Have you been wondering how to include diversity in your books?

In this episode, Kathi and her guest, Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young, discuss multicultural representation in writing, particularly in Christian books.

Listen in and learn:

  • How to draw from life’s experiences in your writing.
  • How to honor and respect people of different backgrounds and cultures.
  • How the Redbud Writers Guild is a multicultural organization and helps bring writers together.

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Meet Your Hosts

Kathi Lipp

Kathi Lipp

Author, Speaker, Writing at the Red House Creator and CEO

Kathi Lipp is the host of the Clutter Free Academy podcast, the Writing at the Red House podcast, and the bestselling author of The Husband Project, Clutter Free, Ready for Anything, and An Abundant Place. She and her husband, Roger, live in the mountains of northern California, where they run the Red House Writing Retreats.

Over the past 10 years, Kathi has helped hundreds of people increase their platform through teaching and coaching. She is a frequent teacher at writer’s conferences and has helped countless authors and speakers find their audiences.

Kathi’s desire to help fellow speakers and authors avoid the mistakes she made, increase their confidence, and be the person God made them to be inspired her creation of Communicator Academy. Her newest adventure is The Red House, where she offers writer’s retreats and Writers in Residence events. Learn more about the Red House at https:writingattheredhouse.com

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young

Author, Speaker, Bible teacher, and Spoken Word Artist

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young is an author, speaker, Bible teacher, and spoken word artist.

Her passion is helping people discover God’s glory in unexpected places and flourish in their God-given callings. She wants you to become a glory chaser with her, running after God’s glory rather than your own. This has made a world of difference in every facet of Dorina’s life.

Her happy place is near the ocean with her people or running on a trail in the mountains near her home. A foodie, Dorina loves trying new recipes and restaurants. Tears, laughter, and good food are always welcome at her table. Guests are invited to come as they are.

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young


Well, hey, friends, welcome to writing at the Red House podcast, where we gather at the table to break bread and tell tales with some of our favorite writers and creators who share their wisdom to help us all share our story. Guys, I am here with. She is a writing at the Red House favorite. You guys, it’s Dorina. Gilmore Young. She’s the author. Well, I mean, Dorina, how many books are there?

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young

00:00:37 – 00:00:57

There are a lot, I think. I’ve been involved in 20 book projects, but similar to you, I’ve written some collaborative books, and then I’ve written some books of my own. And as far as children’s books, I have my fifth children’s book coming out in April, 2024.

Kathi Lipp

00:00:58 – 00:01:00

Oh, and what’s the title on that one?

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young

00:01:00 – 00:01:03

That one is Kailani’s gift.

Kathi Lipp

00:01:04 – 00:01:19

Kylani’s gift. Oh, I see it right here on Amazon. Oh, the COVID is beautiful. Okay. I cannot wait. Yes. Because when your books come out, I buy them, and I don’t know if, you know, have each room in the red house. We have different kinds of books in there.

Kathi Lipp

00:01:19 – 00:01:41

So, like, my business books are back here, and the yellow room is children’s books. And so I like to have all my favorite authors represented in there. So we’ve got chasing God’s glory. We’ve got some very fun ones in there. Which is one of your books. Chasing God’s glory came out last year, right?

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young

00:01:41 – 00:01:43

April of 23. Yes.

Kathi Lipp

00:01:43 – 00:01:57

Yeah. Okay, so you are unusual that you do children’s books and you do grown up books. I always hate to say adult books because it makes it sound like they should be behind, like a.

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young

00:01:59 – 00:02:04

Writer. I write books for kids of all ages. What?

Kathi Lipp

00:02:05 – 00:02:27

Nice. Nice. Okay. I love that so much. Yeah. And the one you most recently did, breathing through grief, a devotional journal for seasons of loss. We’ve talked about that over at Clutterfree Academy. But today I really want to talk about multiculturalism and its representation in writing, specifically christian writing.

Kathi Lipp

00:02:28 – 00:02:36

I know that you specifically do most of that in children’s books, and I’d just like to find out kind of where your passion for that came from.

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young

00:02:37 – 00:03:26

Yeah, I think actually, like a lot of writing, that passion comes out of our own life and our own lived experience. And so I grew up in a multiracial family. My dad’s side of the family is predominantly filipino, but also chinese, indian, Polynesian, and my mom’s side of the family is predominantly italian. So we had this great mix growing up. And then even as more folks join the family and through my husband, there’s many other cultures that have come together. And my mom was an educator. She specifically taught social studies for 30 years for kids that were in 4th, 5th grade range. And so she was teaching cultures of the world.

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young

00:03:26 – 00:04:24

She was also a folk dance teacher. And so being like a teacher’s kid, growing up in the school setting, helping my mom, and even just getting to hear her passion, it really lit me up at a young age for how important it was to see diversity in children’s books. And of course, I’m 46, so we’ve seen a whole kind of gamut of things since I was a little girl versus today. There weren’t as many books when I was little that had kids and characters that looked like me. And so as I grew into my career as a writer, I always wanted to write and publish kids books where there were black and brown and multiracial kids that were part of both the illustrations and the stories. And so I feel privileged that in this season, I’m getting to do that.

Kathi Lipp

00:04:24 – 00:05:17

Well, a couple of things that hit me about what you said. First of all, when you listed off all the different nationalities, I’m like, she got all the best foods. How did you get all the best foods in your cultural mix? I’m English, and the English are not known for their culinary. Okay. Anyway, I happen to love some english food, but I noticed that. Very fortunate. And then the other thing is, I don’t know how much you’re on TikTok, but one of my favorite genres of videos is kids at book fairs. They have these videos of kids at book fairs, and these kids saying, mom, he looks like me or mom, it’s in Spanish.

Kathi Lipp

00:05:17 – 00:05:50

And getting to see these kids just light up in ways that my kids never really experienced because most of the books did look like them. And so it wasn’t unusual that the main characters, these children’s books, the covers, it wasn’t unusual that the kids looked like my kids. But when you’re writing for kids who are of different nationalities, different where they come from in the world, that’s a huge deal, isn’t it?

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young

00:05:50 – 00:06:39

It really is. And honestly, through the years, that’s been one of my joys is seeing how even just looking at the covers of my books really connects with kids. My book, Cora Cook’s Poncet, which has been out. I mean, it came out in 2010, so I call her it. I mean, she’s a teenager now, but that book was about a filipino american girl, and she is learning how to make poncet, which is a noodle dish. And that book, when it came out there were very few books that were specifically about Filipino Americans. And it was at a time and with a publishing company where I didn’t have a lot of say in what the illustrations looked like. But I was so deeply grateful for the work that my illustrator did to make sure that it was culturally authentic.

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young

00:06:39 – 00:07:43

And so when I got that book in the mail, that was the first time I was actually seeing the COVID myself when it was printed. And I remember pulling it out of the envelope, I think, and just thinking, oh, my goodness, this looks like one of my cousins. Looks like someone who would be in my family. And through the years, as I’ve done library events and book signings and all kinds of different school and author talks, I often have gotten at least one filipino girl who will come forward and say, like, this looks like me, or my grandma’s name is Cora, or my name is Cora. And just that special connection, it feels like something minor. But because I was that kid who didn’t have the books of kids that looked like me, I know the gravity of it. And it’s really special for me to actually get to share that moment like you’re talking about of kids at the book fairs getting to see that. And then my most recent book that you mentioned before, chasing God’s glory, came out in 23.

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young

00:07:43 – 00:08:19

And that book is really not necessarily about a specific culture, but we made a lot of effort in the illustration process to make sure that the family was biracial. And so mom is African American, black, dad is Indian American. And you see in the three sisters the differences in how they look as well. And so that’s something that I wanted to normalize, that it’s more subtle. It’s not something that’s talked about so much in the text, but it’s the experience of my daughters. And I have three daughters, and they all look different, and they all look similar in different ways.

Kathi Lipp

00:08:20 – 00:09:45

Okay. I could talk about this forever, because we have seen a cultural shift, and it’s not fast enough for anybody who cares, but it is happening, and I’m grateful for that. So here’s a question that I’m just going to ask you, really, honestly. As a writer, I write mostly about my own life and people in my life. And how do I make sure that, as somebody who looks like the majority of the people in our christian churches, let’s just be honest, I’m of a european background, but how do I, as a writer, make sure that representation happens in my writing, and how do I honor people of other cultures? What advice would you give to somebody like me, who maybe this hasn’t really been a thought until I encounter authors like you who are saying, no, this is huge. We need to have that. And you and I have other friends, Lucretia Berry and Diane camp. When you get these friends, you start to see, oh, I’ve been kind of blind to this for a really long time, something that’s really important to people I care about.

Kathi Lipp

00:09:45 – 00:09:57

So how can I, as an author, make sure that my writing looks like that? And how can I support authors who are making sure that representation is an important part of what they’re doing?

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young

00:09:58 – 00:10:55

I really appreciate that question, Kathy, because for a while, I’m not sure people were asking that question. And there are some things that we can do. So it does depend, of course, on what genre you’re writing in. And so I know that you write mostly devotionals, nonfiction books. And so I think about even in that context, it’s not a kids picture book where there’s illustrations and that kind of thing, but there is imagery that you get to choose. There’s the COVID What does the COVID look at? Like, I think about fonts and colors. There’s so many design concepts that go into our covers. I know we have one of our encouraged sisters who invited me to just take a look at her book when it was in the editing stages, because she had a lot of photographs throughout the book, and it was written a little more in a kind of devotional style.

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young

00:10:56 – 00:12:11

But she said, I want to make sure that these photographs do show a diversity and also carry an authenticity. And so she asked me for a little bit of feedback on that before the book went to print. And she even asked me if she could use one of my photos. And I felt so honored that she would take the time that even she was writing this book that was mostly about her own life and coming from a majority european background, kind of like you were describing, but that she would care, that her audience also could see themselves and relate. And it wasn’t a book that she wanted to be written to one specific culture, and so that really mattered to her. And so those are some of the types of questions that writers can ask even in the process of publishing, whether you’re self publishing, where you have maybe a little bit more kind of jurisdiction or choice in what goes in the book, or if you’re traditionally publishing with a publisher, whether that’s a small or big publisher, you can ask some of those questions. You can give that feedback when you see cover designs, even if you’re not creating the COVID yourself, which usually we’re not. You can communicate that.

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young

00:12:11 – 00:12:12

That’s something important.

Kathi Lipp

00:12:14 – 00:12:48

Okay. I absolutely love this. I will also mention one thing that happened probably about ten years ago. One of the people on my team sent me the most beautifully worded email and saying, we don’t have a lot of diversity in our social media. And, Dorina, I’ll just be honest with you. I’m like, but wait, remember this picture? I got very defensive very quickly because I am like, she’s calling me a race. No, she wasn’t calling me a racist. She was saying, hey, here’s something that we need to think about.

Kathi Lipp

00:12:48 – 00:13:40

And I’m so grateful for that tender conversation to say, if we are inviting a lot of people into the conversation, we need to have invitations that look like they represent the people we’re inviting. That has made us rethink, and it’s become one of our core values in what we do as a team to make sure that representation happens in every facet. But it’s very easy to bristle at because we don’t want to be seen as somebody who’s not including people that we care about, but also to take a look back and just say, maybe I needed to think about things differently, and maybe I need to, when I move forward, think about things in a new way. And it’s okay. It’s okay.

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young

00:13:40 – 00:14:19

Yeah. And I appreciate that you mentioned that this has become one of your core values, because that’s something that I think is important for us to consider, too. I’m not just talking about kind of a tokenism that happens sometimes where it’s like, oh, okay. I mean, let’s be honest, when I was in college, I got the phone calls all the time. Can you come for this photo shoot so you can be in our college brochure? And while I was honored, I also recognized that, hey, this brochure is actually not representative of the population of this particular university. And I’m not trying to throw anyone under the bus.

Kathi Lipp

00:14:19 – 00:14:20


Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young

00:14:20 – 00:15:12

But just to say that that does happen in church settings, in university settings, in businesses. And so it has to be more than just like, oh, we’re going to throw in a picture of an asian woman or a black man that’s going to be on our website. It has to be a value. And what I know about you and about the red House and even your interns and the others who work on your team, that that value plays out also in the leadership, in the people who are involved. And so then it carries an authenticity because you have someone on your team who was willing to point that out. And who had a relationship with you that it wasn’t? Know, oh, I’m going to try to criticize Kathy publicly, but just wanted to help shape that a little bit. And so then you see that it’s not this tokenism. It’s like, okay, well, this is actually something that’s authentic.

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young

00:15:12 – 00:16:03

And I think more and more publishers, too, are putting emphasis on publishing books that are what we call own voices. And so for my books that are specifically about Filipino Americans, it has an authenticity because I come from a filipino american family. Now, our experience is not a monolith, even within filipino american families, there’s so much diversity, but just recognizing that somebody who comes from that culture also can tell that story in an authentic way. And so sometimes it’s even inviting. They call it like a reader, a diversity reader, cultural reader, cultural sensitivity reader who can read a manuscript and even give specific feedback in that area. So that may be a little bit more like in fiction or children’s books, but I wanted to mention that for your writing audience as well.

Kathi Lipp

00:16:03 – 00:16:24

I love that. And I think about your college catalog, and what I hope was happening is it may not have been representational, but maybe it was aspirational. Like, this is where we want to get to in our student body, and it’s not accurate at the moment, but this is the direction we want to go.

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young

00:16:24 – 00:17:24

Yeah. And I love how you said that. I mean, I think about even some of the organizations that I lead that, yes, that’s aspirational. And so, for example, there’s a leadership organization for women that I’m a part of. And I had a woman who came to one of our events, and through conversation with her, she said, you know, the reason why I came is because I saw your website and I saw the diversity of faces on your website, and I thought, oh, maybe this is a place for me. And I was just like, wow, that is a powerful testimony to how much imagery affects the way that we choose to enter into something, our feelings of welcome and belonging. And so I know it’s a fine line between that kind of, like you said, aspirational versus representational, and we need to probably do a little bit of both so that people feel welcome.

Kathi Lipp

00:17:24 – 00:18:05

I want to talk about one of the organizations that you’re deeply involved in and lead Redbud writers. I had the honor, it was a real honor to be able to participate in one of your retreats, teaching one of the classes, and it was the most diverse setting of christian writers I’ve ever been a part of, oh, I love it. It was so cool. So for people who are saying, this is a value that I want to explore, can you just talk a little bit about. I didn’t tell you I was going to ask you about this, but I think it’s really important. Can you tell us a little bit about bud?

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young

00:18:05 – 00:18:49

Yes. Yeah. It’s a privilege. So we are an organization. It’s called Redbud Writers Guild, and we are a collective of christian women writers from all different walks of life who really come together. We’re a nonprofit organization, and the idea is that we would collaborate and that we would equip and mentor each other. And so really, the organization is trying to reach out to christian women writers who are on the journey of writing and speaking as a career. So not just, like, I want to do, publish my memoir, like a one off book, but really, this is something that they want to do long term.

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young

00:18:49 – 00:19:39

And even if it’s a part time thing or if it’s a hobby thing, but it’s something they want to do long term. And my heart since I became the president of the organization two years ago is that I really did want to see that authentic diversity that was missing in a lot of the writers conferences and organizations that I had been a part of myself. And what I know is that if you want to have true diversity, you need to invite people from different backgrounds to be part of the leadership. It starts with the leadership and then it trickles down. It doesn’t start with the brochure pictures. It doesn’t start with the person who is just coming in. And, of course, you have to kind of cultivate it over time. But it’s been a priority for me in putting our board together that we have women from different backgrounds.

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young

00:19:39 – 00:19:52

And it’s amazing to see, then how the influence of those board members and then the committee chairs and those who are invited in, that they feel comfortable because they see that the leadership is diverse.

Kathi Lipp

00:19:52 – 00:20:19

Yes. There has to be so much trying to find your place when you’re in different organizations, especially when your status is seen. There’s one person with a filipino background or one person, and that’s not the case when the leadership. We’re all. We’re all here. Come on in. We’re all here. I love that.

Kathi Lipp

00:20:20 – 00:21:06

Well, okay. So Cora cooks pancit. Is that okay? Good. I’m terrible at pronunciations. I’m trying really hard, though. It’s such a beautiful book and such a beautiful way to honor not just your heritage, but the heritage of a lot of little boys and girls who don’t always see themselves represented. We’re going to have that and also the link to your latest journal in our book. And we’ll also have a link to Redbud Writers Guild because it’s such a diverse group, but such a talented group and lots of smart women in there, like, you’ll get better if you hang out there.

Kathi Lipp

00:21:06 – 00:21:08

Doreena, thanks so much for being here.

Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young

00:21:09 – 00:21:13

Thanks, Kathy. I really appreciate your questions today. It’s an honor.

Kathi Lipp

00:21:14 – 00:21:38

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