PDA

View Full Version : "White people only want to read about themselves."



aruna
01-02-2012, 09:14 PM
No, I'm not being provocative. That's what my agent at the time told me quite bluntly, and my editor of the time hinted at. The specific instructions were to make sure that in a multi-racial couple, at least one of the pair was white, or at the very least half-white or from a white background; preferably the male.

And not to place my story in a country that white people don't care about or have not heard of (Guyana).

It's OK to have an all-POC cast or out of the way country if you are writing high literary fiction that could go up for a Booker Prize etc, or if you are writing explicitly for the black (for example) community, but not for mainstream fiction.

Now, I know that AWers and writers in generally have an open mind about the kind of books/characters/settings thy choose to read. But have you ever encountered this kind of xenophobia with publishers yourselves? Have you written books with an all-PoC cast that got accepted into the mainstream? (Some countries are an exception, such as India.) Can you think of such books that have made it in the general market?

The only ones I can think of are those Ladies Detective Agency books set in Botswana (but then, the author is white...) Have you noticed this generally in popular culture? For instance, I was jusr watching a documentary about animals in Africa, and young volunteers looking after them. Every one of the volunteers or vets working with the animals was a white person.

Generally, my instructions were to make sure there was enough "white" to offset all the "black". And I was so eager to please,
so eager to be a success, I did it. Would you?

Maryn
01-02-2012, 10:01 PM
Aruna, I've had similar hints (although no plain speaking) about the number of Jewish people in my character list. Apparently some editors feel antisemitism is so ingrained in many readers that having an ordinary character who does plot-advancing things and whose name suggests he or she is a Jew will put off readers and cost buyers. It's all about the bottom line.

And while that's not a direct parallel, it's pretty close, even though I'm not Jewish. It disturbed me enough that I never subbed to them again.

Maryn, pasty-white

Kitty27
01-02-2012, 10:01 PM
I haven't been published yet but I have heard exactly what you described. I also wrote about the tendency to have a Biracial character as the character of color in a story instead of a Black person. Thus the character is Black but not "too" Black,a very common trope in movies as well. That raised quite a few hackles and wasn't my intention. But I stand by it all the same. There are people in this world,although Blacks have been here just as long as Whites,who cannot process or understand a book about POC. We're viewed as the other,even though they listen to our music,idolize our athletes,and probably work with Blacks every day. But that's music and athletics. Literature demands that you get to know a character and relate to him/her in a human capacity. If the character is of another race,some people simply can't imagine such a thing and that is a racist mindset.


But there is also drama from within the Black community. I mentioned my teen-age cousins as an example in another post. They flat out said they don't want to read a story about a Biracial or light skinned girl. At all. I explained to them that a light skinned person is still Black and that a biracial girl is no less human than they are. They didn't want to hear it and I got my feelings singed but good. They feel that as this is the dominant view of Black beauty in our culture and the mainstream,they are tired of it. No matter how compelling the story,they won't read it. The fact that they feel they can't relate to a character who looks different from them is a colorist mindset. They even questioned me for writing about a dark skinned girl because I am brown skinned. They wondered if I could understand the issues my dark skinned sisters face. If they question me,a Black woman,they would give a writer of any other race HELL.

There is a myth that Blacks don't read. Well,we do read but it's only urban fiction and erotica which translates into they only want sex and violence. It's super hard to get a multicultural book in any genre published. The belief that white readers won't give a book by a POC author is very entrenched. The equally wrong belief is that Blacks won't read it. Look at the whitewashing of book covers and how easy it is for a white author to write about people of color,get published,receive accolades,etc. But books by POC dealing with the very same subject get nada.

Certain readers need a cypher,a stand in for themselves when they read about a character of color. If they read the story told from a minority POV,it's too raw and intense for them. They don't understand this alien culture without a guide. They don't like the way folks of their race behaved back in the day and require a good white person to identify with. You've mentioned "The Help" before and this is a prime example of that. The reason for the visceral hatred for that book is that it's been written already. Dozens of times by Black authors and stories told by Black domestic servants who actually lived in that time. But those stories were from an entirely Black POV and told the real. The rapes,harassment and other things that some just cannot handle. I remember one story where a former slave wrote that she didn't love or want her baby,the product of a rape by an employer and she abandoned her. The employer found the baby and forced her to keep her. She stated that for the rest of her life,she hated her daughter because she was a reminder of that rape and half white. The daughter told how she tried to earn her mother's love but she finally accepted her mother would never love her or see her as anything other than the product of a rape. Can you imagine that getting made into a movie? A book topping the Bestseller list?

KS wrote the Disneyfied version of a very raw time frame and it pisses people off that she gets all the attention.The movie makes Black folks blood pressure go to astronomical levels. Same thing happened with "The Secret Life Of Bees". We write our own stories and history and can't get anywhere. But a white author can and that is what pisses people off.

To answer your question,I wouldn't compromise at all. If I present a book with a multicultural cast and it's good enough for an agent to take on,once it reaches that level-excuse my language-I ain't changing shit. If that gets me labeled difficult,so be it. I don't know anything about self publishing but if I am presented with the scenario you describe,I will certainly pursue it.



"Waiting To Exhale" was a huge hit and proved that an audience existed for such books. The movie was a hit. We all had such high hopes. But here we are,years later and the only representation of Blacks in literature is as mammies,hoochie mamas, and thugs. It makes my soul holler,sometimes. But change has to come and POC authors have to help make that happen. I am pleased to see so many agents asking for multicultural fiction. The next hurdle is the publishing and editorial level. We have to be willing to go hard for our books as well. It's a process that we shouldn't have to do but that's reality.

Medievalist
01-02-2012, 10:22 PM
That may be true for some readers, but there are a lot of people--more of them in fact--who are different.

Write true.

Wayne K
01-02-2012, 10:29 PM
I was just reading about Guyana :)

Katrina S. Forest
01-02-2012, 11:00 PM
There was an interesting book I read called NutureShock that discussed how some parents discourage their preschoolers from pointing out differences in people's skin tones, thinking the kids are being offensive. In fact, the kids are learning, "Hey, not everyone in the world looks like I do." (And they'll continue to have these mind-blowing revelations when they discover that neither does everyone like what they like, think like they think, or act like they act.) Basically, the gist of the chapter was to talk openly and honestly with your child about how the world has all kinds of people, not assume that your child will somehow make this major milestone simply because you bought action figures with various skin tones.

If a reader refuses to read a good book simply because the protagonist doesn't look/think/act exactly like them, I wonder if they ever made this milestone.

leahzero
01-02-2012, 11:09 PM
I think this is an area where YA is making inroads. I can think of more POC in the YA novels I've read in the past few years than in the adult fiction.

Literary fiction especially tends to be all one color, and like Aruna said, if it's not white it tends to focus on a certain community in an almost fetishistic way.

ETA: The 2011 National Book Award went to a literary novel about African-Americans, Jesmyn Ward's SALVAGE THE BONES. However, the family it's about is desperately poor. Why does literary fiction about POC tend to focus almost exclusively on poverty?

rugcat
01-02-2012, 11:23 PM
No, I'm not being provocative. That's what my agent at the time told me quite bluntly, and my editor of the time hinted at. The specific instructions were to make sure that in a multi-racial couple, at least one of the pair was white, or at the very least half-white or from a white background; preferably the male.From a commercial point of view, I think your agent is probably correct.

How many hit TV shows feature a cast of POC characters?

There are black shows specifically aimed at black audiences, but I don't think that's what you're talking about. There are always exceptions, but I think as a general rule your agent, unfortunately, is not far off the mark.

Would I do this? Well, yes, but that's because I write books meant primarily to entertain people. If I were writing something personally meaningful to me, then no, I don't think I would.

But then again, a meaningful book that never sees the light of day is meaningful only to the author. I think if an editor insisted you change all your characters from black to white, that would be a non starter. But how central is the exact race mix in one of your your MCs to the story?

It really is a tough call.

missesdash
01-02-2012, 11:29 PM
I agree about YA making a lot of progress in this area. But that's probably because it's one of the few genres/sectors in publishing that is doing very well.

Publishers are willing to take more chances. Also, teenagers and young adults are
obviously, as a group, more progressive than the older adult fiction crowd.

Cyia
01-02-2012, 11:59 PM
I read things like this and begin to wonder how much attention the people who have read my novel so far have paid to it. I didn't set out to write a book in which nearly everyone was a person of color, or bi-racial at the very least, but it's what came from the story's set-up. When you're dealing with a condition that blocks melanin, then it only makes sense that those with a naturally higher level of melanin in their skin would have the highest survival rate. So my book is populated with very few fair-skinned people at all. So far, no one in an agent or editorial capacity has mentioned it.

I'm white (I think the official shade is "pasty"), and I don't want anyone to think that I decided to write something like this because it made it more "trendy" or because there's some political statement buried in the text that doesn't exist. For the world I created, it's what made sense - and that's what should matter.

The MC, which I actually went back and redescribed because when I point-blank asked someone who had read the book how they pictured her, showed me a blue-eyed blonde white girl, isn't white. (She's Asian, and so fair-skinned, but still... not white.)

I don't understand the mindset that there has to be a "reason" for a main character to something other than male and white or female and white. I'd always seen this girl as Asian, so isn't that a good enough reason?

Mardigras
01-03-2012, 12:07 AM
It beats me why people would want to read about folks from their own culture -- their peers. Hmmm....very odd. And yeah, this is racism.

Anjasa
01-03-2012, 12:33 AM
They even questioned me for writing about a dark skinned girl because I am brown skinned. They wondered if I could understand the issues my dark skinned sisters face. If they question me,a Black woman,they would give a writer of any other race HELL.


I think this is actually a huge problem, because then people who aren't of a certain race feel unable to properly represent people who aren't exactly like them - which leads to continued white washing.

People don't want to be offensive, and I think a lot of people do want to read and write about other races, but they feel hemmed in because they don't want to offend the very people they're trying to include. I know, at the very least, that I feel cautious about it because I don't want to be offensive.

But I'm kind of soft hearted.

http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2009/07/28/guest-post-are-black-covers-segregated-in-book-stores/ is an interesting blog post on it.

MeretSeger
01-03-2012, 12:48 AM
Lauren Haney's books come to mind, excellent historical mysteries set in Nubia. The caveat: the protagonist is Egyptian, and for some reason, lots of people don't think of ancient Egyptians as people of color. (they were)

I would love to read a non-"literary" story set in Guyana, or Jamaica, or Chad...and not starring missionaries or tourists! What you were told makes me sad.

Cyia
01-03-2012, 01:01 AM
or some reason, lots of people don't think of ancient Egyptians as people of color. (they were)



It depends on the social class. The ruling Egyptian (Ptolemaic) class was from a Greek bloodline, and they also valued paler shades of skin as a sign of divinity. That's one of the current speculations as to why Cleopatra was so popular with the masses; her mother was likely Nubian.

escritora
01-03-2012, 01:01 AM
It beats me why people would want to read about folks from their own culture -- their peers. Hmmm....very odd. And yeah, this is racism.

Mardigras, this is a place for discussion. Writing one liners such as this one takes away from the honest conversation we're having.

Psychomacologist
01-03-2012, 01:02 AM
Personally, I'm not convinced on the whole "Oh, White people don't want to read about Black/Asian/Insert-Other-Ethnicity-Here people!" I think this is an excuse and a symptom of a play-it-safe attitude. It's also an insult to readers, relying on the assumption that white people are incapable of connecting with non-white characters and the mere presence of a dark-skinnned person on the page/screen will so confuse the narrow white mind that they'll be completely unable to follow the story.

Whilst it might be true of older generations, who aren't very good at dealing with The Other in general, I certainly don't think it's true of my generation. Growing up in the nineties in Whitesville, one of the most popular programs on TV was The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. It was a show about Black people, with an all-Black cast, so in theory it should have "only appealed to Black audiences". And yet it was vastly popular. To the White people I grew up with, it didn't matter that the characters were Black. It mattered that they were funny and interesting and entertaining and were relatable on a human level. It wasn't a "Black show", it was just a hilarious show that we loved.

The excuse holds even less water in a genre like SF or Fantasy, where readers will happily relate to aliens, elves, telepaths, wizards, orcs, dragons and werewolves. And you want to say they'll be totally put off by a non-White MC? Please. That's beyond ridiculous.

What I think this boils down to is an unwillingness to take risks and a desire to stick with the nice, safe, well-worn status quo. It based on the crippling fear that no one will buy the book because it has *le gasp!* a Black person on the cover! Well, readers see Black people every day, and brown people and Asian people and all sorts of other people, and somehow manage not to spaz out about it (except for a very few).

I think as a society we've come a long way in accepting and celebrating racial (and other) diversity. Maybe it's different here in the UK to what it is in America, I don't know. But we've certainly come a loooooong way from even fifty or sixty years ago in terms of racial acceptance and wiping out discrimination. That said, I think there's a long way still to go. Part of the continuing problem is that the stories of non-White people and communities are not being told - we are not celebrating our diversity or exploring the different cultures and histories. You can't achieve true equality by erasing differences, only by embracing and celebrating them. This is why whitewashing stories and insisting on Whites in the cast is a step backwards.

To me the biggest hurdle is not that White audiences can't connect with non-White characters; it's that they're not used to the idea. The publishing industry mollycoddles and protects White readers by carefully only presenting them with nice, white books and pretending that those "other" books don't exist. Or publishers/editors classify books with non-White characters as "niche interest" or "urban fiction" or whatever. This is reflective of the assumption that the standard audience member is a straight White male, so anyone else needs a specail genre of their own (which is why there's such a thing as Women's Fiction, but not Men's) If we could stop assuming this, and instead assume that readers who like spy novels probably won't care whether that spy is black, white, purple, seven foot tall with grey stripes or orange, then we'd get on a lot better and the race of the characters WOULDN'T MATTER. The story would matter. The quality of writing would matter. The melanin content of the skin of the protagonist would not.

If publishers come in with the attitude that "only Black people will read this book because it's written by a Black person and there aren't any white people in the cast" then they will label and market it accordingly. Then it becomes a self-perpetuating cycle. If they simply decided that people in general will be interested in this story about other human beings, then those books would get shelved in the General Interest or Contemporary Fiction shelf instead of in the back under Urban Fiction.

The system creates the bias and perpetuates it. Change the system, and the bias will start to shift.

Well, long post is long. Perhaps I'm being naive - race dynamics in the UK are not what they are in the US. It's probably different here.

Literateparakeet
01-03-2012, 01:04 AM
Aruna, I was saddened when I read your post. I really wanted to say no! that isn't true and give you a list of books to prove it.

Unfortunately, the more I think about it, I can see this IS a problem. The only media I could think with all POC, was a few movies and TV shows. Tyler Perry comes to mind. I enjoy Tyler Perry, but I admit I always feel like I am crashing a party when I watch them. Like I wasn't invited because all the characters are POC, and I'm not. It's ridiculous of me, of course.

I do love the Number One Ladies Detective Agency, though. Part of the reason I love it is because it is set in Africa, a place I don't know much about. I enjoy learning about new places and cultures

So while, I admit that this is a problem, I hope that it is changing.

MeretSeger
01-03-2012, 01:08 AM
It depends on the social class. The ruling Egyptian (Ptolemaic) class was from a Greek bloodline, and they also valued paler shades of skin as a sign of divinity. That's one of the current speculations as to why Cleopatra was so popular with the masses; her mother was likely Nubian.

The Macedonian dynasty only ruled after 332 BC. Before that, with the exception of the brief Persian invasion, it was all Egyptians and some Nubians.

Paler skin was not exactly a sign of divinity. When you see yellow paint on female statues, it is probably to represent them as gold to identify them with Hathor, but you don't see that on the male representations. If it was a universal sign of divinity, the males would be represented pale as well. The Egyptians were actually remarkably color-blind (but not culture-blind)

MeretSeger
01-03-2012, 01:15 AM
Thanks for mentioning the shelving issue, Psychomacologist. This may sound dumb on my part, but I was working my way around the books at Walmart and suddenly realized I was in a section with all black couples on the covers. I was in the back of the store! Why weren't these shelved with the other romances? I guess they thought it would be okay, because they were under a sign that said "Recommended Reading"...

kuwisdelu
01-03-2012, 01:16 AM
It depends on the social class. The ruling Egyptian (Ptolemaic) class was from a Greek bloodline, and they also valued paler shades of skin as a sign of divinity. That's one of the current speculations as to why Cleopatra was so popular with the masses; her mother was likely Nubian.


The Macedonian dynasty only ruled after 332 BC. Before that, with the exception of the brief Persian invasion, it was all Egyptians and some Nubians.

Yeah, I was going to say, I don't really think of the Ptolemaic dynasty as "ancient" Egypt.

veinglory
01-03-2012, 01:21 AM
As a white gal (for the most part) I have a shelf full of African-American romances in amongst the rest. But I don't think this is typical and I had to go out of my way to find them in the non-fic/AA shelf, next to the non-fic/sexuality/gay shelf where my books appear.

Psychomacologist
01-03-2012, 01:21 AM
Thanks for mentioning the shelving issue, Psychomacologist. This may sound dumb on my part, but I was working my way around the books at Walmart and suddenly realized I was in a section with all black couples on the covers. I was in the back of the store! Why weren't these shelved with the other romances? I guess they thought it would be okay, because they were under a sign that said "Recommended Reading"...
See, this is the dumb thing, isn't it? Surely romance is just romance. But by shelving the "Black romance" away from the "normal romance" you are just saying "Oh, no, White people, you won't be interested in this. It's got Blacks in it. Go back to the front of the store where the nice White romance books are." And it's further saying that normal, general interest romance = romance about White people, whilst romance about Black people = special, niche interest.

That's pretty racist, let's be honest.

Psychomacologist
01-03-2012, 01:25 AM
As a white gal (for the most part) I have a shelf full of African-American romances in amongst the rest. But I don't think this is typical and I had to go out of my way to find them in the non-fic/AA shelf, next to the non-fic/sexuality/gay shelf where my books appear.
See, this is interesting. I wonder if "Black romance" was just shelved right alongside the "White romance" instead of in a specail section at the back, would more White people just pick it up because, hey, they like romance? I think yes, personally. I think this shelving of "Black" books away from the "normal, general interest" books is a big part of the problem.

Amadan
01-03-2012, 01:32 AM
I don't agree that YA is particularly more diverse than adult fiction. Yeah, there are some notable YA books that make a Big Honkin' Deal out of featuring real live PoC (and the occasional hot gay boy for the delectation of female readers). But rarely do they seem to be much more than check boxes on a diversity check list.

Literary fiction is at least as diverse as YA, and so is adult SF&F for that matter. Which may not be saying much -- yeah, it's an awfully pale field with a few spots of color no matter which genre you're looking at. But a lot of YA authors and readers are climbing the same hill Octavia Butler has been standing at the top of for years and think they're oh so progressive.

I don't think it's true in general that white people only want to read about white people. But I think covers and genre labels are more powerful than we think. Hence all the "whitewashing" cover incidents in recent years (usually occurring in that bastion of diversity, YA). Most people will read any book with any kind of character, but not if the cover image is someone who looks very different from themselves.

missesdash
01-03-2012, 01:33 AM
I think it's worth mentioning (and kitty touched on it) that it's not just catering to white readers. Black woman are notorious for self segregation. In the US we're the group least likely to date or marry out of our race. Black women feel an immnse responsibility to their race in a way that hails back to Jim Crowe.

But how that relates to reading trends: many black women won't pick up books with a white people on the cover. For a while I even felt that hesitation. I was raised with all black dolls, books with black characters. We watched black movies and black TV shows. We listened to black artists. My step dad bought from black business owners and my mother was disappointed I decided against going to a historically black college.

So there is a subset of African Americans (often educated, middle class) that make a very real effort to enrich themselves with products and creations of other black people. And while I agree the urban fiction section ultimately does us a disservice, I can imagine motivation behind the concept that isn't necessarily "white people don't want black books mixed with their white books."

missesdash
01-03-2012, 01:35 AM
@Amadan I didn't mean to imply the YA genre is more diverse. But rather readers and YA imprints are more accepting of diverse characters and storylines.

Jcomp
01-03-2012, 01:42 AM
From a commercial point of view, I think your agent is probably correct.

How many hit TV shows feature a cast of POC characters?

There are black shows specifically aimed at black audiences, but I don't think that's what you're talking about. There are always exceptions, but I think as a general rule your agent, unfortunately, is not far off the mark.

Would I do this? Well, yes, but that's because I write books meant primarily to entertain people. If I were writing something personally meaningful to me, then no, I don't think I would.

But then again, a meaningful book that never sees the light of day is meaningful only to the author. I think if an editor insisted you change all your characters from black to white, that would be a non starter. But how central is the exact race mix in one of your your MCs to the story?

It really is a tough call.

I tend to agree with this here. The challenge for a lot of minority authors / entertainers trying to market a commercially viable product is how to make it appeal to the largest demo in America: white folks. Is it racist that white people generally tend to prefer reading / watching / enjoying arts and entertainments that prominently feature other white people? Is it racist that I never cared much at all about golf pre- Tiger Woods? As usual, I have far fewer answers than questions.

I think one key is, depending on the type of work of course and whether or not the intent is to reach a greater appeal and viewership / readership, is to make accessible characters, regardless of what their background is. It doesn't require sacrificing unique qualities if done well. Short term that might only be marginally beneficial, and appealing to easy stereotypes and expectations can see good immediate results, but I think long term it works out better.

Anjasa
01-03-2012, 05:18 AM
Psychomacologist, thanks for your post, that was really well thought out.

I really think that this is just another one of those things that the publishers have been falling behind on supplying readers with. I haven't done the market research, but I really don't know how much having a black main character could possibly affect sales. I know it wouldn't lose my sale just based on that, anyways.

poetinahat
01-03-2012, 05:40 AM
*shrug* I'm naturally drawn first to books I think will be entertaining, second to settings I'm unfamiliar with (I think immediately of The Ground Beneath Her Feet (Salman Rushdie), The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (Milan Kundera), and White Teeth (Zadie Smith). [eta: and The Yiddish Policemen's Union (Michael Chabon)] There's also Amy Tan, Armistead Maupin, and, well, I wonder how the agent would suggest a rewrite of The Story of Tiger Woods.

But I also tend to agree with psycho -- as long as books with different-race characters are classified and shelved separately, reader tastes become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Medievalist
01-03-2012, 05:45 AM
But I also tend to agree with psycho -- as long as books with different-race characters are classified and shelved separately, reader tastes become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This shelving-of-books thing ties me up in cognitive knots. It applies in similar fashion to QUILTBAG books, aka LGBT.

The positive side:

If you're a Poc, or QUILTBAG tribal member or affiliate, you know right where to go. This is especially helpful if, say, you're looking for books about People Like You, or non-fiction about a topic that is specific to your situation--say finding a racially open college, or buying a house as a same-sex couple.

But.

It's also a form of segregation, however inadvertent. It means hetero folk can largely avoid reading about QUILTBAG or non-PoC folk can avoid reading about PoC characters in novels; they can stay in their very large safe zone.

And it also removes easy access to those specially shelved books from people like Poetinahat who just want a good book.

And there are more of us, than the other--so I tend to think ultimately, I'd like books to be shelved in multiple locations (not really practical from a retailer's POV) or to rely on bibliographies, point-of-sale, and bookseller's notes--which, unfortunately, is somewhat idealistic.

So there you have it; I'm in a cognitive knot.

Paul
01-03-2012, 05:48 AM
I agree about YA making a lot of progress in this area. But that's probably because it's one of the few genres/sectors in publishing that is doing very well.

Publishers are willing to take more chances. Also, teenagers and young adults are
obviously, as a group, more progressive than the older adult fiction crowd.
not sure if i'd call it 'progressive' - i think they are still forming identities at that stage and are more open to possibilities of same.

though i suspect there are changes in society, gradual changes.

veinglory
01-03-2012, 05:50 AM
There are pros and cons. The separate area makes it easier for niche readers to find the books. But I think it would be nice to see the niche fiction still in the fiction area (not non-fiction, not putting gay romance under "sexuality"). And maybe try double shelving to see if the status quo has maybe changed?

Mardigras
01-03-2012, 06:06 AM
I know it's hard to believe, but there are actually people, in this day and age, who don't approve of interracial relationships. I can't imagine why. But they sure wouldn't buy a book unless the protagonists were both white. This is the same bigoted mindset that is opposed to gay marriage.

missesdash
01-03-2012, 06:10 AM
not sure if i'd call it 'progressive' - i think they are still forming identities at that stage and are more open to possibilities of same.

though i suspect there are changes in society, gradual changes.

Well young people in the US, at least, are tremendously more progressive than those two generations ahead of them. Not just teenagers, but twenty-something now compared to twenty-somethings a few decades ago are, at the very least, a lot more socially liberal. I agree fiscal ideals change with age.

But I don't think teenagers who are currently are open to gay marriage/abortion/etc are going to suddenly change their minds when they get older. They're very matter-of-fact in the way they state their views. It's like gen X versus baby boomers when it comes to views on race. I am really interested to see the political shift that's going to take place in the next fifty years.

Bushrat
01-03-2012, 06:22 AM
It's a bit of a pet peeve I have with my German agent. He wants my novels to have German protagonists, though he didn't specify skin colour ;)
Which has me twisting myself into knots. I've been living in Canada for almost half my life now, and he sees it as a good selling point if I set the plot in Canada - which suits me perfectly fine. But always with German protagonists?? How stupid is that? He keeps saying it's so the reader can identify.

Makes no sense to me because the German bookmarket is swamped with translated novels by foreign writers, as well as German writers, where there is not a single German character in sight.

But I guess that's the market niche he's supplying and he's been in the business for almost 40 years. Anyway, I've just managed to twist a Klondike goldrush plot in such a way that it does feature a German protag - but then she falls in love with a Tlingit man. So there :D

thothguard51
01-03-2012, 06:48 AM
I was told that one of the reasons books by black authors featuring black cast was put in the AA section was to make it easier for AA readers to find them.

I had a beta reader who lives in England who is a black woman. She writes very interesting fantasy and almost all of her characters are white. I asked her why and she said because she wants to be read by the widest audience possible and not shelved exclusively in the AA section. I guess this makes sense, but I feel disappointed for her that she has to make that choice. She is a very good writer and helped me a lot...

I know that I don't mention the color of my characters, unless it is a relevant observation, but I think most readers view my characters as lilly white, or deeply tanned. I know I am trying to work on being more inclusive in my stories, which are fantasy, but I fear creating characters who are stereotypes and that to me is a bigger crime than excluding characters of color...

Polenth
01-03-2012, 07:48 AM
I've certainly seen it with readers. When the new Spiderman comic had him recast as a black man, there really were people saying "but who will the white people relate to now?!" This is even more scary when you consider virtually all superheroes are white, so it's not like there's a lack of white heroes for someone who won't read about other races.

And there's this blog post (http://www.murderati.com/blog/2011/5/17/non-white-heroes-the-kiss-of-death-in-the-marketplace.html) by Tess Gerritsen where she notes: "And whenever they published a book with an Asian hero or heroine, no one bought those books."


The excuse holds even less water in a genre like SF or Fantasy, where readers will happily relate to aliens, elves, telepaths, wizards, orcs, dragons and werewolves. And you want to say they'll be totally put off by a non-White MC? Please. That's beyond ridiculous.

People being happy to read about non-humans doesn't mean they're happy to read about other races of human. Something I noticed when I looked around at current urban fantasies with Native American protagonists... they're virtually all half-white or more. Exceptions tend to be small press or not do very well. I don't know whether this filter is being imposed by agents, editors or the writers themselves, but it's there.

It's easy to try and dismiss it as not really being a problem, but it is. Noticing it exists is the first step to doing something about it.

poetinahat
01-03-2012, 07:52 AM
Question, aruna: Do you think that the agent intended the statement to mean that people generally only want to read about characters of their own race or background? Or was the statement intended to apply only to white people?

If the latter, do you think it was because it's assumed that either the novel-buying public is predominantly white, or that's just the audience to whom they market?

kuwisdelu
01-03-2012, 07:59 AM
People being happy to read about non-humans doesn't mean they're happy to read about other races of human. Something I noticed when I looked around at current urban fantasies with Native American protagonists... they're virtually all half-white or more.

I was half-expecting you to say "they're virtually all part werewolf."

I hope my half-breed Injun protagonists do okay. It's what I know.

Outside the rez — and even on the rez — full blood is getting rarer and rarer.

missesdash
01-03-2012, 08:03 AM
I was half-expecting you to say "they're virtually all part werewolf."

I hope my half-breed Injun protagonists do okay. It's what I know.

Outside the rez — and even on the rez — full blood is getting rarer and rarer.

I actually read about interracial marriages in the US a few days ago. Native American men are the only ethnic group who are more likely to marry outside of their race than within it.

Medievalist
01-03-2012, 08:07 AM
People being happy to read about non-humans doesn't mean they're happy to read about other races of human. Something I noticed when I looked around at current urban fantasies with Native American protagonists... they're virtually all half-white or more. Exceptions tend to be small press or not do very well. I don't know whether this filter is being imposed by agents, editors or the writers themselves, but it's there.

There's also a weird thing where many non-PoC folk don't perceive that a character isn't white—when the text really truly makes it abundantly clear.

I've seen this happen in teaching with novels by Octavia Butler, Chip/Samuel Delany, and Le Guin.

kuwisdelu
01-03-2012, 08:09 AM
I actually read about interracial marriages in the US a few days ago. Native American men are the only ethnic group who are more likely to marry outside of their race than within it.

I'm curious to how "ethnic group" was defined. When they concluded that, did they consider marrying outside of one's tribe a different "ethnic group"? It doesn't help that in addition to Native Americans as a whole being a minority of a minority, we're a bunch of different peoples even within that already-small group.

As more Indians go off to tribal colleges and meet partners from different tribes, what's becoming increasingly common is children who are 100% native, but don't have enough blood to claim membership to any one tribe.

ETA: I don't live on the rez. There aren't very many attractive opportunities there for someone in my field, either. The probability of my finding another Indian who's my type and us hitting it off is already pretty damn small. The probability she's also Zuni? Even smaller. To go back and help the tribe is one dream, a noble dream, but it is a limiting dream. It's one I have, but I don't know if it's one I'll follow. To go off and be far more successful than the would rez ever allow is another dream, but is one in which the possibility of diluting ourselves out of existence is a sad, potential risk, and maybe even inevitability. And right now, it's where I'm headed. That doesn't make me happy. But neither does trying to be happy in a place I want to call home, but in which I may never truly find belonging; in some ways, being a stranger in a strange land is more comforting to me than the risk of slow rejection and struggle, and facing the possibility finding I truly have nowhere to go home to. But now I'm being melodramatic and overwrought. Sorry about that.

Alvah
01-03-2012, 08:25 AM
Walter Mosely's books appeal to many people,
and almost all the characters in his books are
black.

I think Fortunate Son is one of the best novels I've
read in a long time.

Cyia
01-03-2012, 08:27 AM
I'm curious to how "ethnic group" was defined. When they concluded that, did they consider marrying outside of one's tribe a different "ethnic group"? It doesn't help that in addition to Native Americans as a whole being a minority of a minority, we're a bunch of different peoples even within that already-small group.

As more Indians go off to tribal colleges and meet partners from different tribes, what's becoming increasingly common is children who are 100% native, but don't have enough blood to claim membership to any one tribe.



I don't have anywhere near enough Native blood in me to declare tribal affiliation (though it was enough for a college scholarship, which I still find odd). The last member of my family who did was my great-grandfather, and even that far back it was rare for anyone to be 100% (at least where he grew up, which was North Texas).

In my family, I've got Blackfoot, Sioux and Cheynne, on one side, Apache and Comanche, plus a tribe native to Mexico that I can neither spell nor pronounce on the other.

I went to school with a lot of kids who had similarly mixed backgrounds in their ancestry (usually 1-3 "great-grandfather" sort of connections), so it seems that it's been a trend for generations around here.

Polenth
01-03-2012, 08:31 AM
I was half-expecting you to say "they're virtually all part werewolf."

I hope my half-breed Injun protagonists do okay. It's what I know.

Outside the rez — and even on the rez — full blood is getting rarer and rarer.

My issue with it isn't that characters can't be mixed race. It's the way it's handled.

It generally comes across as: "My heroine is white... but I want a wendigo as a bad guy, so I ought to make her one-eighth Cherokee or something. I'll make it so she's lost all contact with that side of the family, so I don't have to rewrite anything."

kuwisdelu
01-03-2012, 08:38 AM
My issue with it isn't that characters can't be mixed race. It's the way it's handled.

It generally comes across as: "My heroine is white... but I want a wendigo as a bad guy, so I ought to make her one-eighth Cherokee or something. I'll make it so she's lost all contact with that side of the family, so I don't have to rewrite anything."

It can be just as annoying in real life. We joke there are parts of the country where you can't throw a stone without hitting a Cherokee princess.

Cyia
01-03-2012, 08:44 AM
It can be just as annoying in real life. We joke there are parts of the country where you can't throw a stone without hitting a Cherokee princess.

Substitute Comanche for Cherokee, and I'd think you'd been talking to my grandmother. :rolleyes:

archerjoe
01-03-2012, 08:47 AM
I just finished reading Open City by Teju Cole. The author and protagonist are Nigerians living in New York. It was really interesting to read his observations as someone new to the United States. He describes going to a symphony dedicated to Mahler and being one of very few black people there, especially young black males.

This book showed up in many "Best of 2011" lists. I found it in the local library but I don't remember seeing it in the bookstores.

Of the few people I know who read, most stick to one genre and small circle of writers. It's hard to get people interested in something outside their self-defined boundaries.

missesdash
01-03-2012, 08:57 AM
I'm curious to how "ethnic group" was defined. When they concluded that, did they consider marrying outside of one's tribe a different "ethnic group"? It doesn't help that in addition to Native Americans as a whole being a minority of a minority, we're a bunch of different peoples even within that already-small group.


No it was along the lines of the US census categories. So "Asians" were all grouped together. Although there was a distinction between black and black hispanics/white and white hispanics.

It's here: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/01/29/us/20110130mixedrace.html?ref=us

Out of 1000 Native American males, 453 were married to native american women and 455 were married to white women. It's a small difference, obviously. But they were the only group with that result.

Kitty27
01-03-2012, 09:02 AM
A writer can write POC in a respectful manner and it goes a long way. Especially if it's obvious that said writer took the time to research the character's culture. At least it does with me!

Medi is right on point. The fanbase uproar over Rue in The Hunger Games has completely turned me off the upcoming movie. I haven't read the books but didn't Ms.Collins make it obvious that Rue was black?


AA sections exist for a reason. I have many friends who don't go to any other section of the bookstore and will pitch a hissy fit if they don't see an AA section. I explained that AA writers must come out of this area and be placed in their respective genres as well. Well meaning readers who would give any book a chance sometimes get a "Keep Out" vibe from this and I've non Black friends say as much.

Sigh. Things are so complicated when they really shouldn't be. Keep the AA section but bookstores also need to put POC writers in their genre's sections.

Cyia
01-03-2012, 09:35 AM
I haven't read the books but didn't Ms.Collins make it obvious that Rue was black?



Not really. She was described as having brown skin and dark hair. She came from an area where grain was the predominant crop, and I assumed she was Latina or Native American.

Thresh, her fellow district tribute was qualified as "dark", but then the author said their skin tones matched, so it wasn't really clear at all.

ETA: However, it was fairly clear that Katniss was supposed to be bi-racial. So much was made of differentiating between her "olive" skin and Prim/her mother's fair skin and hair, that it was more than just Katniss being a brunette.

Kitty27
01-03-2012, 09:50 AM
Not really. She was described as having brown skin and dark hair. She came from an area where grain was the predominant crop, and I assumed she was Latina or Native American.

Thresh, her fellow district tribute was qualified as "dark", but then the author said their skin tones matched, so it wasn't really clear at all.

ETA: However, it was fairly clear that Katniss was supposed to be bi-racial. So much was made of differentiating between her "olive" skin and Prim/her mother's fair skin and hair, that it was more than just Katniss being a brunette.

I am SO out of the loop. I was wondering why some of my friends who are fans of the series were ticked about Jennifer Lawrence being casted and her appearance changed. That explains why.

Sigh. Hollywood is something else.

missesdash
01-03-2012, 10:04 AM
Not really. She was described as having brown skin and dark hair. She came from an area where grain was the predominant crop, and I assumed she was Latina or Native American.

Thresh, her fellow district tribute was qualified as "dark", but then the author said their skin tones matched, so it wasn't really clear at all.

ETA: However, it was fairly clear that Katniss was supposed to be bi-racial. So much was made of differentiating between her "olive" skin and Prim/her mother's fair skin and hair, that it was more than just Katniss being a brunette.

I didn't really read her as biracial. I read it as having a skin tone more similar to her father's. White people can have olive skin too. I pictured her as looking somewhat Mediterranean. Olive is about the skin's undertones, not necessarily the color. It has a range. That's kind of why using "olive" can be problematic. It's not all that specific.

But yeah, totally derailing :D

aruna
01-03-2012, 10:53 AM
That may be true for some readers, but there are a lot of people--more of them in fact--who are different.

Write true.

That's what I always believed; which is why I wrote books set in Guyana. But agent/editor of the time objected. It's just the way the industry perceives the matter and they won't take risks to find out if they are wrong.





Personally, I'm not convinced on the whole "Oh, White people don't want to read about Black/Asian/Insert-Other-Ethnicity-Here people!" I think this is an excuse and a symptom of a play-it-safe attitude. It's also an insult to readers, relying on the assumption that white people are incapable of connecting with non-white characters and the mere presence of a dark-skinnned person on the page/screen will so confuse the narrow white mind that they'll be completely unable to follow the story.

Exactly. It's all a matter of perception, and habit. And unless publishers are willing to take risks and actually promote books that break this rule, the habit will remain.


Whilst it might be true of older generations, who aren't very good at dealing with The Other in general, I certainly don't think it's true of my generation. Growing up in the nineties in Whitesville, one of the most popular programs on TV was The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. It was a show about Black people, with an all-Black cast, so in theory it should have "only appealed to Black audiences". And yet it was vastly popular. To the White people I grew up with, it didn't matter that the characters were Black. It mattered that they were funny and interesting and entertaining and were relatable on a human level. It wasn't a "Black show", it was just a hilarious show that we loved.


For me, it's not so much even a question of skin colour -- I want to know other cultures through reading, and seek such books out. I want to read about people who hold different values and live according to different rules than modern-21st-century-culture. You would not believe how hard such books are to find! Me, I would actually appreciate an "international" section where I could find such books eaily.


The excuse holds even less water in a genre like SF or Fantasy, where readers will happily relate to aliens, elves, telepaths, wizards, orcs, dragons and werewolves. And you want to say they'll be totally put off by a non-White MC? Please. That's beyond ridiculous.

I think Polenth answers this:






People being happy to read about non-humans doesn't mean they're happy to read about other races of human.
I agree; SF and F don't count. It's as if it's OK to have imaginary characters and worlds that are different to what we know; God forbid we should have realistic settings and characters!


*shrug* I'm naturally drawn first to books I think will be entertaining, second to settings I'm unfamiliar with (I think immediately of The Ground Beneath Her Feet (Salman Rushdie), The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (Milan Kundera), and White Teeth (Zadie Smith). [eta: and The Yiddish Policemen's Union (Michael Chabon)] There's also Amy Tan, Armistead Maupin, and, well, I wonder how the agent would suggest a rewrite of The Story of Tiger Woods.

But I also tend to agree with psycho -- as long as books with different-race characters are classified and shelved separately, reader tastes become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But the books you mention are all "literary", and literary has different rules! You can also count The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, and the wonderful books by Nigerian author Chimamande. These are the kind of books I was referring to above -- not only non-white characters, but a different culture altogether from what we in Europe and the US see outside our doors. Though they might win literary prizes, and thus have good sales, they are deemed the exception.






Question, aruna: Do you think that the agent intended the statement to mean that people generally only want to read about characters of their own race or background? Or was the statement intended to apply only to white people?

If the latter, do you think it was because it's assumed that either the novel-buying public is predominantly white, or that's just the audience to whom they market?

She was talking about the general UK market, ie, making huge sales, writing that big breakthrough novel -- so, she was talking about the white population of the UK. If my aim was for a niche market, such as the West Indian readership, I could always go for a small niche publisher such as Peepal Tree Press, which only publishes authors from that area. But then, I wouldn't need an agent!

ANyway, I remembered an article I had read once about this topic, and managed to dig it up. It's Danuta Kean's Still Not in Full Colour. (http://www.danutakean.com/blog/?p=305)


The Author, spring 2008
Before Christmas HarperCollins UK and TRA released the results of a survey into reading habits among black and minority ethnic (BME) readers. I looked at this survey with interest, because four years ago this year I edited In Full Colour, the first report into the representation of BME employees within publishing. It was a nice way of asking: “Why is book publishing so white?” The answers made uncomfortable reading. HarperCollins’s findings were a barometer of success for initiatives co-ordinated by the Arts Council’s Decibel project in the wake of In Full Colour. It was a chance to see whether publishers and booksellers had been shocked out of their Guardian-reading complacency by the depressing statistics and in-depth interviews in the report.
The survey did not offer evidence of significant change in the past four years. Though the BME book market is estimated to be worth £120m and rising fast, it found publishers’ continued emphasis on literary fiction when it comes to minority ethnic writers and culturally diverse characters was way off the mark in terms of what readers in those markets want. The implication was that publishers’ efforts to recruit more widely have had little impact on their lists and their commercial prospects in a sizeable potential market.

INteresting side note: apparently the correct term in UK publishing is "black and minority ethnic" -- BME.

L.C. Blackwell
01-03-2012, 12:09 PM
But those stories were from an entirely Black POV and told the real. The rapes,harassment and other things that some just cannot handle.



I hope this doesn't come across the wrong way....

But how many of us want to read fiction that seriously distresses our emotions and so-called finer feelings? I'm not going to read a novel where the protagonist is raped, no matter what color she is (or the author is). And I'm not dismissing rape victims, either. It's just that I read to escape; I'm not spending time with something that defeats that purpose.


The daughter told how she tried to earn her mother's love but she finally accepted her mother would never love her or see her as anything other than the product of a rape. Can you imagine that getting made into a movie? A book topping the Bestseller list?No--and mainly for the reason I mentioned above. You're trying to cross raw bloody history with the popular desire for escapism, relaxation, entertainment, or just mindlessly blowing a few hours. It doesn't tend to work as a match.

You know, I write historical fiction, crossing a range of protagonists and cultures--and some of the research I do comes up with really horrible facts. Almost none of them will ever go in the novel. They'll be hinted at, shadowed, or mitigated to bearable levels; then further touched with hope and dignity. I don't lie to readers, but I take care how I paint my pictures.

Because--forgive me--trauma isn't unique. The black story in America, distressing as it is, is not unique. The world, measured over its last five thousand or so years, contains such records of atrocity that anyone trying to grasp the scope risks losing their mind. And when the horror is so intense, it loses its power to teach.

Which means I prefer to draw out the lessons that can be learned--make them memorable without being unbearable--and leave the rest to Infinite justice....

aruna
01-03-2012, 01:14 PM
I think you could be right, Blackwell. I have never had the chance to read a real story by a real maid from that era. Fiction is different to real life. Reading such a story would be a downer; people need to feel some sort of justice doled out, and that just doesn't happen very often in real life. I think that the success of The Help is not necessarily down to a Disneyfying of the tragedy of what happened in these women's lives -- it's that the author managed to let us take the side of the maids -- and gave them a really worthy revenge -- horrible and yet funny at the same time. I believe that the fact that it was well-written AND had a wonderful "secret" is the reason that it is so successful.


A few related points:

I definitely don't read for entertainment alone. I want to know how other people really lived or live in places and times that I don't know. I read to learn and to empathise and to identify with such people. And I write primarily to share what I know about cultutes unfamiliar in the US and Europe with readers. It was very disappointing to learn -- whether or not it is true -- that readers don't care. According to my agent.

Is the need for escapism you mention the reason why SF and F can do so well, but realistic stories about foreign countries and cultures flounder? Because all too often those foreign stories are about atrocities that we feel are far away form our own societies?

And then, what about "misery memoirs"? They enoyed a great surge in sales some time ago and possibly still do. At my local bookshop in the UK there was a whole bookshelf dedicated to personal stories of unmitagted horrors: child abuse, child rape and so on.

Much food for thought.

Amadan
01-03-2012, 03:48 PM
But how many of us want to read fiction that seriously distresses our emotions and so-called finer feelings? I'm not going to read a novel where the protagonist is raped, no matter what color she is (or the author is). And I'm not dismissing rape victims, either. It's just that I read to escape; I'm not spending time with something that defeats that purpose.

You're not everyone. It's fine if you read to "escape," but many people read for many reasons, and lots of people enjoy "downer" books.


Is the need for escapism you mention the reason why SF and F can do so well, but realistic stories about foreign countries and cultures flounder? Because all too often those foreign stories are about atrocities that we feel are far away form our own societies?

I'm not sure stories about foreign countries and cultures flounder -- "White person goes to Exotic Land of Non-White People and learns Important Life Lessons" is pretty popular. The problem is that most of the popular ones have a white POV. White person goes to Mysterious China. White person lives in Exotic India (for a year or two). White person backbacks around Thailand. White person makes friends with black people in Deepest Darkest Africa. Etc.

Also, SF&F isn't just escapism. "Grimdark" is a pretty popular fantasy genre right now. And there are some pretty popular books written by PoC about PoC characters (N.K. Jemisin, Nalo Hopkinson).

aruna
01-03-2012, 03:55 PM
Also, SF&F isn't just escapism. "Grimdark" is a pretty popular fantasy genre right now. And there are some pretty popular books written by PoC about PoC characters (N.K. Jemisin, Nalo Hopkinson).

Oh, I know. Wasn't trying to denigrate the genre. In fact, I know a POC Sf writer; met him a few years ago at a writer's conference - Stephen something his name was (Barnes?). I think. But you're right about foreign cultures being OK as long it's a white person discovering them and learning form the exotic dark people over there! Especially in travel books.

alessahinlo
01-03-2012, 04:41 PM
ETA: However, it was fairly clear that Katniss was supposed to be bi-racial. So much was made of differentiating between her "olive" skin and Prim/her mother's fair skin and hair, that it was more than just Katniss being a brunette.

I read her as being biracial too. Collins doesn't come out and say it explicitly but there are dropped hints -- the difference between living in town and out of town, why Katniss's mother had to move outside of town to be with her father, and why Katniss's mother gets so angry about Katniss saying the song, The Hanging Tree.

Psychomacologist
01-03-2012, 05:03 PM
People being happy to read about non-humans doesn't mean they're happy to read about other races of human. Something I noticed when I looked around at current urban fantasies with Native American protagonists... they're virtually all half-white or more. Exceptions tend to be small press or not do very well. I don't know whether this filter is being imposed by agents, editors or the writers themselves, but it's there.

It's easy to try and dismiss it as not really being a problem, but it is. Noticing it exists is the first step to doing something about it.
I definitely think that there is a problem in that White readers don't usually read about non-White protags. But I don't think this is because they don't want to or refuse to. I think it's because of the publishing industry, and the way books are marketed and sold. When you browse the SF/F section (for example) you likely will not find many books by BME authors or featuring PoC in lead roles. Why? Because those are shelved in a separate section of the bookstore. White readers go and look in their genre section and are not presented with a diverse range of characters; they are presented with White characters and books by White people. If books about diverse characters where shelved with the other SF/F (or whatever genre) books, I honestly believe that most readers would give those books a try. Because I think that our generation is not as racist as that of our parents.

This I believe is the problem: the older generation (now in their 50s or so) definitely DO "see colour". But the younger generation do not. I am now nearly thirty; I'm pretty sure that the kids of today - the kids who will grow up with a Black president of the USA and Black movie stars and far more racial diversity than we ever encountered - will be even more open to reading about and hearing and seeing about the stories of people of different races/cultures/backgrounds. I think the generations are gradually becoming less racist. That's not to say there aren't problems any more (there are, of course) or that racism doesn't exist because we had Martin Luther King so now it's all fixed (of course there's still racism) but on the whole I would like to believe that young readers today are far more open to reading about diverse characters than their parents or grandparents were. But the publishing industry is still stuck in the past and is scared to take a risk on diverse casts of characters or non-White MCs because in the past those books did not sell well. In the past. We are no longer in the past and I honestly believe that this new generation of readers will be more open to non-White characters in their fiction because they are more used to diversity and more used to living and learning and working alongside non-White people in their day to day lives.

I don't know; maybe I'm being foolishly optimistic here (it wouldn't be the first time). But when I look at young people today and compare them to my parents' generation, I see a huge change in attitudes and openness.

In my own experience, whenever I have given a story to critters containing a non-White main character, invariably someone has come back to say how great it is to read about someone who isn't White. No one has ever said they couldn't connect to the character; the predominant reaction, from white beta readers, is "I love that this is a story about diverse races and cultures!". And I write SF. So my experience with my reading peers is that, in my genre, they are not bothered about the skin tone of the protag. In fact, they enjoy diversity and variety of cultures/races.

The short story I wrote that's in the AW antho features no White characters at all.

All this is why I think the problem honestly is not with the readers. I think it's with the industry itself, with the publishing execs and editors stuck in the past - perhaps they themselves are of the generation that was still getting used to racial equality and embracing diversity. I think those people are behind the times; I think that now, if you shelved SFF about non-White characters right alongside the rest of the SFF, readers - certainly younger readers - would give it a chance and pick it up.


I read about the Hunger Games thing. I think a lot of White readers did that thing where they assume all the characters are White, and then were shocked when certain characters in the film weren't what they pictured. So yes, there's still some problems. I don't think there aren't any race problems at all and as a whole I think White people are generally not very aware of race issues when actually they need to be. So I'm not saying everything is perfect now and nothing more needs to be done, because it does. But things are changing from our parents' generation and I have faith that younger readers have less and less racial bias and more and more openness.



There's also a weird thing where many non-PoC folk don't perceive that a character isn't white—when the text really truly makes it abundantly clear.

I've seen this happen in teaching with novels by Octavia Butler, Chip/Samuel Delany, and Le Guin.
This is another problem and I do think White people need to be more aware of race issues and to think more about race. We're certainly not all the way there yet.


My issue with it isn't that characters can't be mixed race. It's the way it's handled.

It generally comes across as: "My heroine is white... but I want a wendigo as a bad guy, so I ought to make her one-eighth Cherokee or something. I'll make it so she's lost all contact with that side of the family, so I don't have to rewrite anything."
There seems to be an attitude amongst some that non-White characters are more "acceptable" with a bit of Whiteness in them. And certainly an attitude that a little bit of another race or culture can be "sprinkled in" like seasoning.



INteresting side note: apparently the correct term in UK publishing is "black and minority ethnic" -- BME.

In the UK the term PoC is not generally used - BME is the standard term.


I dunno, guys. I mean, I'm no expert on the publishing industry. But the feedback I get from readers is that they're not bothered about the race of the protag - they are more concerned with the story being told. Many are even actively interested in reading about racially and culturally diverse characters. I think the bias is more with the industry than with the readers.

aruna
01-03-2012, 06:28 PM
I don't know; maybe I'm being foolishly optimistic here (it wouldn't be the first time). But when I look at young people today and compare them to my parents' generation, I see a huge change in attitudes and openness.


Well, you're talking about my generation there with "older" and I don't think we can be so easily dismissed! It was that generation, really, (i'm speaking about whites here who came of age in the 60's and 70's) who first broke down the barriers, who went out into the world and left their cultures behind to discover what it's like on the other side of the fence. Today's youth travels too -- but they take their own culture (mobile phones, internet shops etc) with them. They (today's youth) are far lazier than we were (I know because my daughter recently went travellling for four months through Asia. It was nice, but very cushy.)
........




This is another problem and I do think White people need to be more aware of race issues and to think more about race. We're certainly not all the way there yet.


.While I agree that (Western) societies are far more mixed today than they were, and that young people grow up with an easiness between people of different races that wasn't the norm in my day, I don't think today's youth are necessarily more open-minded than we were. I often despair, to tell the truth, and long for the good old days before technology took over the world; which is the way many if not most of those cultures still live. It's a different mentality altogether and I'm not sure younger people today understand or are willing to understand. I see them swarming into places which were once havens where the foreigners (ie whites) who came tried to adapt to the people there and to learn; now, the young foreigners who come demand that everything changes to suit them. I have first-hand experience of this, and it makes me sad. My favourite place in all the world has been virtually ruined by this phenomenon.

Jcomp
01-03-2012, 06:52 PM
I hope this doesn't come across the wrong way....

But how many of us want to read fiction that seriously distresses our emotions and so-called finer feelings? I'm not going to read a novel where the protagonist is raped, no matter what color she is (or the author is). And I'm not dismissing rape victims, either. It's just that I read to escape; I'm not spending time with something that defeats that purpose.

...

No--and mainly for the reason I mentioned above. You're trying to cross raw bloody history with the popular desire for escapism, relaxation, entertainment, or just mindlessly blowing a few hours. It doesn't tend to work as a match.



And yet, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is an enormous international hit (over 15 million copies sold in the U.S. alone) featuring so much ugly violence against women that the original title was Men Who Hate Women. The idea that you can't marry "best-seller" with subject matter "that seriously distresses our emotions and so-called finer feelings" is a bit absurd.

L.C. Blackwell
01-03-2012, 08:06 PM
I don't say it can't be done--but I would say it's pretty tricky to pull off. And no, I don't claim at all to be speaking for everyone. There's certainly a market for some books along those lines, and Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a fair example.

At the same time, I also believe that there's a fairly large segment of the market that's going to be turned off by brutality, no matter who deals it or who receives it, and I think that's not taken sufficiently into account.

Where I'm coming from: I've been involved in human rights activism for nearly twenty years, and have spent time with survivors of torture. And the thing I notice most in discussing the subject with people is how the average American squirms, blenches, or is just flat uncomfortable anytime the subject comes up. Most of us agree that torture is evil, but at the same time, it makes us squirm. We'd really rather not think about it.

And I can't help thinking that some of the same response can fairly apply to novels--some things hurt to think about, or they're not pleasant, and many would just rather not.

Jcomp
01-03-2012, 08:38 PM
I don't say it can't be done--but I would say it's pretty tricky to pull off. And no, I don't claim at all to be speaking for everyone. There's certainly a market for some books along those lines, and Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a fair example.

At the same time, I also believe that there's a fairly large segment of the market that's going to be turned off by brutality, no matter who deals it or who receives it, and I think that's not taken sufficiently into account.

Where I'm coming from: I've been involved in human rights activism for nearly twenty years, and have spent time with survivors of torture. And the thing I notice most in discussing the subject with people is how the average American squirms, blenches, or is just flat uncomfortable anytime the subject comes up. Most of us agree that torture is evil, but at the same time, it makes us squirm. We'd really rather not think about it.

And I can't help thinking that some of the same response can fairly apply to novels--some things hurt to think about, or they're not pleasant, and many would just rather not.

Sure, this applies to a segment of the population, but there are still plenty of people who read stories full of horrific, emotionally harrowing material. Every year, brutal stories receive wide critical acclaim and make best-seller lists.

Is it pretty tricky to pull off? Sure. Writing a best-seller of any kind always is. As it pertains to the subject at hand, writing about harsh subject matter shouldn't be an issue. As you said, trauma isn't unique. It shouldn't impact a writer's success regardless of their background.

Amadan
01-03-2012, 08:39 PM
This I believe is the problem: the older generation (now in their 50s or so) definitely DO "see colour". But the younger generation do not.

Holy crap, did you really just say that?

Yeah, sorry, but no. First of all, take a really good look at anyone (always a white person) who says they "don't see color." You are looking at a disingenuous dillweed. We all see color. We are all affected by color. We are affected by cultural biases and historical baggage. Even those of us who try really, really hard not to be prejudiced and who honestly, sincerely believe that race is just a social construct and color doesn't matter and we're all just people inside and no one should care -- that is the ideal, it's a great thing to aspire to, but it is not reality.

You seem to think that because "older" people includes folks who were old enough to oppose the Civil Rights Act and younger people weren't, therefore "real" prejudice is mostly confined to the older generation. It's definitely true that it's no longer socially acceptable to be an Archie Bunker, and that's good. And even people who are still pretty damn racist usually take it for granted that you can't overtly discriminate against someone because of their race. Yes, that's progress. But if you think the younger, hipper, progressive crowd has gotten past race and it's all a thing of the past, you are probably living in a privileged little bubble of fellow hipsters.

As for "white people don't have a problem reading about PoC; it's just that PoC books are shelved where they can't find them": I'll tell you what, put some books out there in the main section of the bookstore with black people on the covers, and I guarantee you that the majority of white book browsers will browse right past them figuring they're "black" books. Oh sure, you and me and a few other conscientiously progressive type might go out of our way to check them out because we want to be diverse, but most white people will just pass them by. And those people aren't trying to be discriminatory! If you asked them, the majority would claim (and mean it) that they aren't racist and would have no problem reading a book with a non-white main character.

But those same people are the folks who, even if they read about a PoC main character, will visualize that character as white and then be surprised when they find out she isn't. (I.e., Hunger Games.) Which again, isn't deliberately racist -- they aren't trying to make PoC disappear. But they sure do see (and visualize) color.



I don't say it can't be done--but I would say it's pretty tricky to pull off. And no, I don't claim at all to be speaking for everyone. There's certainly a market for some books along those lines, and Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a fair example.

At the same time, I also believe that there's a fairly large segment of the market that's going to be turned off by brutality, no matter who deals it or who receives it, and I think that's not taken sufficiently into account.

I think the market for dark and depressing books is large and always has been. Some people want light reading, some don't, some it depends on their mood. I think your claim that a grim and dark book is a hard sell and difficult to pull off runs against publishing history.

missesdash
01-03-2012, 09:12 PM
The myth of young people being colorblind is hilarious. We don't go around lynching each other, but I went to a high school where a white kid named his iguana "little nigger" and everyone thought it was hilarious.

Racism has become less acceptable in the general public. But that just means people keep it to themselves or only express it among like minded people.

That being said, we definitely are, overall, more comfortable with mixing and more tolerant of other ethnic groups. But "more" is a relative term. There's still lots of work to be done.

veinglory
01-03-2012, 09:17 PM
I bet high school in most places is the same hot bed of "tolerance" it always was,

thebloodfiend
01-03-2012, 09:18 PM
I read her as being biracial too. Collins doesn't come out and say it explicitly but there are dropped hints -- the difference between living in town and out of town, why Katniss's mother had to move outside of town to be with her father, and why Katniss's mother gets so angry about Katniss saying the song, The Hanging Tree.

I noticed that too. I would've cast Summer Bishil, instead of JL.



My problem with movies like The Help, Push, For Colored Girls, anything by Tyler Perry, etc... is that they only show black people in three different lights.

1. The helpful negro, who's borderline magical negro, but generally only serves to advance the white character. They aren't particularly youthful, they're probably a devout church-goer, and they most likely will say things like "gurllll" and "lawhddd". And, to be honest, I have relatives who do talk like that. But I also have relatives who don't.

2. The tragic negro, who was raped (probably by her father), is poor, probably can't read, and is probably in a story where all men are demonized beyond a doubt. Melodrama at its best.

3. The buffoon. Almost every single character in TP's movies. They're loud. They're obnoxious. Usually fat. And that's about it.


I don't have a problem with those stories or characters like them (Except for the first). But it becomes problematic when that's all I see. White people have stories that branch out past those three. They're heroes, villains, cowboys, leaders, goths, emos, jocks, nerds, etc... But minorities usually get relagated to those three (unless they're Asian, which a wholenother barrel of worms).

And then, you've got the other character who's recently starting to make an appearance in YA -- the checklist minority. They're usually part white/part-asian/part-black/gay/bi-curious/hispanic/possibly disabled. They're like the author's diversity badge.

And yet another thing I've noticed -- readers asking why characters have to be non-white/non-able-bodied/non-heterosexual if it isn't relevant to the plot.

missesdash
01-03-2012, 09:24 PM
Ugh don't even get me started on "The Help"

Jcomp
01-03-2012, 09:48 PM
And yet another thing I've noticed -- readers asking why characters have to be non-white/non-able-bodied/non-heterosexual if it isn't relevant to the plot.

I agree with the whole post in general, but this particularly is where I see an issue. The expectation that a "non-white/non-able-bodied/non-heterosexual" character has to behave in some manner that calls attention to their race, sexual orientation, etc., or that the story has to make it an issue when it doesn't really have anything to do with the story. Obviously there are stories where the subject is relevant, but some stories don't a forced message, some characters don't need a sidebar soapbox. Would love to see more stories where the forensics investigator just happens to be a Latina because she just is, or the male lead in the rom-dram is Chinese because he just is. I'd love for a black playwright to write something like Closer with a black cast where race has nothing to do with four people living through brutal relationships full of manipulation, dishonesty, betryal and ruthlessly frank sexual discussions.

kuwisdelu
01-03-2012, 10:17 PM
And yet another thing I've noticed -- readers asking why characters have to be non-white/non-able-bodied/non-heterosexual if it isn't relevant to the plot.

I've gotten that once or twice. But it swings both ways.

On the flip side, it is again, rather annoying when an author intentionally draws attention to the presence of a minority character and his minority-ness, and then it has no relevance to the plot.

Ahh, complications.

Maybe Chekhov's gun needs a corollary. Sometimes a gun is just a gun. But if it is, don't put it on the mantel.

thebloodfiend
01-03-2012, 10:26 PM
I've gotten that once or twice. But it swings both ways.

On the flip side, it is again, rather annoying when an author intentionally draws attention to the presence of a minority character and his minority-ness, and then it has no relevance to the plot.

Ahh, complications.

Maybe Chekhov's gun needs a corollary. Sometimes a gun is just a gun. But if it is, don't put it on the mantel.

Or a cigar is just a cigar. Except when it's a penis metaphor.


No, I agree. It's a difficult balance maintain. I'm not a fan of the white girl painted black anymore than I'm a fan of the man with boobs.

I think a place to start would be to make the industry itself more diverse. And not just the publishing world, where the majority of YA agents are young white females, but with the screenwriting world, too. Now, how that happens, I don't know.

Jehhillenberg
01-03-2012, 11:13 PM
^Glad you mentioned the screenwriting world, bloodfiend, because images are potent. People often write what they see. I like the other post on the black tropes; factual.

Now it seems like one of those no-win, double-sword, damned if you do, damned if you don't things since you all bring up both sides of the perception. So much to ponder.


*goes off to ponder the meaning of life and purpose of existence*:D

LJD
01-03-2012, 11:24 PM
I hope this doesn't come across the wrong way....

But how many of us want to read fiction that seriously distresses our emotions and so-called finer feelings? I'm not going to read a novel where the protagonist is raped, no matter what color she is (or the author is). And I'm not dismissing rape victims, either. It's just that I read to escape; I'm not spending time with something that defeats that purpose.

I have this problem right now...I think it is particular to what is going in my personal life, and I am unable to read books where too much bad shit happens. hopefully when I get better, I'll have a higher tolerance.

But I've stopped reading books about the immigrant experience because they're just too depressing. I started Lisa See's Shanghai Girls a few months ago but I just can't pick it up again. She's a great writer...but I just can't do it. I don't think my Chinese-Canadian mother was ever able to finish a novel about Chinese in North America because she found it too close to home and it upset her.

Right now, I'm reading mainly for escapism, and I'm reading mostly romances (and some chick lit). I really wish I could find more diversity in contemporary romances. I live in a city where nearly 50% of the population is a visible minority, and yet I'm reading mostly about white people...

backslashbaby
01-03-2012, 11:53 PM
Holy crap, did you really just say that?

Yeah, sorry, but no. First of all, take a really good look at anyone (always a white person) who says they "don't see color." You are looking at a disingenuous dillweed. We all see color. We are all affected by color. We are affected by cultural biases and historical baggage. Even those of us who try really, really hard not to be prejudiced and who honestly, sincerely believe that race is just a social construct and color doesn't matter and we're all just people inside and no one should care -- that is the ideal, it's a great thing to aspire to, but it is not reality.

You seem to think that because "older" people includes folks who were old enough to oppose the Civil Rights Act and younger people weren't, therefore "real" prejudice is mostly confined to the older generation. It's definitely true that it's no longer socially acceptable to be an Archie Bunker, and that's good. And even people who are still pretty damn racist usually take it for granted that you can't overtly discriminate against someone because of their race. Yes, that's progress. But if you think the younger, hipper, progressive crowd has gotten past race and it's all a thing of the past, you are probably living in a privileged little bubble of fellow hipsters.

As for "white people don't have a problem reading about PoC; it's just that PoC books are shelved where they can't find them": I'll tell you what, put some books out there in the main section of the bookstore with black people on the covers, and I guarantee you that the majority of white book browsers will browse right past them figuring they're "black" books. Oh sure, you and me and a few other conscientiously progressive type might go out of our way to check them out because we want to be diverse, but most white people will just pass them by. And those people aren't trying to be discriminatory! If you asked them, the majority would claim (and mean it) that they aren't racist and would have no problem reading a book with a non-white main character.

But those same people are the folks who, even if they read about a PoC main character, will visualize that character as white and then be surprised when they find out she isn't. (I.e., Hunger Games.) Which again, isn't deliberately racist -- they aren't trying to make PoC disappear. But they sure do see (and visualize) color.



I think the market for dark and depressing books is large and always has been. Some people want light reading, some don't, some it depends on their mood. I think your claim that a grim and dark book is a hard sell and difficult to pull off runs against publishing history.

I have to agree more with psychomacologist here, and I have a feeling the girl knows what she's talking about rather than being in any hipster bubble.

Imho, it's not that she was leaving out the very important and more subtle racism that comes with privilege; it's that there is clearly identifiable progress that's been made over the generations.

Some of the discussions start sounding like people are talking about my friends' grandparents when they are talking about white people ;) I'd hate for one fact to get lost: a ton of white people have no overt racism. None. It's all the privileged sort, which is very important to discuss, indeed! But it's not like 'white people won't read PoC books' as a blanket statement is true enough to state that way. It's actually offensive that the publishing industry thinks that -- offensive to everyone concerned.

Some myths just take on a life of their own, and it would do everyone a disservice to believe that everyone is as racist as they were generations ago, imho. That's about the single story, too, isn't it? I don't mean that in a disingenuous way, like saying it's anywhere close to the same problem, but I'd hate for us to start to go there at all.

I'd believe a young white person who said they were mostly colorblind, depending on their circumstances. Don't expect that just because they are white doesn't mean that everyone else in their family isn't, for instance. Nowadays you never know :)

kuwisdelu
01-04-2012, 12:00 AM
I feel the need to re-post Lisa's useful link re: colorblindness. (http://www.tolerance.org/magazine/number-36-fall-2009/colorblindness-new-racism)

Amadan
01-04-2012, 12:02 AM
I have to agree more with psychomacologist here, and I have a feeling the girl knows what she's talking about rather than being in any hipster bubble.

Imho, it's not that she was leaving out the very important and more subtle racism that comes with privilege; it's that there is clearly identifiable progress that's been made over the generations.

Sure. But while it's great that now everyone but the most unreconstituted troglodyte believes that interracial marriage is cool and the n-word isn't, you now have young people insisting they totally don't see color and getting defensive when you claim that there might be racism in their milkshake and it's just a coincidence/unfortunate bookstore arrangement that prevents them from reading books about non-white people.



I'd believe a young white person who said they were mostly colorblind, depending on their circumstances.


I'd believe they're a clueless naif.

backslashbaby
01-04-2012, 12:04 AM
I feel the need to re-post Lisa's useful link re: colorblindness. (http://www.tolerance.org/magazine/number-36-fall-2009/colorblindness-new-racism)

And an excellent link it is!

Please also check out Nnorom Azuonye's article for her perspective, which I think is an interesting take to consider as well.

http://www.africaresource.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=753:what-is-illuminating-about-adichies-the-danger-of-a-single-story&catid=137:literary&Itemid=349

thebloodfiend
01-04-2012, 12:08 AM
I don't believe in colorblindness.

It is impossible to be colorblind unless you're actually clinically colorblind.

If someone told me that they didn't see race, I'd say they were a liar unless they were blind. I like to think of myself as one of the most progressive people ever to grace this earth with my liberal awesomeness and even I'm not "colorblind".

backslashbaby
01-04-2012, 12:10 AM
Sure. But while it's great that now everyone but the most unreconstituted troglodyte believes that interracial marriage is cool and the n-word isn't, you now have young people insisting they totally don't see color and getting defensive when you claim that there might be racism in their milkshake and it's just a coincidence/unfortunate bookstore arrangement that prevents them from reading books about non-white people.





I'd believe they're a clueless naif.

Yeah, there are few coincidences, and the idea of racial privilege and subconscious racism is crucial to teach!

-- I'd believe they're a clueless naif --

But it also sounds like you thought psychomacologist must be white, presumably because of her argument. So it goes not just both ways, but all sorts of ways ;)

As long as no one is trying to be right more than they are trying to understand the world around them, imho, it'll all work out.

Jcomp
01-04-2012, 12:15 AM
When people say they don't see color, I always joke that if someone robbed you, one of the first things you'd tell the cops is what color they were. I know the whole "don't see color" thing is supposed to be a cute way of saying "I don't care what race you are," but it just sounds so damn silly.

backslashbaby
01-04-2012, 12:20 AM
When people say they don't see color, I always joke that if someone robbed you, one of the first things you'd tell the cops is what color they were. I know the whole "don't see color" thing is supposed to be a cute way of saying "I don't care what race you are," but it just sounds so damn silly.

:) That actually brings up an interesting question, if it's not too touchy a subject. Do you (does everybody) really always notice race that much?

Haven't y'all ever gone through the drive-thru, for instance, and could not say the race of who took your order or cashed you out? I am not known for my powers of observation unless I'm paying attention, it's true, but does everybody really always notice color?

Jcomp
01-04-2012, 12:29 AM
:) That actually brings up an interesting question, if it's not too touchy a subject. Do you (does everybody) really always notice race that much?

Haven't y'all ever gone through the drive-thru, for instance, and could not say the race of who took your order or cashed you out? I am not known for my powers of observation unless I'm paying attention, it's true, but does everybody really always notice color?

*shrug*. I try to notice everything. Color, voice, attire, mannerisms, the whole thing. Part of this is because, for me personally as a writer, I like to catalogue and think of specific descriptions for characteristics I observe because I feel it helps me. I'm also trying to compensate for my woeful inabiltity to remember names. But part of it, in my opinion, is just paying attention. Unless you're really looking completely past someone for whatever reason, how do you not see some of these things?

So yeah, I remember that the cashier today at lunch was a young, short blonde white girl, the white lady who poured my drink was an older blonde with glasses, the guy who came to get a refill had fair skin and low-cut, black hair, the older trio of black people to my right were laughing it up and enjoying themselves while the black couple at the table to my left were dour, and the two white older gentlemen also to my left were discussing politics and...

I don't see any of this as bad. I'm not categorizing people or judging them based on these observations, I'm just noticing and observing things as they are. I dunno... maybe I'm Jason Bourne...

Psychomacologist
01-04-2012, 12:30 AM
Holy crap, did you really just say that?

Yeah, sorry, but no. First of all, take a really good look at anyone (always a white person) who says they "don't see color." You are looking at a disingenuous dillweed. We all see color. We are all affected by color. We are affected by cultural biases and historical baggage. Even those of us who try really, really hard not to be prejudiced and who honestly, sincerely believe that race is just a social construct and color doesn't matter and we're all just people inside and no one should care -- that is the ideal, it's a great thing to aspire to, but it is not reality.
To be clear, I am talking about my own experience of growing up in a hugely white area in the UK. Perhaps I was lucky in my peers. I'm sure it's probably different in the States. But that was my experience growing up: that the older generation had to try harder to be accepting, whereas acceptance and tolerance seemed to come naturally to people my age.

This is the UK. Our race history is not the same as that in the States. I don't doubt that things are different in America, but I can only speak of my own experience.

I don't think there isn't racism any more and I believe I did mention that before. But the nature of it has changed. The biggest criticism I have of younger people today is that they are completely unaware of their own privilege and often don't think at all about race issues. I've noticed this in the UK - again, can't speak for the American situation. So whilst they might be perfectly polite and friendly towards a Black person in their workplace, and even be good friends with Black/Asian people in their private life, most White people are still unaware of the extent to which the system itself privileges them simply because of their whiteness.

But I have to say that overwhelmingly my experience in the UK has been that people are accepting of and welcoming towards minorities, and supportive of the problems minorities face - when those problems arise. Groups like the EDL and BNP are widely viewed as hateful racists by the majority of people, which tells me that we as a nation have very low tolerance for that kind of bigotry and are, in general, broadly accepting even if we aren't very good at talking about race or recognising race issues when they arise.

We're not perfect by any means. But I see a change occurring as we get more and more used to each other. (Apparently "mixed race" is the fastest growing ethnicity in the UK)


You seem to think that because "older" people includes folks who were old enough to oppose the Civil Rights Act and younger people weren't, therefore "real" prejudice is mostly confined to the older generation. It's definitely true that it's no longer socially acceptable to be an Archie Bunker, and that's good. And even people who are still pretty damn racist usually take it for granted that you can't overtly discriminate against someone because of their race. Yes, that's progress.
This is what I'm getting at. That they're better - that overt racism is largely condemned now. In my experience it has been the older generation who are more likely to say racist things or act in racist ways. The younger generation will politely avoid mentioning or noticing race (as they're aware it's "not done"). I don't think they're perfect or that there's no more problems. But my experience has been that down the years racism has become less acceptable and people have grown more used to diversity. There are ups and downs with these things and of course anomalies, but that's my observation.

Again, of the UK. Not America.


But if you think the younger, hipper, progressive crowd has gotten past race and it's all a thing of the past, you are probably living in a privileged little bubble of fellow hipsters.
I'm not a hipster. For the record, this is me:
http://a4.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/307681_10150289605286292_603331291_8250965_2553426 62_n.jpg

So I'll leave you to imagine the type of discrimination and bigotry I have to deal with in my daily life, and how many times I get to pick up a book with someone who looks like me on the cover - a book that isn't an "issue book" or telling me how oppressed I am.

And I believe I did say that I don't think racism is a thing of the past.


As for "white people don't have a problem reading about PoC; it's just that PoC books are shelved where they can't find them": I'll tell you what, put some books out there in the main section of the bookstore with black people on the covers, and I guarantee you that the majority of white book browsers will browse right past them figuring they're "black" books. Oh sure, you and me and a few other conscientiously progressive type might go out of our way to check them out because we want to be diverse, but most white people will just pass them by. And those people aren't trying to be discriminatory! If you asked them, the majority would claim (and mean it) that they aren't racist and would have no problem reading a book with a non-white main character.
Again, I can only speak from my own experience. I don't know what would happen in the scenario you describe (I'd like to, though). I'd like to think, based on what people have told me, that White readers wouldn't be put off by a Black character on the cover, just like they aren't put off seeing I Am Legend or Men in Black just because Will Smith is Black. But honestly there's no way of telling without doing the experiment.

And again, I think which side of the pond you did it in would make a difference too.


But those same people are the folks who, even if they read about a PoC main character, will visualize that character as white and then be surprised when they find out she isn't. (I.e., Hunger Games.) Which again, isn't deliberately racist -- they aren't trying to make PoC disappear. But they sure do see (and visualize) color.
I agree that this is a problem, but I think it's partly because we're so used to seeing fiction that's completely White that most people default to a white-washed cast because that's the norm. If diverse and racially mixed casts became more common, I think you'd see this bias change as people became used to seeing and visualizing non-White characters.



That being said, we definitely are, overall, more comfortable with mixing and more tolerant of other ethnic groups. But "more" is a relative term. There's still lots of work to be done.
This, I think, is what I'm trying to get at. (And failing to articulate) I don't for one minute think that there's no race problems any more, but there is a difference between older folks and the younger generation. The progress being made makes me hopeful but I don't think we're there yet. But the fact that we're making progress in the right direction to me is very encouraging.

I'd like us to live in a truly post-race colourblind society. Sadly I don't think we do, but we're closer to it than we were sixty or seventy years ago, and that gives me cause to be cautiously hopeful that things can change.

backslashbaby
01-04-2012, 12:44 AM
Jcomp, ah! No, I am the anti-Bourne, seriously. I'm just one of those absent-minded professor types, so it may just be me. I'd be unbelievably bad as a witness, unless I happened to be focused on the person for some other reason.

Jcomp
01-04-2012, 12:47 AM
Jcomp, ah! No, I am the anti-Bourne, seriously. I'm just one of those absent-minded professor types, so it may just be me. I'd be unbelievably bad as a witness, unless I happened to be focused on the person for some other reason.

Gotcha. Well... if we're ever in the same location when some shit goes down, at least you know you can follow me to safety because I've already planned for a quick exit and accounted for every contingency...

Psychomacologist
01-04-2012, 12:48 AM
I feel the need to re-post Lisa's useful link re: colorblindness. (http://www.tolerance.org/magazine/number-36-fall-2009/colorblindness-new-racism)
This is really interesting. I actually think that "colourblindness" is part of the problem of continuing racism, because so many White people are just totally blind to race issues and therefore don't see the race in any given situation. Consequently they don't see the racism either.


:) That actually brings up an interesting question, if it's not too touchy a subject. Do you (does everybody) really always notice race that much?

Haven't y'all ever gone through the drive-thru, for instance, and could not say the race of who took your order or cashed you out? I am not known for my powers of observation unless I'm paying attention, it's true, but does everybody really always notice color?
My experience of my peers is that as a younger generation, whilst we do obviously see and notice the colour of someone's skin, we don't classify people by skin colour (so my friends are just my friends, they're not my "White friends", "Black friends", "Asian friends" etc. And same for my peers - White or otherwise)

You know how David Cameron is always like "I spoke to a BLACK man!" like he thinks he should get a cookie and a medal for it? That's the generation that's really acutely aware of race and has to try reeeeaaaally hard to treat non-White people like normal people. Whereas the younger generation, whilst blithely unaware of their own White privilege, at least don't expect some kind of pat on the back for being friends with a non-White person.


I dunno... maybe I'm Jason Bourne...
O.O

Maybe you are.....

backslashbaby
01-04-2012, 12:48 AM
Ha! Good to know!


Gotcha. Well... if we're ever in the same location when some shit goes down, at least you know you can follow me to safety because I've already planned for a quick exit and accounted for every contingency...

Medievalist
01-04-2012, 01:07 AM
This is really interesting. I actually think that "colourblindness" is part of the problem of continuing racism, because so many White people are just totally blind to race issues and therefore don't see the race in any given situation. Consequently they don't see the racism either.

The assertion of colorblindness is clumsy at best. It's a way of ignoring and outright denying the fact that there are differences--and in effect serves to emphasize those differences from a position of power (starvation isn't a problem for you if you've got plenty of food--but your neighbor might see it differently).

It's not an assertion I have any sympathy for.

Roly
01-04-2012, 01:25 AM
I'm personally afraid that the blackness of my MC for ms1 is going to keep editors from taking a chance on it. My MC is nigerian as well to boot, and I'm sure lots of the (white) editors out there might either have lopsided ideas about the country, or are afraid readers might have lopsided ideas about the country and so won't take a chance on the ms, especially since regardless of the MC's blackness, the book really is just a contemporary fantasy.

It's scared me enough to make me consider whitewashing my characters later on. It's just hurtful, as a writer of color, to be told that people like you aren't good enough for leading roles in your own work.

Medievalist
01-04-2012, 01:39 AM
It's scared me enough to make me consider whitewashing my characters later on. It's just hurtful, as a writer of color, to be told that people like you aren't good enough for leading roles in your own work.

Don't.

The really good agents and good editors won't have a problem--and many are actively seeking out better literary representations of lived experience.

missesdash
01-04-2012, 01:46 AM
All of this talk of being colorblind reminds me of the French law that prohibits gathering any statistics based of race, ethnicity or religion.

This is all great and well and "enlightened" for the white people who implement it. But it's a disservice to any POC who have or currently are experiencing institutionalized racism.

In the US we can look at the numbers and ask hard questions: Why are black youth 48 times more likely to get jail time for possession charges than our white peers, even with all of the other aspects of the crime are the same? Why is it harder to get a job or mortgage with an "ethnic" name? How has slavery and the government's history of fueling money into the white class contributed to the distribution of wealth in the US?

These are all things you *need* race statistics to address. But if you bring these sort of topics up to the French they often respond that they are "color blind" and this sort of thing isn't a big deal. Being "colorblind" when it comes to race is a direct response to the fatigue caused by trying to make amends for centuries of government sanctioned (everywhere, not just in the US) institutionalized racism.

But if the white majority is tired of checking their privilege, imagine how tired POC are of being oppressed by it.

kuwisdelu
01-04-2012, 02:10 AM
I think what annoys me most about the colorblind-style of racism are all the rehashed Horatio Alger myths it spawns.

crunchyblanket
01-04-2012, 03:05 AM
You know how David Cameron is always like "I spoke to a BLACK man!" like he thinks he should get a cookie and a medal for it? That's the generation that's really acutely aware of race and has to try reeeeaaaally hard to treat non-White people like normal people. Whereas the younger generation, whilst blithely unaware of their own White privilege, at least don't expect some kind of pat on the back for being friends with a non-White person.

It's a good point. And I hope that the latter attitude (ideally tempered with an actual AWARENESS of white privilege, because srsly) may lead to a future in which publishers aren't afraid to 'take a chance' on a black protagonist. Yeah I'm a hopeless idealist.


It's scared me enough to make me consider whitewashing my characters later on. It's just hurtful, as a writer of color, to be told that people like you aren't good enough for leading roles in your own work.

No kidding. But don't let it stop you from being true to your story, and to your characters. The more writers refuse to whitewash, the more publishers will have to consider stories that aren't white-centric.

thebloodfiend
01-04-2012, 03:09 AM
I think what annoys me most about the colorblind-style of racism are all the rehashed Horatio Alger myths it spawns.

but all you need to do is pull yourself up by your bootstraps, duh. the irish* did it, so why can't you?



*Yeah, yeah, I know. But the Irish Richard Daley was quite fond of bootstrapping and compared the success of the Irish to every other minority back in his day.

kuwisdelu
01-04-2012, 03:35 AM
Bootstrapping is a specific statistical technique involving resampling from a sample distribution with replacement in order to obtain a potentially more accurate estimate of a statistic.

Alternative definitions exist.

missesdash
01-04-2012, 04:28 AM
Bootstrapping is a specific statistical technique involving resampling from a sample distribution with replacement in order to obtain a potentially more accurate estimate of a statistic.

Alternative definitions exist.

I'm trying to figure out what this is in response to lol. I know this isn't my conversation, but I was following. Was it just an fyi thing?

rugcat
01-04-2012, 04:40 AM
Well, you're talking about my generation there with "older" and I don't think we can be so easily dismissed! It was that generation, really, (i'm speaking about whites here who came of age in the 60's and 70's) who first broke down the barriers, who went out into the world and left their cultures behind to discover what it's like on the other side of the fence.I'm of that generation, and we all had to fight against prevailing norms. We were not colorblind -- far from it, though we truly tried to embrace other races and cultures. Society and our own baggage made that difficult to achieve, but we tried.

But I think we made some real strides. The sad thing is that we all believed that tolerance was the wave of the future -- that our kids would have less racial baggage than we did, and their kids even less, until it was truly no longer an issue.

A friend of mine once remarked: "We're the generation that demanded freedom. The next generation will be the ones who know what to do with it."

We were naive. That's not the way things turned out at all, imo.

thebloodfiend
01-04-2012, 04:46 AM
Bootstrapping is a specific statistical technique involving resampling from a sample distribution with replacement in order to obtain a potentially more accurate estimate of a statistic.

Alternative definitions exist.

I'm using it in reference to the racist arguments Chicago politicians used in the 50's and 60's.

poetinahat
01-04-2012, 04:55 AM
Bootstrapping is a specific statistical technique involving resampling from a sample distribution with replacement in order to obtain a potentially more accurate estimate of a statistic.

Alternative definitions exist.

http://i55.photobucket.com/albums/g133/poetinahat/Bootstrappers.jpg

kuwisdelu
01-04-2012, 04:59 AM
I'm using it in reference to the racist arguments Chicago politicians used in the 50's and 60's.

Let me have a little fun! :tongue

thebloodfiend
01-04-2012, 05:26 AM
Let me have a little fun! :tongue

Alright, Alright.


Me + math = :cry:

Sad, but true. Probably why I didn't go into engineering.

kuwisdelu
01-04-2012, 05:31 AM
I'm trying to figure out what this is in response to lol. I know this isn't my conversation, but I was following. Was it just an fyi thing?

Bloodfiend mentioned bootstrapping.

missesdash
01-04-2012, 05:42 AM
Bloodfiend mentioned bootstrapping.

Oh you made a funny.

lemonhead
01-04-2012, 05:54 AM
I was half-expecting you to say "they're virtually all part werewolf."

I hope my half-breed Injun protagonists do okay. It's what I know.

Outside the rez — and even on the rez — full blood is getting rarer and rarer.


totally agree (I also thought werewolf, HAHA). My DH is chippewa. But only in part. It's part of the conflict sometimes--- continuing to respect your elders by keeping the culture alive even as you get more and more white (or your kids anyways...)

I'm white btw...so while our kids have long hair out of respect for my DH's history (strong family background with the culture), it's sometimes met with ridicule because of the amount of mixed blood present. drives me insane. And, if I'm honest, makes me embaressed.

Silver-Midnight
01-04-2012, 06:09 AM
I'm going to be honest. I used to use the phrase "I don't see race" or "Race doesn't bother me", and to be honest it still doesn't bother me. I do notice race, but I notice race like I notice eye color, hair color, hairstyle, etc. I'm more likely to be distracted by a person's wild hairstyle(like having three or four different hair colors) than rather if they were black, white, Asian, or etc. But that's just how I feel, maybe I'm wrong. I really don't know. I really hope I'm saying that the right way.

As far as what the OP said, it's something that I've heard said and said again. I truthfully don't know how to answer it honestly. I haven't been published, nor am I currently trying to get published either. So, I don't know that much about markets. However, I have heard that it is tougher, and one of the reasons being is for what the OP said.

As far as me, I think if I did want to get published, and I submitted my work to a publisher who typically didn't do my genre (Interracial Romance) then it probably would be some what harder to get published. This probably explains why a lot of people that I know of that are in this genre either self-publish or are with small publishing houses. I do know that there are some IR romances on bigger houses, but I've seen them more at smaller houses in my personal experience.

I do use a lot of black female leads in my stories. I don't really think that I'm afraid, but more likely I'm realistic, if that's the right word for it, about whether or not I'll get published, provided I want to.

I'm black by the way.

Silver-Midnight
01-04-2012, 06:20 AM
Sigh. Things are so complicated when they really shouldn't be. Keep the AA section but bookstores also need to put POC writers in their genre's sections.

This! I completely agree. There are some writers who use POC characters, and I just can not find them, in both the AA section and their genre section. The thing that gets me even more is that in most of the bookstores that I've been to the AA section is abysmally small. I went to one bookstore, and they had Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan as a "New Release".

Sarashay
01-04-2012, 06:21 AM
When I was in college, I had a class where I had to pick a book of poems from a list and write about it. The list was, to my recollection, a pretty good example of diversity--it wasn't just white guys, but a variety of races, cultures and genders.

There was a book that I nearly picked that was by a white woman and then I decided, heck with it, I already know what it's like to be white and female. So I picked the book by an African-American Vietnam veteran--Dien Cai Dau by Yusef Komunyakaa. I liked it. A lot.

I didn't sell it back at the end of the year. I still have the book to this day, nestled on my shelf of poetry books.

I should really do that sort of thing more often.

aruna
01-04-2012, 10:52 AM
I don't believe in colorblindness.

It is impossible to be colorblind unless you're actually clinically colorblind.

If someone told me that they didn't see race, I'd say they were a liar unless they were blind. I like to think of myself as one of the most progressive people ever to grace this earth with my liberal awesomeness and even I'm not "colorblind".

This reminds me of my experiece raising two children in mostly homogenously white areas of Germany. Both of them had problems at school - they were isolated by the white kids, sometimes called names and even bullied. Whenever I brought up th eproblem with teachers, or with friends, or with ANYONE in Germany, they simply didn't believe me. Friends would say things like, oh that wouldn't happen in MY town, we're colourblind. Teachers would say that my son provoked any trouble himself, or that it just didn't happen -- that I had a chip on my shoulder. Everyone insisted that Germany was a colourblind society. But you know what? It wasn't. Why was it that my children almost automatically found their friends to be Turkish, or African refugees?
That was the reason I took them to England and put them into school there.





I'm of that generation, and we all had to fight against prevailing norms. We were not colorblind -- far from it, though we truly tried to embrace other races and cultures. Society and our own baggage made that difficult to achieve, but we tried.

But I think we made some real strides. The sad thing is that we all believed that tolerance was the wave of the future -- that our kids would have less racial baggage than we did, and their kids even less, until it was truly no longer an issue.

A friend of mine once remarked: "We're the generation that demanded freedom. The next generation will be the ones who know what to do with it."

We were naive. That's not the way things turned out at all, imo.

Not at all.

nighttimer
01-04-2012, 11:38 AM
No, I'm not being provocative. That's what my agent at the time told me quite bluntly, and my editor of the time hinted at. The specific instructions were to make sure that in a multi-racial couple, at least one of the pair was white, or at the very least half-white or from a white background; preferably the male.

And not to place my story in a country that white people don't care about or have not heard of (Guyana).

It's OK to have an all-POC cast or out of the way country if you are writing high literary fiction that could go up for a Booker Prize etc, or if you are writing explicitly for the black (for example) community, but not for mainstream fiction.

Now, I know that AWers and writers in generally have an open mind about the kind of books/characters/settings thy choose to read. But have you ever encountered this kind of xenophobia with publishers yourselves? Have you written books with an all-PoC cast that got accepted into the mainstream? (Some countries are an exception, such as India.) Can you think of such books that have made it in the general market?

The only ones I can think of are those Ladies Detective Agency books set in Botswana (but then, the author is white...) Have you noticed this generally in popular culture? For instance, I was jusr watching a documentary about animals in Africa, and young volunteers looking after them. Every one of the volunteers or vets working with the animals was a white person.

Generally, my instructions were to make sure there was enough "white" to offset all the "black". And I was so eager to please,
so eager to be a success, I did it. Would you?

The idealism of the writer often runs headlong into the pragmatism of the agent and the editor. They probably aren't raving racists telling you to "whiten" your book out of bigotry. They believe they know the marketplace better than you.

You sought them out for their expertise and ability to open closed doors. Naturally, you're going to squirm when you're advised to make a fundamental alteration to your life's work. It's as if you were entering your baby into a beautiful child contest and a friend who has participated in one before suggests you might want to dye the baby's hair from brunette to blonde.

A reasonable person would tell that friend you two no longer are. A person who wants success might swallow hard and make the suggested change.

If you find an artist who has never made a compromise to their art, hand them $5, buy the self-published book they're selling out of the trunk of the car and walk away whistling a happy tune for your good deed for the day.

I write non-fiction, so changing up someone's race is a situation I've never encountered. It's an interesting question though. Maybe I should ask my writer's group what they would do, but I don't think a White author ever gets told they need to make their book "more Black."

What I do believe is I'd be insulted by anyone who told me I had to pander to attract a certain sort of reader. That's a reader I'm not sure I would want in the first place. The reader has to meet me halfway. I'll write a good story and they have to have an open mind.

That's a fair deal for everyone. :Hug2:


I hope this doesn't come across the wrong way....

But how many of us want to read fiction that seriously distresses our emotions and so-called finer feelings? I'm not going to read a novel where the protagonist is raped, no matter what color she is (or the author is). And I'm not dismissing rape victims, either. It's just that I read to escape; I'm not spending time with something that defeats that purpose.

I guess that depends on what you're in search of as a reader. If you want to escape then you should definitely stick to escapist fare. There's a large market for that sort of thing and by all means, indulge yourself.

I don't read much in the way of non-fiction. I don't have time to read a lot of books so when I do, I want to read something that informs and enlightens me and that leaves out most escapist writing. But a good story is a good story and no matter how much blood, death, and suffering occurs within the telling, if it's told well, it's all good to me.


You know, I write historical fiction, crossing a range of protagonists and cultures--and some of the research I do comes up with really horrible facts. Almost none of them will ever go in the novel. They'll be hinted at, shadowed, or mitigated to bearable levels; then further touched with hope and dignity. I don't lie to readers, but I take care how I paint my pictures.

But what if there is no "hope and dignity" in the story? I don't want a story sweetened to make it palatable. Im a WWII buff. Don't give me a fairy tale romance in the middle of the Rape of Nanking, the Battan Death March, the firebombing of Dresden or a sexy shower scene set at Auschwitz. It won't ring true to me and I'll resent the author for trying to sugarcoat a monstrous tragedy.


Because--forgive me--trauma isn't unique. The black story in America, distressing as it is, is not unique. The world, measured over its last five thousand or so years, contains such records of atrocity that anyone trying to grasp the scope risks losing their mind. And when the horror is so intense, it loses its power to teach.

I guess I'm not as squeamish as you are then, L.C. Blackwell. I'm an adult and I want to read stories pitched to my adult maturity, intelligence and sensibilities. Can an amusing scene be written about African slaves chained and bound in the dark hold of a ship wallowing in their own feces? Doubt it, but that might be a challenge for a writer to take the ugliest possible scenario and find a way to make it less than horrific.

Steven Spielberg's only Best Picture Oscar (Saving Private Ryan wuz robbed by Shakespeare In Love) came on Schindler's List. Spielberg has a bad habit of lapsing into sappy sentimentality, but that's one film where he stuck the landing by not going squishy soft at the end.

The little girl in the red coat. Would you have told Spielberg he shouldn't have filmed that scene because the horror of her fate was so intense nothing was learned from it?

Which means I prefer to draw out the lessons that can be learned--make them memorable without being unbearable--and leave the rest to Infinite justice....[/QUOTE]



Some myths just take on a life of their own, and it would do everyone a disservice to believe that everyone is as racist as they were generations ago, imho. That's about the single story, too, isn't it? I don't mean that in a disingenuous way, like saying it's anywhere close to the same problem, but I'd hate for us to start to go there at all.

I'd believe a young white person who said they were mostly colorblind, depending on their circumstances. Don't expect that just because they are white doesn't mean that everyone else in their family isn't, for instance. Nowadays you never know :)

I believe colorblindness is a noble and worthy destination.

I also believe nobody ever reaches it.

aruna
01-04-2012, 12:06 PM
nighttimer: my three published books all have a multicultural cast. All have BME main characters, and white supporting characters. The white characters are important, because I write about the conflicts my BME go through in the course of their lives.

I also have three unpublished novels, all written between 2003 and 2007. They are unpublished because they are set in Guyana, a country deemed uncommercial by publishers. They are good novels. I'm not worried about them, and not upset about the publishing decision. They are simply waiting for the right time.
My orginal editor, a top dog from HarperCollins, (http://www.thebookseller.com/news/profits-surge-quercus-launches-new-imprint.html) has moved to a different, smaller, more dynamic and individual publisher. We are in good and amicable contact. She believes in me as a writer. I send her mss all the time, and she reads them almost immediately and gives me feedback; our last correspondence was just before Christmas. She knows that I don't get upset by rejections; I know that when the book is right, when the market is right, I'll be in. I write what I need to write; I no longer write for the market. One day, the market and what I need to write will be aligned.

Keyan
01-04-2012, 02:11 PM
This shelving-of-books thing ties me up in cognitive knots. It applies in similar fashion to QUILTBAG books, aka LGBT.

The positive side:

If you're a Poc, or QUILTBAG tribal member or affiliate, you know right where to go. This is especially helpful if, say, you're looking for books about People Like You, or non-fiction about a topic that is specific to your situation--say finding a racially open college, or buying a house as a same-sex couple.

But.

It's also a form of segregation, however inadvertent. It means hetero folk can largely avoid reading about QUILTBAG or non-PoC folk can avoid reading about PoC characters in novels; they can stay in their very large safe zone.

And it also removes easy access to those specially shelved books from people like Poetinahat who just want a good book.

And there are more of us, than the other--so I tend to think ultimately, I'd like books to be shelved in multiple locations (not really practical from a retailer's POV) or to rely on bibliographies, point-of-sale, and bookseller's notes--which, unfortunately, is somewhat idealistic.

So there you have it; I'm in a cognitive knot.

I agree. But I think Amazon is going to be the ultimate solution to the shelving issue.

Kitty27
01-04-2012, 05:31 PM
I hope this doesn't come across the wrong way....

But how many of us want to read fiction that seriously distresses our emotions and so-called finer feelings? I'm not going to read a novel where the protagonist is raped, no matter what color she is (or the author is). And I'm not dismissing rape victims, either. It's just that I read to escape; I'm not spending time with something that defeats that purpose.

No--and mainly for the reason I mentioned above. You're trying to cross raw bloody history with the popular desire for escapism, relaxation, entertainment, or just mindlessly blowing a few hours. It doesn't tend to work as a match.

You know, I write historical fiction, crossing a range of protagonists and cultures--and some of the research I do comes up with really horrible facts. Almost none of them will ever go in the novel. They'll be hinted at, shadowed, or mitigated to bearable levels; then further touched with hope and dignity. I don't lie to readers, but I take care how I paint my pictures.

Because--forgive me--trauma isn't unique. The black story in America, distressing as it is, is not unique. The world, measured over its last five thousand or so years, contains such records of atrocity that anyone trying to grasp the scope risks losing their mind. And when the horror is so intense, it loses its power to teach.

Which means I prefer to draw out the lessons that can be learned--make them memorable without being unbearable--and leave the rest to Infinite justice....


I want to read it,especially when it pertains to my particular culture. Yes,much has happened throughout the world but the Civil Rights Era never really gets its due in books or fiction. It's always washed clean and never is the real ugliness shown. You would never see a book/movie about a sassy Jewish maid bonding with her Nazi employer in WW2 over matzo ball soup. Never. Because that period in history is treated and regarded with the respect that is due. As are other historical atrocities that have occurred throughout the world.

Some read for escapism,heck,most of us do. But when it comes to eras that are a huge part of history,I don't like to read happy,happy tales. Nor do I like to see women of my culture written as little more than mammies. If I see a book set in that era,I want to see all sides of it and not just a fine gloss put over everything.


I think you could be right, Blackwell. I have never had the chance to read a real story by a real maid from that era. Fiction is different to real life. Reading such a story would be a downer; people need to feel some sort of justice doled out, and that just doesn't happen very often in real life. I think that the success of The Help is not necessarily down to a Disneyfying of the tragedy of what happened in these women's lives -- it's that the author managed to let us take the side of the maids -- and gave them a really worthy revenge -- horrible and yet funny at the same time. I believe that the fact that it was well-written AND had a wonderful "secret" is the reason that it is so successful.


A few related points:

I definitely don't read for entertainment alone. I want to know how other people really lived or live in places and times that I don't know. I read to learn and to empathise and to identify with such people. And I write primarily to share what I know about cultutes unfamiliar in the US and Europe with readers. It was very disappointing to learn -- whether or not it is true -- that readers don't care. According to my agent.

Is the need for escapism you mention the reason why SF and F can do so well, but realistic stories about foreign countries and cultures flounder? Because all too often those foreign stories are about atrocities that we feel are far away form our own societies?

And then, what about "misery memoirs"? They enoyed a great surge in sales some time ago and possibly still do. At my local bookshop in the UK there was a whole bookshelf dedicated to personal stories of unmitagted horrors: child abuse, child rape and so on.

Much food for thought.

The Help is not seen that way in the Black community. It is actively disliked for the reasons I mentioned and the fact that the "revenge" and "hilarity" is offset by a character comparing her skin color to that of a roach and other WTF moments. In no way did KS create an AA character that resonates with me or one I could understand. "The Help" embodies so many tropes/stereotypes that I won't even start with how many issues that book has because I would go on forever. I profoundly dislike it so I'll leave the subject alone.

I need to see the real when stories are set in a certain era. Otherwise,I can't get into or accept it. I don't mind when a writer injects some reality into a work of fiction. In fact,I look for it. I read memoirs and like to see people keep it 100 and talk about their lives. Not everyone has lived a happy existence and I like to see stories of how they dealt with it. That's very interesting to me.

Back to the original topic,it is both disturbing and sad that agents/editors would suggest such a thing. This world is multicultural and becoming even more so with each generation. I would think they want to reach these readers AND their wallets. It also does a disservice to white readers to suggest they are so racist that the sight of a POC on a cover or author would horrify them.

Nobody is color blind. If you meet someone,of course you notice their skin color! It's what you feel and do about that difference that tells the tale. Racism is still alive and well. It's just become socially unacceptable to be openly racist.

areteus
01-04-2012, 06:41 PM
Going back a bit on this thread (hey, I got to it late...), as far as I remember from my journeys around Egypt, the main 'sign of divinity' was always the sun over the person's head. I don't think anything else was universal - gold skin etc. These may have indicated that there was something godly about them but the one, sole identifying mark that a character in a mural was divine was the sun symbol above their head.

One of my favourite books is Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys and that is purely populated by PoC apart from about three characters (one of whom is the villain). What I found interesting about that books is that there are no descriptions of the characters and what they look like in terms of skin colour. The PoC aspects all come across in far more subtle ways (well, I suppose the big clue may be the link to Anansi who was described as black in American gods but if you hadn't read that you don't have that link). The same applies to Chine Mielville's King Rat (one of his early books). I don't remember there being any explicit description of the characters which indicates colour (though it was a while ago I last read it so I could be wrong) and yet the hints are there all throughout that the MC is a PoC.

Both books are best selling novels by popular authors and both have the majority of the characters being PoC including the MCs.

Oddly enough, I always imagined Shadow in American Gods as being black or at least mixed race. I can't tell you why I thought this because he is never described as such (or at all, apart from other people calling him 'big') and I think later evidence in the novella in Fragile Things sort of belies that anyway but it was a strong impression I get whenever I read that novel.

As for the OP, I have to say this. It shouldn't matter, not at all. However, it unfortunately still does because there are still racists (and homophobes and misogynists) out there who still have an influence on what gets bought and publishers do look to the bottom line. My solution to this issue is this: As wrtiers write what you want to write, as Medievalist says, and damn them for their racism/sexism/homophobia/whateverism. At the same time, as members of the reading public, make damned sure there is a demand for such books by buying them when they do come out and showing the publishers that there are people out there who are interested. It will be a slow process but I am sure we will get there in the end. Everytime I go into a primary school class and see children of different races working together, completely oblivious to the differences between them, I feel heartened that such things will soon be a thing of the past*

*Though when I go into a secondary school and see racism alive and well in the playground I do sometimes start to despair once more...

Medievalist
01-04-2012, 09:54 PM
I agree. But I think Amazon is going to be the ultimate solution to the shelving issue.

They could be--except that they're making things worse.

They are applying their OWN metadata that's idiotic, and sometimes, offensive.

Rufus Coppertop
01-06-2012, 12:29 PM
I'm white and I was perfectly happy to read on when I realized that Alex Cross was black.

The only reason I'll never read about Alex Cross again is that, James Patterson turned out to be an absolutely dreadful writer who uses his MC to advertise Mercedes cars and Krispy Kreme donuts and...he'd still be a godawful writer even if he wasn't slipping adverts into his novels every few chapters.

Give me a sympathetic, identifiable black MC in a well written book and I won't have a problem and.......I won't need to insist on visualizing that MC as white either!

Flicka
01-06-2012, 07:11 PM
I want to read it,especially when it pertains to my particular culture. Yes,much has happened throughout the world but the Civil Rights Era never really gets its due in books or fiction. It's always washed clean and never is the real ugliness shown. You would never see a book/movie about a sassy Jewish maid bonding with her Nazi employer in WW2 over matzo ball soup. Never. Because that period in history is treated and regarded with the respect that is due. As are other historical atrocities that have occurred throughout the world.

Some read for escapism,heck,most of us do. But when it comes to eras that are a huge part of history,I don't like to read happy,happy tales. Nor do I like to see women of my culture written as little more than mammies. If I see a book set in that era,I want to see all sides of it and not just a fine gloss put over everything.

I need to see the real when stories are set in a certain era. Otherwise,I can't get into or accept it. I don't mind when a writer injects some reality into a work of fiction. In fact,I look for it. I read memoirs and like to see people keep it 100 and talk about their lives. Not everyone has lived a happy existence and I like to see stories of how they dealt with it. That's very interesting to me .

I want the 'real' past too, warts and all. Life isn't all pleasant and pretending it is won't make me feel better. Also, escapism? I'm rarely tortured, whipped or forced to lie in a muddy ditch for three months with a festering leg sore so reading about that IS escapism to me. YMMV, of course. I don't buy for one second that the general reading public can't stand dark tales. Stieg Larsson isn't cheerful and books and movies with serial killers are doing fairly well. On the contrary, I think horror has a definite appeal (anyone else hear the song Vicariously with Tool? It has a point).

However, when dealing with certain horrors, both glossing them over and exploiting them is equally bad. And it isn't just what happened but how and to whom. Kitty recounted a story of a rape. That exact thing happened to my great-great grandmother, only she wasn't a slave, just a maid. But glossing over that such things happened to poor Swedish women is, to me, not comparable to glossing over that such things happened to Black American women. Especially not when the story is told by people from 'the outside'. You can't seperate that from the institutionalised oppression PoC have experienced. The dynamics are just very, very different.

I'm as white as can be, but my father belongs to a minority people here - the Sami. They were traditionally nomadic gatherers and hunters who later took up reindeer herding. They lived in tents and had their own religion. Ethnically, they were considered to be of Asian heritage by the wonderful race anthropologists of the early 20th century. They were treated very badly; they were deprived of their religion and language and were declared racially inferior. My grandfather's brother was so ashamed of his heritage he never told his children - it was my father who broke the news to them. If someone wrote about them and glossed over the treatment they had, that would make me angry in a way that glossing over the class dynamics that meant that an employer could rape his maid and force a child on her she didn't want, the way it happened to my great-great-grandmother, never could. It's different in the same way that makes a serial killer a murderer but a Nazi prison guard guilty of crimes against humanity. So really, some stories mustn't be told without the horror. I do fully sympathise with those who feel the history of African Americans is such a story.

Back to the original topic: I think it is very strange if white Brits can identify enough with Swedes to read Larsson and Mankell but not with their own countrymen of a different skin colour. It just sounds... Weird. I'd even go as far as saying that if they think so, they're labouring under a miscomprehension that means that skin colour is far more important to them than they likely think it is. There are no rational arguments that explain why that should be.

aruna
01-06-2012, 08:22 PM
Back to the original topic: I think it is very strange if white Brits can identify enough with Swedes to read Larsson and Mankell but not with their own countrymen of a different skin colour. It just sounds... Weird. I'd even go as far as saying that if they think so, they're labouring under a miscomprehension that means that skin colour is far more important to them than they likely think it is. There are no rational arguments that explain why that should be.

Perhaps because there is no British guilt associated with the dark material contained in the Larsson books? Unlike slavery/colonialism?
I do know of two (white) English women, one who saw the movie and one who read the book, who said they could not take the rape scene.

Flicka
01-06-2012, 08:44 PM
Perhaps because there is no British guilt associated with the dark material contained in the Larsson books? Unlike slavery/colonialism?
I do know of two (white) English women, one who saw the movie and one who read the book, who said they could not take the rape scene.

I think this tangles up two different issues:

1. Are people willing to read about horrible things? My answer is 'yes' based on what obviously sells. But not everybody likes or can stomach horrors. I know cruelty to infants is more than I can handle. I bawled my eyes out over a tiny napalm victim on a documentary the other day.

2. Are people willing to read about people of a different skin tone and if not, why? The argument that people have an easier time identifying with people 'like themselves' is often brought out to explain why white people (as is sometimes claimed) want to read about white people. I don't see why a white Brit would have more in common with a Swede than a dark-skinned Brit. If they feel they do, I'd argue they are basing their identification very much on skin colour which is sad.

Then there is the third question; do we especially shy away from stories that includes both 1 and 2? I honestly don't know. I don't think so. I think stories in which PoC are victims are actually more common than those in which they are heroes, which implies that rather than guilt it's about reluctance to ascribe agency to PoC.

Cyia
01-06-2012, 08:59 PM
The appearance of the person on the cover is less important than the overall appearance of the cover, IMO. And sadly, when covers are reshot due to public outcry over the erroneous representation of a character as white when he/she is not, the second covers don't quite live up to the originals.

Take, for example, the two most prominent/recent instances of "whitewashing" a cover.

http://i1181.photobucket.com/albums/x423/JosinLMcQuein/liar.jpg

Original cover looks like a young girl, the black and white image suggests innocence. She looks like someone's removed her mouth, covering with her hair, suggesting what comes out of it is carefully controlled and not by her.

Restaged cover looks older, and deceitful because of the way it's presented. This model has pulled her collar around her mouth, suggesting that she's responsible for the lies coming out of her mouth.

The images are staged similarly, but identically, and the differences matter.

and then there's this one:

http://i1181.photobucket.com/albums/x423/JosinLMcQuein/images-1.jpg

The original cover is gorgeous (though I do remember the author's concerns about her looking like she's in her undies.) It's staged beautifully with a magical air to it; the lighting on the glass suggests secret and wondrous things to be discovered. And undies or not, the clothes fit the era.

The restaged cover... isn't really staged at all. There's no hint of adventure. The girl on the cover, again, looks slightly mischievous, and without the period backdrop, her clothes could pass for contemporary. This cover looks like someone's found an old key in an attic and is going to unlock a trunk/family secret.

No matter what the model looked like, cover 1 would sell more than cover 2 because it's more interesting. There is, of course, no way to know if this is due to time constraints or something more unpleasant, but I see no reason a professional photographer/graphic artist couldn't restage only the model and splice her into the more appealing cover shot.

/ artistic composition rant.

aruna
01-06-2012, 09:17 PM
2. Are people willing to read about people of a different skin tone and if not, why? The argument that people have an easier time identifying with people 'like themselves' is often brought out to explain why white people (as is sometimes claimed) want to read about white people. I don't see why a white Brit would have more in common with a Swede than a dark-skinned Brit. If they feel they do, I'd argue they are basing their identification very much on skin colour which is sad.



I think this is exactly what is happening; I do think that white English readers in general identify more with a white Swede than with a black Brit. And I think they are more likely to choose a book about all-whites in Scandinavia than about, say, all-blacks in Kenya. The latter would need some mitigating white main characters -- such as in the best-selling Barbara Wood's Green City in the Sun, (http://www.barbarawood.com/my-titles/book-11) which I believe was a best-seller when it was first published:



Green City in the Sun is the saga of two proud and powerful families -- one British, one African -- and their battle over Kenya's destiny in the twentieth century.

It is 1917 when pioneer Dr. Grace Treverton arrives in Kenya, determined to bring modern medicine to the natives. Her brother, Sir Valentine Treverton, has his own dream for the British protectorate: to establish an agricultural empire there to rival any in England. But the dreams of the wealthy Trevertons collide with those of the African family that has lived on the land for generations. Grace finds a deadly rival in Wachera, an African medicine woman, who fights to maintain native traditions against the encroaching whites. Wachera places a curse on the Trevertons, after which a series of tragedies threatens to destroy what the once great family fought to create. And the fates of future generations of these two remarkable families become inextricably bound.
Told, of course, from the Treverton POV! (ETA that blurb really gets my shackles up and describes EXACTLY the phenomenon described in the OP.)

missesdash
01-06-2012, 09:23 PM
@cyia

I think it's a matter of who it's more important to. In both instances, POC are more likely to pick the second book up. I understand your point about composition, but I definitely think it takes a back seat to whitewashing. One is only offensive on an aesthetic level, the other tells us we simply don't exist.

thebloodfiend
01-06-2012, 09:32 PM
@cyia

I think it's a matter of who it's more important to. In both instances, POC are more likely to pick the second book up. I understand your point about composition, but I definitely think it takes a back seat to whitewashing. One is only offensive on an aesthetic level, the other tells us we simply don't exist.

I agree. I made a point to buy Liar (even if I didn't like it that much after I got it from the library) because of the cover and the issues surrounding it. I wish the same outcry had been made about the cover for Across the Universe.

Cyia
01-06-2012, 09:36 PM
@cyia

I think it's a matter of who it's more important to. In both instances, POC are more likely to pick the second book up. I understand your point about composition, but I definitely think it takes a back seat to whitewashing. One is only offensive on an aesthetic level, the other tells us we simply don't exist.

I think I made my point badly. I wasn't saying that the composition was more important, I was trying to point out that the composition was different for no good reason.

The effort expended and the resulting product are far different from the first cover to its replacement, as though it were nothing but a "quick fix" without any real thought behind it.

Jcomp
01-06-2012, 09:47 PM
I think I made my point badly. I wasn't saying that the composition was more important, I was trying to point out that the composition was different for no good reason.

The effort expended and the resulting product are far different from the first cover to its replacement, as though it were nothing but a "quick fix" without any real thought behind it.

Yeah, that's what I took from it. Like you said, we can never know the reasoning, but it does seem like the parties in charge just went with putting a person of color onto the cover instead of actually re-staging the visually effective cover again with a more appropriate model.

missesdash
01-06-2012, 10:25 PM
I actually like the second "liar" cover and think it's very close to the original with necessary changes. It makes sense, to me at least, that they went with her collar instead of her hair for very practical reasons: in the story she states her hair is tightly curled and kinky. You can't wrap that kind of hair around your mouth without covering your face.

Similarily, the model is black but not very dark skinned, so putting it in black and white would still be white washing because it wouldn't be clear she was a POC, even with the hair.

They could have gone with another cover entirely, but as far as reinterpreting the original goes, I think it works.

I don't like either of the second covers, however.

ETA: I forgot to add that I agree it seems rushed. I imagine a reissue has a lower budget?

Vedren
01-17-2012, 08:58 AM
I know this. This kinda topic I wouldn't even need a publisher or agent to hint me. It's the obvious.

Brings me to this: http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=6919960#post6919960

Diana_Rajchel
01-17-2012, 07:10 PM
It beats me why people would want to read about folks from their own culture -- their peers. Hmmm....very odd. And yeah, this is racism.

...I'm with Mardigras on this one. I find the entire attitude that white readers only want to see white mirrors appalling. People that read often read to enjoy, but also read to grow their minds. I do not want to spend my life reading about fat white women like myself, no matter how much I enjoy my own life. There's nothing to discover there.

Personally, I'd have a few things to say to your agent about making such assumptions on a personal level. On a professional level, I'd say, "Great. Can you show me the marketing research on that?"

Lucas
01-19-2012, 11:19 PM
And if all main characters are green-skinned? ^^

FoamyRules
01-27-2012, 10:22 PM
Well this is an interesting conversation and worth discussing :). I think it depends on the area you grew up in whether or not someone would want to either read about Caucasians or POCs (Black, Native, Arab, Asian, etc) In the US they make up 80% of the population so of course since they're a larger group they make up a much larger audience. Does this mean that none of them would want to read about POCs? Not necessarily. I know quite a few of them who wouldn't mine as long as the story is interesting. But there are POCs here who wouldn't want to read a story about a Caucasian regardless if the story is good or not. Me on the other hand wouldn't mind it and I'm technically a POC (mother is half Native American and half African American)
But on a global scale Caucasians only make up about 15% of the world population so in certain countries they may be the majority but in the world they're actually a minority. I think in general many people regardless of ethnicity are pretty open minded in this day and age.

missesdash
01-28-2012, 12:13 AM
Well this is an interesting conversation and worth discussing :). I think it depends on the area you grew up in whether or not someone would want to either read about Caucasians or POCs (Black, Native, Arab, Asian, etc) In the US they make up 80% of the population so of course since they're a larger group they make up a much larger audience. Does this mean that none of them would want to read about POCs? Not necessarily. I know quite a few of them who wouldn't mine as long as the story is interesting. But there are POCs here who wouldn't want to read a story about a Caucasian regardless if the story is good or not. Me on the other hand wouldn't mind it and I'm technically a POC (mother is half Native American and half African American)
But on a global scale Caucasians only make up about 15% of the world population so in certain countries they may be the majority but in the world they're actually a minority. I think in general many people regardless of ethnicity are pretty open minded in this day and age.

I agree with this, but wanted to point out that whites (non-hispanic whites) actually only make up ~63% of the US population. Hence the whole "whites will be a minority by 2050" deal.

Corinne Duyvis
01-28-2012, 03:50 AM
I agree. I made a point to buy Liar (even if I didn't like it that much after I got it from the library) because of the cover and the issues surrounding it. I wish the same outcry had been made about the cover for Across the Universe.

The guy on the AtU cover looked different on the ARC, actually. Make of that what you will. (http://thebooksmugglers.com/2011/01/smugglers%E2%80%99-stash-and-news.html)

White Cat and Uglies both had white people on the cover as well, and I read those protags as PoC.

In White Cat (http://geekdame.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/white-cat.jpg), there's talk of Cassel's grandfather possibly being Indian (as in India, not as in Native), and that someone in his family might be descended from a runaway slave. He says: "People are always coming up to me on trains and talking to me in different languages, like it's obvious I'll understand them." Apparently he can pass for Indian, Italian, Iroquois...

In Uglies (http://www.simonandschuster.com/specials/kids/behindthepulse/uglies/images/UGLIES800.jpg), Tally describes herself as having a wide nose and frizzy hair, and later mentions her "already brown arms gradually deepen[ing] in color."


I see you've all moved back to the original topic. Sorry to drag this up again. :D

FoamyRules
01-28-2012, 10:42 AM
I agree with this, but wanted to point out that whites (non-hispanic whites) actually only make up ~63% of the US population. Hence the whole "whites will be a minority by 2050" deal.
63% that's true. Thanks for the correction.

AKyber36
02-01-2012, 08:10 AM
I just read through the entire discussion, and I have to agree that it's so hard finding novels of people like yourself selling well unless you're Caucasian. I remembered rummaging through school shelves and Scholastic book fairs as a child, always trying to find books with Asian (Chinese and Japanese) characters as the MC. Those selections were rare and few. 'Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes' was the first and a novel about a Vietnamese-American male MC and his cousin were the only ones I found. Of course, Amy Tan moved in as I grew up, but I stopped reading her after 'Kitchen God's Wife' because it depressed me about how helpless the poor wife was and what a jerkwad her husband was.

Since then, more books have been flowing in but still hard to find Asian MCs - particularly male MCs - that weren't martial artists, ninjas, math whizzes, or samurai unless the author was Asian. Murakami is one of those few who writes a true-to-life Asian MC. I found that I've stopped reading most Chinese novels because they all take place either during the Cultural Revolution or during ancient China and I glutted myself on those as a teenager. A lot of them are immigrant experience novels as well, which I also don't read. Mostly, in fiction, I find looking for a MC like that is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. You know, some Asian guy or girl who's into business, astronomy, a fighter pilot, likes bungee jumping or being a daredevil, and isn't all into their numbers or science or wears glasses and is a nerd or karate-chops the air or even is a sex symbol (*coughAsianwomencough*). Hell, even bring in Asian assassins - modern ones (which is something I'm springing off of for a short story of mine).

I think that was why when 'Avatar: The Last Airbender' was whitewashed, I was incredulous. Sure, it started off animated. But the subject material was very Chinese and Japanese and Inuit focused and Aang just had to be white? I threw up my hands at that point.

thebloodfiend
02-01-2012, 08:15 AM
Mostly, in fiction, I find looking for a MC like that is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. You know, some Asian guy or girl who's into business, astronomy, a fighter pilot, likes bungee jumping or being a daredevil, and isn't all into their numbers or science or wears glasses and is a nerd or karate-chops the air or even is a sex symbol (*coughAsianwomencough*). Hell, even bring in Asian assassins - modern ones (which is something I'm springing off of for a short story of mine).

The MC in my current novel is Japanese and he isn't into science, he doesn't wear glasses, and he's actually just supposed to be one of the asshole prep guys who sleeps around a lot. I feel your pain, regarding stereotypes in fiction, which is why I try to avoid them.


I think that was why when 'Avatar: The Last Airbender' was whitewashed, I was incredulous. Sure, it started off animated. But the subject material was very Chinese and Japanese and Inuit focused and Aang just had to be white? I threw up my hands at that point.

That pissed me off to no end and I'm not even Asian. The movie wasn't even good (saw it at the dollar show).

kuwisdelu
02-01-2012, 08:23 AM
Since then, more books have been flowing in but still hard to find Asian MCs - particularly male MCs - that weren't martial artists, ninjas, math whizzes, or samurai unless the author was Asian. Murakami is one of those few who writes a true-to-life Asian MC.

In addition to Haruki Murakami (I assume he's the one you're talking about), you can also check out the other Murakami, Ryu. His stuff is more genre fiction-y but still with a bit of a literary bent, but still with regular, everyday Japanese people as main characters. Well... not always "regular, everyday," but I think you know what I mean...

FoamyRules
02-01-2012, 08:53 AM
I just read through the entire discussion, and I have to agree that it's so hard finding novels of people like yourself selling well unless you're Caucasian. I remembered rummaging through school shelves and Scholastic book fairs as a child, always trying to find books with Asian (Chinese and Japanese) characters as the MC. Those selections were rare and few. 'Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes' was the first and a novel about a Vietnamese-American male MC and his cousin were the only ones I found. Of course, Amy Tan moved in as I grew up, but I stopped reading her after 'Kitchen God's Wife' because it depressed me about how helpless the poor wife was and what a jerkwad her husband was.

Since then, more books have been flowing in but still hard to find Asian MCs - particularly male MCs - that weren't martial artists, ninjas, math whizzes, or samurai unless the author was Asian. Murakami is one of those few who writes a true-to-life Asian MC. I found that I've stopped reading most Chinese novels because they all take place either during the Cultural Revolution or during ancient China and I glutted myself on those as a teenager. A lot of them are immigrant experience novels as well, which I also don't read. Mostly, in fiction, I find looking for a MC like that is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. You know, some Asian guy or girl who's into business, astronomy, a fighter pilot, likes bungee jumping or being a daredevil, and isn't all into their numbers or science or wears glasses and is a nerd or karate-chops the air or even is a sex symbol (*coughAsianwomencough*). Hell, even bring in Asian assassins - modern ones (which is something I'm springing off of for a short story of mine).

I think that was why when 'Avatar: The Last Airbender' was whitewashed, I was incredulous. Sure, it started off animated. But the subject material was very Chinese and Japanese and Inuit focused and Aang just had to be white? I threw up my hands at that point.
You bring out some excellent points. I don't know I guess I would've been more accepting of the Avatar The Last Airbender movie if Aang had of been Asian and Katara and her brother had of been Eskimo since they were from the South Pole and not white. I don't mind reading about white characters but I do want some diversity for a change.

AKyber36
02-01-2012, 09:44 AM
The MC in my current novel is Japanese and he isn't into science, he doesn't wear glasses, and he's actually just supposed to be one of the asshole prep guys who sleeps around a lot. I feel your pain, regarding stereotypes in fiction, which is why I try to avoid them.


That pissed me off to no end and I'm not even Asian. The movie wasn't even good (saw it at the dollar show).

That MC sounds really down-to-earth real, which I like. =) I hope your novel goes well, and yeah, stereotypes suck. Sure, some people 'fit' it but pigeonholing a whole race into it pretty much ticks me off. This goes for any race or gender, IMO.

I heard it was bad. My bro went to see it and he was a lot more lenient. Because Toph's clan was apparently cast as Chinese or Asian, he was a bit more relaxed on the issue. But he still swears that if Toph's not Chinese or Asian, he'll throw a hissy fit himself. For me, I'm just cheesed that in 2012, I still can't find a strong Asian male MC - the women get it better in a way, I think - who can carry a movie on his merit without being subjected to stereotypes or is played off as the effeminate Asian.

kuwisdelu: I've seen his name on the bookshelves before as well. Thanks for giving me the recommendation. =) I've also read Kobo Abe (the Kafka of Japan), Kenzaburo Oe (amazing writer), and the YA author Noriko Ogiwara (very strong female and male MCs in her fantasy novels as well).

FoamyRules: Same here. I'm fine with reading novels with white MCs - I do it quite often - but once in a while, I like to mix things up. Variety's never boring and I get to see different perspectives if the MCs change cultures and viewpoints. I was pleasantly surprised in Neal Stephenson's "Snow Crash" when I found out that Hiro (Hiroaki) Protagonist (groan, lol) was half black and half Korean but named Japanese because his black dad served during WWII in the Pacific. Even moreso when I found out he was a high-tech pizza delivery boy and a hacker. XD That was fun. His nemesis is an Aleut as well, so talk about a nice mix-up.

FoamyRules
02-01-2012, 10:25 AM
That MC sounds really down-to-earth real, which I like. =) I hope your novel goes well, and yeah, stereotypes suck. Sure, some people 'fit' it but pigeonholing a whole race into it pretty much ticks me off. This goes for any race or gender, IMO.

I heard it was bad. My bro went to see it and he was a lot more lenient. Because Toph's clan was apparently cast as Chinese or Asian, he was a bit more relaxed on the issue. But he still swears that if Toph's not Chinese or Asian, he'll throw a hissy fit himself. For me, I'm just cheesed that in 2012, I still can't find a strong Asian male MC - the women get it better in a way, I think - who can carry a movie on his merit without being subjected to stereotypes or is played off as the effeminate Asian.

kuwisdelu: I've seen his name on the bookshelves before as well. Thanks for giving me the recommendation. =) I've also read Kobo Abe (the Kafka of Japan), Kenzaburo Oe (amazing writer), and the YA author Noriko Ogiwara (very strong female and male MCs in her fantasy novels as well).

FoamyRules: Same here. I'm fine with reading novels with white MCs - I do it quite often - but once in a while, I like to mix things up. Variety's never boring and I get to see different perspectives if the MCs change cultures and viewpoints. I was pleasantly surprised in Neal Stephenson's "Snow Crash" when I found out that Hiro (Hiroaki) Protagonist (groan, lol) was half black and half Korean but named Japanese because his black dad served during WWII in the Pacific. Even moreso when I found out he was a high-tech pizza delivery boy and a hacker. XD That was fun. His nemesis is an Aleut as well, so talk about a nice mix-up.
Oh Snow Crash is one of my all time favorites. I also noticed the lack of Asian MCs in fiction and most of them are stereotypical, which is why in my romances even though the heroine is usually a black woman the love interests have been of Asian descent. There's nothing wrong with variety, I think it's a good thing.