So I recently beta read a friend's contemporary fantasy novel. The novel is set in the UK, and the main character is an immortal being who's current form is a young white British woman. However, her true identity is a major figure from (let's say for the sake of anonymity) Indian mythology. After I finished reading the book, I mentioned to my friend that it troubled me that she had taken a mythological figure from another culture and white-washed her. I pointed out that in her novel she used figures from Japanese mythology and kept their human forms Japanese- didn't it feel weird to make the main character's avatar white when her roots were from another part of the world? I stayed away from words like appropriation, but that's how it felt to me. She said that she hadn't thought about it that way before but she could see where I was coming from. She had some reasons for making the character white, but they didn't make me any more comfortable with her choice.
Part of me wishes I had pushed her harder on this, but I didn't because 1. She's my friend and 2. I'm whiter than a Fleetwood Mac concert and I wasn't sure if it was really my place to be offended when it's not my culture getting painted over.
So I guess this post has two questions to it: How do you bring it up with friends when you feel they've written something problematic? Can you call someone out on racist depictions without acting like you're speaking on behalf of a culture not your own? Overall my friend took my comments very well, but like I said before I worry that I should have pushed harder.