I grew up in a bubble. Most people do. My bubble was one of warmth and books. It was a safety bubble of family, libraries, books, the internet, everything.
In my bubble, diversity was a huge factor. Every day I would interact with many people, maybe even half of those I interacted with, directly from different cultures. My best friends had roots from the entire world. I was always fascinated with white culture because it's not mine. Living in Canada, I could use the parts I liked (Thanksgiving and sleepovers) and reject what I didn't (food. Persian food is incredible).
My bubble was diverse and progressive. My bubble was working class, heterosexual (as far as anyone expressed themselves, for the most part). My bubble was religious, and family-oriented.
Books, stories, were the only ways to ever see a world outside my bubble. Books offer another life. Books offer relationships I have never had, with people I have never met. Books introduced me to wizards, but also to abusive relationships; mental illness; power; grief.
Booklovers live thousands of lives in different situations. We gain so many different perspectives, and these perspectives are essential components to personal development. Every time I read of a character encountering a situation similar to mine, I try to learn from what they do. Do they act in a way I deem appropriate? Inappropriate?
Some people don't need to like characters to like a story. I am the opposite. I need a character to invite me in. I need to connect and understand. Even if the characters are not likable, they need to be characters I like because they share a bond to my life in some way.
I people watch, a lot. Some people I meet tell me to stop doing it so much. And maybe it's better if I stop thinking about other people and their reactions, but I can't. I know that everyone has a story, an inner dialogue, and watching people, really, truly watching them, fascinates me. As close as a book can be to giving you a glance at someone's life, it is never close enough. I never know what it's like to be someone else.
University has me in a different bubble. One of parties, work, solidarity, and fear. One where I'm surrounded by intelligent people. Everyone I meet is extremely intelligent in some way. People are diverse and passionate. My school, as a whole, is very left-leaning. But this is not the entire reality, again.
Sometimes, I have to remind myself that again, I'm in a bubble, for better or for worse. And again, books are essential to leaving that bubble. Books offer an escape, but also a deepening of understanding for life. If done correctly, books are diverse. They were for me. I learned a lot about white culture, in terms of attitudes, expressions, beliefs, from what I was reading.
I wonder sometimes what it's like for white people to read some books where they're just reading about themselves. They're not finding the differing family dynamics new. This is all familiar to them.
I wrote in a Thursday Thought that diversity is the standard in YA. It is the standard because regardless of where one lives, in what class, with whom, as long as you are literate, you are able to read and experience this different world. If books are not diverse, than how can people explore and learn more about the world? People then, even unconsciously, fall into the bubble of believing that what they see is what really is.
Some people don't have the opportunity to break away from their bubbles, and books become even more important. There are numerous lifestyles in the world. Learning how to be sensitive to them is a part of being a good person, and books are a tool.