people who live the life of diversity? (The same could be said of gender).
Absolutely. But that shouldn’t be at the expense of people who’ve lived those experience. It’s something that happens all too often. Authentic narratives get pushed aside while others are viewed as edgy and enlightened (twerking, cornrows, Maori tattoos are a few non-fictional examples). POCs and others are understandably jaded which is why there’s pushback with hashtags like #ownstories.
It shouldn’t be an either or kind of thing. Cis, white, and able-bodied make up the majority of mainstream content creators at the moment. It reflects a homogeneous world that absolutely doesn’t exist, and one that was built through exclusion. White writers writing diversely AND diverse authors sharing their experience in fictional landscapes is the fastest way to change that.
Q: What books/shows do you suggest best represent diversity in Genre Fiction?
Book recommendations! Fun.
Off the top of my head I’d recommend Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld. Any book by Justine Larbalestier. Slice of Cherry by Dia Reeves. 180 Days by T.E. Ridener. The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow. Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds. IA: Initiate by John Darryl Winston. The Sanctum Trilogy by Madhuri Blaylock. Black Beauty by Constance Burris. Every Day by David Leviathan. And also by following hashtags like #diversesff, and #1000blackgirlbooks which was a movement started by 11 year old Marley Dias.
Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Kayti Nika Raet moved down South when she was 11, where she was bitten by the writing bug, as well as other, less friendly insects.
She is the author of the Outsider Chronicles, a five book series starting with NIKO and set in a world where the rain burns like acid and flesh eating monsters roam.
She’s also a reviewer for Readers’ Favorite and has her own Youtube Channel: Kayti Edition. When she is not hard at work on the fifth and final book in the series she has fun reading, listening to K-pop, and pursuing photography. Kayti lives in Milledgeville, Georgia.
If you’d like to be part of my #WeNeedDiverseBooks interview series, email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
There’s more to come in this series of interviews. Next up in the series: The Diversity of Disability. Have you read the first post?
Please note that although I did not create the #WeNeedDiverseBooks tag, I wholeheartedly agree with the movement!