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aruna
01-06-2014, 11:04 AM
Interesting article in the Guardian.
(http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/31/books-2014-people-of-colour)
I get her. I truly do.

...my list has an entry requirement: I will only read novels written by authors who are not from western-European backgrounds. I will not be reading anything written by white authors.

Of course, I know accusations of reverse racism are pending, on the same vein that women-only book prizes and women-only reading lists have been declared sexist. And no doubt people will say I am limiting myself by purposely avoid books on the basis of an arbitrary factor. But it's the opposite: I see it as a way of opening myself up to new stories, rather than re-iterations of the same formulaic fables we've heard time and time again.

aruna
01-06-2014, 11:16 AM
Her blog post:
http://sunili.net/post/71763879418/books-to-read#disqus_thread

Can only say: I agree wholeheartedly!

cornflake
01-06-2014, 12:10 PM
It's not so much the discrimination that bothers me - whatever, though yeah, if someone were all about reading only white, male authors I suspect it'd garner a reaction from her.

It's the idea expressed in the quote you pulled. Apparently, white folk, or European folk, or European white women, or whatever, all write "the same formulaic fables we've heard time and time again," while the people from other countries or skin tones apparently all write "new" stories.

Yeah. That's the kind of attitude I think can be more destructive than overt racism. Overt racism is stupid; most people with two or three neurons to rub together don't avow it, at least publicly. This 'I will read of the black people and hear their new, different tales, from their completely unique experiences,' smacks, to me, of the patented 'magical black folk,' of movie and tv trope.

Why presume people of one background (it's not even a remotely specific background) will all write the same "formulaic" thing and people from another place or another skin tone will do something else? There are white people of European descent in projects in Chicago and black people who grew up in wealthy neighbourhoods and went to the best schools. There's someone with the same thoughts, dreams, ideas, etc., in some far-flung corner of Zimbabwe as someone in Sacramento.

I saw this (http://theboywhoflies.com/)documentary, The Boy Who Flies about a paraglider who ends up in Malawi and teaches someone there to glide. The guy in Malawi always wanted to be a pilot, but didn't have the money to go to school. I'm pretty sure that doesn't have shit to do with his being black or non-European, if you see what I mean.

Putputt
01-06-2014, 12:41 PM
Interesting article in the Guardian.
(http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/31/books-2014-people-of-colour)
I get her. I truly do.



...my list has an entry requirement: I will only read novels written by authors who are not from western-European backgrounds. I will not be reading anything written by white authors.

Of course, I know accusations of reverse racism are pending, on the same vein that women-only book prizes and women-only reading lists have been declared sexist. And no doubt people will say I am limiting myself by purposely avoid books on the basis of an arbitrary factor. But it's the opposite: I see it as a way of opening myself up to new stories, rather than re-iterations of the same formulaic fables we've heard time and time again.


Ehh...I...as a PoC, I want to applaud her decision to do this, but her reasoning just rubbed me the wrong way. My first thought upon seeing "I see it as a way of opening myself up to new stories, rather than re-iterations of the same formulaic fables we've heard time and time again" was, "Butbutbut! I'm a PoC and I write stories that have nothing to do with my PoC-ness!! :(" It just feels like she's lumping all non-write writers into one giant lump of "People who write different stories"...and the only thing it's based on is the fact that we're not white. I find that and the thought that white writers write "the same formulaic fables we've heard time and time again" really quite offensive.

Instead of choosing books based on the color of the author's skin, a better goal would be something like, "I will only read books written ABOUT characters or settings that offer a peek into different cultural and/or socioeconomic environments because I'm tired of reading books that revolve around middle class western-Europeans."

aruna
01-06-2014, 12:50 PM
Instead of choosing books based on the color of the author's skin, a better goal would be something like, "I will only read books written ABOUT characters or settings that offer a peek into different cultural and/or socioeconomic environments because I'm tired of reading books that revolve around middle class western-Europeans."
Yes, that's a much better way of putting it.
One of the reasons I started writing at all is because I was truly tired of the same same cultural assumptions and backgrounds: Europe, mostly UK, and USA, told by people of those backgrounds. Growing up, it was ALL I ever got to read. I longed for other stories, other backgrounds.
But when I started writing myself, I was told, by my publisher, to keep away from my own backyard (Guyana) as the mainstream (white) reading public wasn't interested. And we all know the meme that putting a PoC on the cover means that white people aren't likely to read it. I don't know how much this perception that publishers have is true; I just know that in order to break it, yes, we DO need to make a concerted effort to read those other stories, other background. It may be only PoC who want to do this. It would be great if white Europeans and Americans followed suit.

The problem, I think, is her using the term "white" for the authors she won't read this year.

aruna
01-06-2014, 01:00 PM
Cornflake: the problems you express with her view is that it has to do with skin colour. For me, it never was about skin colour. It was always about backgrounds, cultures, learning how other people think and move and have their being -- which is NOT the same all over the world.
I really am tired of mainstream (white) mentality and viewpoint in books. And I don't really want to read about people in Malawi who want to fly and learn it from an American. I want to read about how Malawians (sp?) feel about THEIR reality, how they see the world.

This 'I will read of the black people and hear their new, different tales, from their completely unique experiences,' smacks, to me, of the patented 'magical black folk,' of movie and tv trope.

You dismiss this "other" viewpoint as a TV trope, but trust me, there IS this other experience and viewpoint and attitudes. It may sound "magical" to you that people in India or the Amazon feel differently about life and have their own experiences, that may contradict your own; it doesn't make it an the less true. I do want to plunge into these experiences -- and write about them. It was always frustrating to me to find that it was assumed I felt the way everyone else does in European culture, when in fact my pov is very much coloured by having grown up and lived in other cultures. And I long to tell those stories, and have them heard, and letting readers into a different, non-Eurocentric world.

There's someone with the same thoughts, dreams, ideas, etc., in some far-flung corner of Zimbabwe as someone in Sacramento.

I don't think this is universally true.

Putputt
01-06-2014, 01:02 PM
Yes, that's a much better way of putting it.
One of the reasons I started writing at all is because I was truly tired of the same same cultural assumptions and backgrounds: Europe, mostly UK, and USA, told by people of those backgrounds. Growing up, it was ALL I ever got to read. I longed for other stories, other backgrounds.
But when I started writing myself, I was told, by my publisher, to keep away from my own backyard (Guyana) as the mainstream (white) reading public wasn't interested. And we all know the meme that putting a PoC on the cover means that white people aren't likely to read it. I don't know how much this perception that publishers have is true; I just know that in order to break it, yes, we DO need to make a concerted effort to read those other stories, other background. It may be only PoC who want to do this. It would be great if white Europeans and Americans followed suit.

Urgghh, the bolded part...

I'm sorry you had to go through that. :(

I think the perception that white readers aren't interested in books about other cultures is slooooowly shifting. Books like The Kite Runner, The White Tiger, Cutting for Stone, and Life of Pi have sold/ are selling well, which is encouraging to see. It's a slow change, and I can only hope the move will gain momentum as time passes.

Fwiw, I hope you're writing what you want to write now. :Hug2:Let me know if/when you do write a book with Guyanese characters. That sounds hella interesting and I would read the shit out of it. :D

Helix
01-06-2014, 01:05 PM
That sounds hella interesting and I would read the shit out of it. :D

*raises hand*

Me, too.

aruna
01-06-2014, 01:27 PM
Coming soon! :)

aruna
01-06-2014, 02:14 PM
Actually, I've been doing what she's doing for years, though not to the exclusion of Eurocentric books. But I always look for that "other" cultural experience, because I feel it makes me richer as a human being. For instance, I've read two of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's novels, Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun, and just loved them. I was a kid in boarding school when the whole Biafra crisis was going on and I had a (white) friend from Nigeria who was worried about it. But of course one forgets these things, and it was only when I read Half of a Yellow Sun that I fully understood the tensions and attitudes that caused the crisis.
And I just bought Americanah -- it's only 99p right now on as a Kindle book! Can't wait to read it.
Right now I'm finishing off a fairly typical (but page-turning) thriller set in Chicago; the tropes are all there and I like the book, and will probably read the next in the series; but next in line on my Kindle is And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini, and then comes Americanah.
The fact that publishers (rightly or wrongly) perceive there is an inherent bias by white readers to read Eurocentric novels shows that the covert racism of which Cornflake speaks is already, somehow, in place; I see no problem at all in making the deliberate effort to do the opposite.
And yes, I do think this is slowly, slowly changing. And the more opinions like this come into public view, the better. Though some of the comments make me shudder...

Helix
01-06-2014, 02:29 PM
Australian writer Anita Heiss issued her first Black Book Challenge (http://anitaheissblog.blogspot.com.au/2011/04/anitas-bbc-black-book-choice-reading.html) in 2011. It was a list of 99 'must read' books by Indigenous authors. She compiled a second list (http://anitaheiss.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/anitas-black-book-challenge-2/) in 2013. I am working my way through them.

Putputt
01-06-2014, 02:41 PM
You dismiss this "other" viewpoint as a TV trope, but trust me, there IS this other experience and viewpoint and attitudes. It may sound "magical" to you that people in India or the Amazon feel differently about life and have their own experiences, that may contradict your own; it doesn't make it an the less true.

I might be wrong, but I think you might have misread cornflake's post. :D I thought corny was pointing out something that rubbed me the wrong way too, which is the assumption that just because a book is written by a PoC, it makes the book automatically exotic and different, which is in line with the whole "magical black folk" trope.


Actually, I've been doing what she's doing for years, though not to the exclusion of Eurocentric books. But I always look for that "other" cultural experience, because I feel it makes me richer as a human being. For instance, I've read two of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's novels, Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun, and just loved them. I was a kid in boarding school when the whole Biafra crisis was going on and I had a (white) friend from Nigeria who was worried about it. But of course one forgets these things, and it was only when I read Half of a Yellow Sun that I fully understood the tensions and attitudes that caused the crisis.
And I just bought Americanah -- it's only 99p right now on as a Kindle book! Can't wait to read it.
Right now I'm finishing off a fairly typical (but page-turning) thriller set in Chicago; the tropes are all there and I like the book, and will probably read the next in the series; but next in line on my Kindle is And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini, and then comes Americanah.
The fact that publishers (rightly or wrongly) perceive there is an inherent bias by white readers to read Eurocentric novels shows that the covert racism of which Cornflake speaks is already, somehow, in place; I see no problem at all in making the deliberate effort to do the opposite.
And yes, I do think this is slowly, slowly changing. And the more opinions like this come into public view, the better. Though some of the comments make me shudder...

I'm kinda confused by the bolded part :D I think cornflake was referring to something else?

Interestingly, I don't think I make a conscious effort to read books with characters who are from cultural backgrounds that I'm unfamiliar with, but a quick look at my Kindle list has six out of the last ten books I bought being about characters from non-western-European cultures. I tend to buy books that have many reviews on Amazon, so it's great to see that these books are being noticed and bought by many, many people (I'm saying this based on the number of reviews these books have garnered).

Do let me know when you start reading And the Mountains Echoed. I'm about 40% into the book and I paused because guhhhhh so much feels. I need to share my feels before I continue!!! >_<"

aruna
01-06-2014, 03:02 PM
I was referring to this bit:
Yeah. That's the kind of attitude I think can be more destructive than overt racism.

I believe that there already is a covert racism in place, in which books showing non-European cultures and perspectives are marginalised, of only subtly and if only by publishers.

But I get your confusion. It's caused by the use of "white" and "poc" by the original writer, as if it's skin colour that determines the story. It's not; it's culture, and I guess I confused "black" with "Eurocentric" in that post.

Sunflowerrei
01-06-2014, 03:07 PM
So...I guess under her categories of the races of authors she'll read from, I'm not a PoC? I'm American, white and Asian. I don't actually go around in real life identifying as a PoC, but still.

Her idea is an interesting one, but it bothers me. There are a variety of white people. A scrappy Irish kid from the Bronx is not going have the same stories as an European Oxbridge grad, for instance. I can see her point about reading outside of the usual perspectives and seeking new cultural lenses, which I think is awesome, but...

PoC authors don't uniformly write about PoCs. And even if you are a PoC, if you grew up in North America or Europe, you'd have some sense of a Western perspective, even if it's to be critical of it.

aruna
01-06-2014, 04:03 PM
Her idea is an interesting one, but it bothers me. There are a variety of white people. A scrappy Irish kid from the Bronx is not going have the same stories as an European Oxbridge grad, for instance. I can see her point about reading outside of the usual perspectives and seeking new cultural lenses, which I think is awesome, but...



This is a given... but why does it bother you? I'm sure someone who grew up as a scrappy Irish kid in the Bronx would be interested in reading books that reflected his/her own perspective; similarly, an Oxbridge Don would possibly choose literary novels, Booker prize candidates, Pulitzer Prizewinners, etc. And I read those books, too; lots and lots of them. I've read Angela's Ashes and countless Booker prizewinners and a huge variety of Eurocentric novels. Some were great, some not so; I acknowledge the variety, and nobody ever said there was no variety, that white writers write one-of-a-kind books.


Why should the longing to read more ... let's say, novels with far-flung settings ... be frowned upon? Surely the dearth of such books means ... something is missing?

All this author is saying is that she is deliberately moving farther afield, exploring beyond the mainstream. And that's a good thing. I wish more people would do it, whether white or PoC. But it seems that PoC are more inclined to do so? :e2shrug:

Trust me, it really is hard to find such books. And that's a pity.

Rina Evans
01-06-2014, 06:50 PM
I see it as a way of opening myself up to new stories, rather than re-iterations of the same formulaic fables we've heard time and time again.
This bit bothered me too. Is she really saying that all non-POC books are formulaic fables? Opening yourself up to new viewpoints is great, but why insult all 'white' viewpoints in the process?

aruna
01-06-2014, 07:11 PM
True, that was put rather insultingly.

sohalt
01-06-2014, 07:25 PM
I think that's a completely valid approach.

After the last literature review course for my English degree, I've made a somewhat similar resolution, to pick more books written by women from now on. I wouldn't exactly exclude male authors - when I'm researching my current WIP I'm going to read a lot of men again, because I want to read stuff written in the period I'll be trying to emulate - but when it comes to checking out a new writer just for the sake of checking out a new writer, I'm more likely to do it if she's a woman. Not because I think men are so monolothic that no man could possibly provide a fresh perspective on anything. It's just - I feel I'm still hearing enough from them anyway. Most movies I watch are going to be made by men. And most TV shows too. I'm not worried at all that I will lose touch with the male view on things.

Lots of my favourite writers are still men. I guess my top twenty of favourite books would still be dominated by them. And I plan on re-reading so many of them eventually. It's just right now I'm out for something else.

(For what it's worth: I don't necessarily think there's gender-based difference in style, or that female narratives are going to be more "emotional" or should deal with experiences exclusive to people who are conventionally identified as female - they are more likely to pass the Bechdel test though, and while that may be no surefire guarantee for feminist palatiblity either, I'm definitely here for that.)

shakeysix
01-06-2014, 07:48 PM
In anthropology class I heard that when told a dry bones version of the staple European stories like Cinderella, Romeo and Juliet, primitive tribes were puzzled and bored. Some tribe members were especially put out with Romeo and Juliet. They thought they were stupid and should have died.

I'm not sure how I could find the reference after all these years but it does make sense. I majored in Literature so had to take classes in literature from many cultures and countries. There are differences from culture to culture and skin color has nothing to do with it.

I remember reading Victory, a short novel by Joseph Conrad, close to the time of the anthropology class and being puzzled by the individual characters, their cultural outlooks and their reactions to a threat. The characters are Wang, a Chinese man. Axel Heist, a European, and a woman whose name I cannot remember but who had a seductive voice. The European man died of a broken heart--well, he committed suicide, but suicide over a woman is an incomprehensible act in some cultures.

I don't think anyone reads the novel anymore--it is told from several POVs, hops heads, contains foreign words and (gasp) adverbs. It was a popular success in its day, which turned Conrad's supporters against the novel, because nothing kills great literature like popular appeal. But I digress.

The only other examples of cultural differences coloring stories that I can think of, are Magic Realism and the various creation myths. But I believe it is important for a writer to explore literature from other cultures and especially, from other genders and social classes. It makes sense to read it in blocks of like- authors. Unless, of course, the author is hellbent on writing a formula best seller.--s6

EMaree
01-06-2014, 07:54 PM
Instead of choosing books based on the color of the author's skin, a better goal would be something like, "I will only read books written ABOUT characters or settings that offer a peek into different cultural and/or socioeconomic environments because I'm tired of reading books that revolve around middle class western-Europeans."

I love this idea, and I'd love to see an AW-recommended list of books in this category. It would be a great way to get outside my usual genre nook and explore some of the books I've been meaning to read. I know "Life of Pi" and "Throne of the Crescent Moon" have been on my to-read list for a long time. :)

Sunflowerrei
01-06-2014, 10:57 PM
This is a given... but why does it bother you? I'm sure someone who grew up as a scrappy Irish kid in the Bronx would be interested in reading books that reflected his/her own perspective; similarly, an Oxbridge Don would possibly choose literary novels, Booker prize candidates, Pulitzer Prizewinners, etc.

Maybe some people like to read in their own milieus and about people like them. But there are other readers who seek out stories that are very different to the ones they grew up with.

I was reacting to her...


I see it as a way of opening myself up to new stories, rather than re-iterations of the same formulaic fables we've heard time and time again.

aruna
01-06-2014, 11:12 PM
Maybe some people like to read in their own milieus and about people like them. But there are other readers who seek out stories that are very different to the ones they grew up with.

.


Why not BOTH? I certainly read both! On the one hand I always longed to read (and write) books about the kind of people I knew best and set in my own country; on the other hand, I'm eager to read fiction set in countries I know nothing at all about: Nigeria, Burma, Singapore, Afghanistan etc, to mention just a few from last year. I love both kinds of books.
I'm not so keen, any more, about the usual US or GB settings... it's a matter of saturation! I'm sure there are still lots of great books; but I enjoy being an armchair traveller, as that's the only way I'll get to visit these countries.

In fact, it's the latter version -- the reluctance of most readers to venture beyond their own country and culture -- that is under discussion right now.

Wilde_at_heart
01-06-2014, 11:12 PM
Instead of choosing books based on the color of the author's skin, a better goal would be something like, "I will only read books written ABOUT characters or settings that offer a peek into different cultural and/or socioeconomic environments because I'm tired of reading books that revolve around middle class western-Europeans."

Well put. I know plenty of PoC born and educated and raised in North America, Roman Catholic or some non-RC Christian denomination... Even if they still have 'old country' ties in Pakistan, Trinidad, Serbia or wherever, they are pretty 'Western' or 'North American' or what have you otherwise. It's almost reinforcing the idea that somehow PoC will always be 'different' and outside of the mainstream culture they've grown up in and are immersed in.

ETA: I can understand what she means about reading the same fables over and over again as well, even though it is presumptuous. I'd find vampire or demon elements from cultures I'm less familiar with would be much more interesting to read than yet another Dracula or Arthurian Legends re-hashing. If she'd left skin colour out of it and just... well I suppose people would have paid less attention to her statement, maybe? Not saying someone's been deliberately stoking controversy but most journalists and their editors know what generates more clicks...

Sunflowerrei
01-07-2014, 01:43 AM
Why not BOTH? I certainly read both! On the one hand I always longed to read (and write) books about the kind of people I knew best and set in my own country; on the other hand, I'm eager to read fiction set in countries I know nothing at all about: Nigeria, Burma, Singapore, Afghanistan etc, to mention just a few from last year. I love both kinds of books.
I'm not so keen, any more, about the usual US or GB settings... it's a matter of saturation! I'm sure there are still lots of great books; but I enjoy being an armchair traveller, as that's the only way I'll get to visit these countries.

In fact, it's the latter version -- the reluctance of most readers to venture beyond their own country and culture -- that is under discussion right now.

No, I completely see your point! Of course there should be more books and more characters who are not European or American or Canadian. And we should and have to write books that feature different places and different cultures, whether they reflect your own experiences or not.

I like being an armchair traveler, too, and learning through reading about other people. Only pointing out that there are a lot of differing perspectives within Western cultures, too. Also, she didn't seem to have a Mixed or Biracial Author category.

I don't know why most people don't want to venture out of their box when reading. I've read romance readers say that they don't want certain perspectives ruining their fantasyland, which I think is ridiculous. I've had to read outside of my little box because how many novels out there feature white and Asian girls who like to write who are from New York City?

Kim Fierce
01-07-2014, 03:46 AM
I've been making an effort to not only read more stories by more diverse writers, but I've been also searching for stories that have more diverse characters. Sometimes I don't know the race of the writer unless I google them or something. As a white writer who is trying not to write in the "mainstream" way, of course I'm gonna be like, "But heyyy my books are not like those others." I think reading certain books as an exercise for a short time would be an interesting project, but me being me I also wouldn't want someone to not take a chance on my stuff for the rest of their life or anything. ;-)

Reading stories with all white, straight characters usually makes me feel like something is missing, especially in the past year. And I really think learning from this forum and having my eyes opened to some things has helped.

Roxxsmom
01-07-2014, 04:00 AM
It's not so much the discrimination that bothers me - whatever, though yeah, if someone were all about reading only white, male authors I suspect it'd garner a reaction from her.

If someone had read very few white, male authors, and in fact, didn't even know of very many, and he or she made this resolution, it wouldn't raise my hackles.

I could see someone who liked romance as a genre, for instance, saying, "For 2014, I'm going to focus on reading novels by male romance writers, because I think I've been ignoring their contribution to the genre and want to develop a greater appreciation for the ways in which men tell love stories," well, I could see that.

Contrast this with someone who says, "White male writers write better. That's why most of the books I like are by them. And I hate that PC crap anyway. For 2014, my resolution is to never read a book by a woman or PoC again."


It's the idea expressed in the quote you pulled. Apparently, white folk, or European folk, or European white women, or whatever, all write "the same formulaic fables we've heard time and time again," while the people from other countries or skin tones apparently all write "new" stories.



The use of the term "formulaic fable" is problematic, because in a sense, all fables are formulaic. The ones we've been exposed to the most, will simply feel more formulaic to us. However it is very true that western European fables and tropes are over represented in fantasy. I think it would have been smoother if she'd simply suggested that people from different cultures might have different approaches to storytelling, and she wanted to experience some new (to her, at least) tropes and approaches that are least partially informed by culture.

Is it just the tone that rubbed you the wrong way, or are you saying that you think culture and race (both of the writer and the protagonists in a story) have no effect at all on the stories writers want to tell or on the resources to which they have access for publishing?


Roxx (who has plenty of white writers of both sex on her to-read list for 2014, but who is also looking to broaden her horizons).

Jozzy
01-07-2014, 04:18 AM
I don't have any problem at all with her not reading any "white" authors in 2014. It's not like the books are going anywhere, and anything she missed she can always pick up in 2015.

It would be interesting to read what she had to say at the end of the year, and if there were any books that she deliberately skipped because of the melanin content of the author's skin...and if she then goes back and reads them.

Conte Remo
01-09-2014, 01:01 AM
I don't have any problem at all with her not reading any "white" authors in 2014. It's not like the books are going anywhere, and anything she missed she can always pick up in 2015.

It would be interesting to read what she had to say at the end of the year, and if there were any books that she deliberately skipped because of the melanin content of the author's skin...and if she then goes back and reads them.

This was exactly what I was thinking. Most of us have put books on our to-read lists long before actually picking them up, I'm sure. Just because she's not going to read white authors now does not mean she refuses to ever read them again just because of their color.

Though I'm curious whether some POC authors, or authors in general, are private to the extent that their appearances are not revealed to the public.

I do agree about the statement of [people of this race] writing "the same formulaic fables we've heard time and time again," being annoying. There are white people who write POC characters (though how well varies), and not everyone of one race writes about the same thing. I mean, I have a deformed 43 year old black man as the protagonist of my psychological horror story, and I'm a young white girl. There are many subjects (not having to do with my MMC's race) in my WIP that would be uncomfortable and weird to a lot of people regardless of race.

On the other hand, my POC friend has a more accessible fantasy WIP, and my Indian friend writes works that are religious in nature (and despite his race he's not Hindu, he's Islamic). So that sort of blanket statement does not sit very well with me.

Paramite Pie
01-11-2014, 03:07 AM
I can see this persons point, but it is worth mentioning that there are so many great works out there in languages we can't read. Many of those books will never be translated so alot of books from other cultures will never reach us. So alot of books by writers of colour are probably set in US/UK aswell.

Of course there still are many cultures which that might write in English (Hong Kong, Singapore, India, South Africa etc..). I think a better statement could've been "In 2014 I'll read more internationally."

I'm white and I often pledge to myself that I'll watch more international films but I guess that's easier with subtitles.

The formulaic comment is a bit harsh. I put it down to frustration and not an intent to label us all. Maybe if one puts just as much thought into the white authors you read, avoiding the blockbusters, then you can avoid many cliches too but as someone else said earlier, it's a matter of saturation. If you watch alot of Korean dramas they will also become quite formulaic. Japanese Anime is well known for it's cliches as well. But it's fresh too me.


In fact, it's the latter version -- the reluctance of most readers to venture beyond their own country and culture -- that is under discussion right now.

You'd be amazed how unadventurous some people are, even if it's only armchair travel.

mirandashell
01-11-2014, 03:11 AM
Paramite, if you're into Sci-fi there are some fantastic Korean films available.

ellio
01-11-2014, 02:15 PM
There are white people of European descent in projects in Chicago and black people who grew up in wealthy neighbourhoods and went to the best schools. There's someone with the same thoughts, dreams, ideas, etc., in some far-flung corner of Zimbabwe as someone in Sacramento.

I saw this (http://theboywhoflies.com/)documentary, The Boy Who Flies about a paraglider who ends up in Malawi and teaches someone there to glide. The guy in Malawi always wanted to be a pilot, but didn't have the money to go to school. I'm pretty sure that doesn't have shit to do with his being black or non-European, if you see what I mean.

Ok, ok, so I get that your point is there are cliches such as white people are wealthy, black people live in the projects, and you're pointing out that there are experiences that subvert those cliches... but this really read to me like "hey guys there are poor white people and rich black people too". It rubbed me.

And this is why I think what the writer of the article is getting at. I don't want to read experiences by white/european/westerners that centre on white-european-western experiences all of the time, but more than that I don't want to read a book about people that aren't white or western or european (written by white authors) that I feel is presented as a "betcha didn't know black people were like this!" sort of novel.

The documentary that you linked, while probably a good documentary, still fills the quota of White Saviour Complex. A white man swoops in and helps the black man release his dreams because he was too poor to help himself. I've seen it. I've read it. It's been done.

Fundamentally, if I want to read about the black/brown experience, a brown writer is going to do that better. I'm not going to say it's impossible for white writers to write authentically about another culture or race that they weren't brought up in/are not a part of, but they shouldn't have to. There are writers from every country on this earth. We don't need to rely on white writers to write our stories for us.

ellio
01-11-2014, 02:30 PM
I can see this persons point, but it is worth mentioning that there are so many great works out there in languages we can't read. Many of those books will never be translated so alot of books from other cultures will never reach us. So alot of books by writers of colour are probably set in US/UK aswell.

Of course there still are many cultures which that might write in English (Hong Kong, Singapore, India, South Africa etc..). I think a better statement could've been "In 2014 I'll read more internationally."


I agree with the first part but not the bolded, here's why:

I'm halfway through Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah and the book begins in an African hair salon in the US. Black hair politics is a massive thing if you're a black woman. I would vouch that most black women living in the US or UK have been to a salon like that and if they haven't, they can understand the nuances of having their hair discussed and dissected, having assumptions made about their living situations/politics/background on something as small as their hair.

I was incrediby appreciative of that scene because somebody else had lived my experience and was talking honestly about it! When do you ever hear black people discussing their hair in media outside of black circles? Hardly ever!

I don't believe a white writer would be able to write about that purely because they would have had no reason to be in an Afro-Caribbean hair salon in the western world, nor do I blame them for not being able to. That's probably not why I'm reading their book.

At the same time I am so appreciative that somebody did write about that. So, I wouldn't discount the fact a lot of books written by brown authors are still going to be set in the west because, as I am a western reader, I still appreciate these snippets of combined culture that I may not otherwise have access to. Reading internationally is fun, enlightening and interesting, but reading about people like me living similar experiences to what I do is comforting.

Brown authors ain't always international ones.

Fruitbat
01-11-2014, 02:39 PM
I love novels by and about people from other cultures. I read one not long ago ( I can't recall the title right now, wouldn't you know it) and it was interesting how the characters seemed to think so much more in terms of "we" rather than "I." Whether arranged marriages or whatever, everything had to fit in with the larger family and be considered in light of what effect it would have on the family as much if not more than what effect it had on that individual. Also, pride and shame seemed much more important than they are here. So, yes, quite a different mindset and world view, and then there were the very different religious beliefs as well. I enjoy the smaller stuff too, customs, food, etc.

Another one I read somewhat recently was a book of flash fiction from China, The Pearl Jacket. That one stood out to me because it was completely snark-free. I didn't realize how different or refreshing that would be.

Also, I think it's perfectly fine for the writer of that article to read anything she wants for any reason. Imo that's a very personal choice and right.

Rhoda Nightingale
01-12-2014, 01:12 AM
Huh. I've done this in February two years in a row. Well, actually my focus is much narrower: black, female authors of horror/spec fic. It's sort of traditional, since February is both Black History Month and Women In Horror Month. I assume this is a slightly different kind of thing though.

Conversely, I wonder how many people spend a solid year reading only white authors without even realizing it.

aruna
01-12-2014, 08:38 AM
Conversely, I wonder how many people spend (a ) solid years reading only white authors without even realizing it.

Fixed it for ya!:)

Very true! The fact that it's unconscious doesn't make it any less... remarkable.

Anyway, here's a Goodreads group that deliberately aims to travel the world through books:

Around the World in 80 Books (https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/52937-around-the-world-in-80-books)


They give themselves some very daunting challenges, for instance, the Around the World in 1001 Books, (https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/632278-1001-books-around-the-world) with its list of books from every country in the world.

aruna
01-12-2014, 08:52 AM
The documentary that you linked, while probably a good documentary, still fills the quota of White Saviour Complex. A white man swoops in and helps the black man release his dreams because he was too poor to help himself. I've seen it. I've read it. It's been done.

Exactly! That's why I don't buy the argument "we are all human and all are the same everywhere." Even though it's true that we humans are fundamentally the same, our perception of the world, as seen through the prism dictated by the place given us by our colour, can vary dramatically according to the colour of one's skin. I noticed this even as a child in Guyana -- I noticed that the few white people I knew had no idea of the body complexes, and associated sense of inferiority, that was ingrained into me by the prevailing racial hierarchy. They had a natural confidence that I totally lacked. I had to consciously and rigorously deal with this and overcome it as I became adult.

Thank goodness, this is changing slowly -- but how much really? I recently read an article that placed black women as the bottom of the "attractiveness" scale. This was as perceived by black men as well as for men of other races. Black women feel this, know this, very well. How does it affect the confidence of young black girls as they grow up? Could a white person write about this? I doubt it.

And I think that might be the crux of the problem: many white people think fear books by or about black people are going to be about race, and they don't want to read about race. They want black people to be "just like us" inside.

The other day I remembered something: I hated my thick lips so much, I tried to smile as often as I could because it made my lips thinner! And the hair thing --- OMG. I mean, I had relatively "good" hair (yes, that was how hair was quite overtly judged) but even I went through a phase of chemically straightening, wearing a beautiful straight-hair wig. etc. So yes, skin colour does change things, and it would be very unusual for a white person to adequately "get beneath the skin" of a black person growing up in a white society.


Fundamentally, if I want to read about the black/brown experience, a brown writer is going to do that better. I'm not going to say it's impossible for white writers to write authentically about another culture or race that they weren't brought up in/are not a part of, but they shouldn't have to. There are writers from every country on this earth. We don't need to rely on white writers to write our stories for us.

You said it.

Ken
01-12-2014, 03:43 PM
...my list has an entry requirement: I will only read novels written by authors who are not from western-European backgrounds. I will not be reading anything written by white authors.

Of course, I know accusations of reverse racism are pending, on the same vein that women-only book prizes and women-only reading lists have been declared sexist. And no doubt people will say I am limiting myself by purposely avoid books on the basis of an arbitrary factor.

But it's the opposite: I see it as a way of opening myself up to new stories, rather than re-iterations of the same formulaic fables we've heard time and time again.

So if she was given a group of books with the covers torn off she would be able to distinguish which are written by POC and which are written by whites? Would be interesting to put that to the test.

Katrina S. Forest
01-12-2014, 03:46 PM
And I think that might be the crux of the problem: many white people think fear books by or about black people are going to be about race, and they don't want to read about race. They want black people to be "just like us" inside.

I don't think that's it exactly. At least, strictly speaking from my own experience. I think it's more a matter of when you grow up without any variety in your literature, when almost every protagonist looks like you, you develop the false assumption that everyone reads books with protagonists that look like them. (In other words, all those wonderful books that feature black protagonists are simply "not aimed at you.") No one said this to me as a kid per se, and I don't think I was even conscious that I ever had this attitude until I was much older. There was simply a lack of awareness about what I was missing.

Fruitbat
01-12-2014, 04:43 PM
I don't know that white people want everyone to be "just like us" inside either. But I wouldn't be surprised if many people, in general, relate more to books where they perceive the MC and author to be "like them" in some significant way. Personally, I'm drawn to fiction where the MC (and author) are the same gender and age as I am, but not necessarily the same race or culture.

aruna
01-12-2014, 04:51 PM
But I often see arguments (from white people) that "people are the same everywhere" and it "doesn't matter" what race the characters are .., without even realising that there IS a different experience and perception.

For a white reader, a useful exercise would be: imagine if all the books you had ever read, from the time you were a toddler being read picture books, had ONLY black characters. Every single person was black, and no-one looked like you at all; or if there were white characters, they were in secondary, menial roles.

Because that, vice versa, is the way I grew up. I think the first book with black characters I read was To Sir With Love, when I was in my late teens. Then came Malcolm X and a whole lot of other books I specifically sought out.
And it's still that way to a certain extent, and yet when we protest we are told we are cry-babies and need to get over it, that people are just people and skin colour of the characters is irrelevant...

Fruitbat
01-12-2014, 05:05 PM
But I often see arguments (from white people) that "people are the same everywhere" and it "doesn't matter" what race the characters are .., without even realising that there IS a different experience and perception.

For a white reader, a useful exercise would be: imagine if all the books you had ever read, from the time you were a toddler being read picture books, had ONLY back characters. Every single person was black, and no-one looked like you at all; or if there were white characters, they were in secondary, menial roles.
Because that, vice versa, is the way I grew up. I think the first book with black characters I read was To Sir With Love, when I was in my late teens. Then came Malcolm X and a whole lot of other books I specifically sought out.
And it's still that way to a certain extent, and yet when we protest we are told we are cry-babies and need to get over it, that people are just people and skin colour of the characters is irrelevant...

I agree that is a very different experience and perception. I've heard it described that white, straight, middle-class (and to some extent, male) people are set on "lowest complication setting." Not knowing there's any difference is from that privilege. I mean, I think they really don't know. Oh right, that is what you said, isn't it. :)

firedrake
01-12-2014, 05:48 PM
The only 'resolution' I would make regarding books I intend to read would be to read the books that look interesting/entertaining to me regardless of who wrote them.

That's really all that matters to me.

Paramite Pie
01-12-2014, 10:28 PM
Paramite, if you're into Sci-fi there are some fantastic Korean films available.

I am very much in to Sci-fi! I've been to Korea (visiting a friend) and since then I've been very interested in that culture. I'd like to spend a year teaching English there someday.

Any recommendations?:D



At the same time I am so appreciative that somebody did write about that. So, I wouldn't discount the fact a lot of books written by brown authors are still going to be set in the west because, as I am a western reader, I still appreciate these snippets of combined culture that I may not otherwise have access to. Reading internationally is fun, enlightening and interesting, but reading about people like me living similar experiences to what I do is comforting.

Good point.:Thumbs:

I guess all the little details/insight add up to something more.

aruna
01-13-2014, 12:46 PM
The only 'resolution' I would make regarding books I intend to read would be to read the books that look interesting/entertaining to me regardless of who wrote them.

That's really all that matters to me.

That's exactly what I do! That's why I'm reading And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini right now (fantastic --- JUST the kind of book I love!), and have Amerikanah next on my list.

Ken
01-15-2014, 03:34 PM
Just keep doing what you're doing. That's fine. A well thought out perspective usually is :-)

Cathy C
01-15-2014, 03:47 PM
I can't say I've ever picked up a book based on the skin color of the author. In fact, unless it's a bestseller, I seldom ever see a photo of the author. The name on the cover might have nothing to do with the person behind the name, and I'm often surprised when I attend book conventions and see a person who might not even have the same gender. :Shrug:

But then again, I read genre fiction rather than general or literary fiction, so I don't know it much matters in my situation. But hey, any experiment can be a fun one. I once spent a year reading books in alphabetical order on a random shelf in the store chosen by an employee. It was sort of fun.

Good luck!

mirandashell
01-15-2014, 03:57 PM
I am very much in to Sci-fi! I've been to Korea (visiting a friend) and since then I've been very interested in that culture. I'd like to spend a year teaching English there someday.

Any recommendations?:D

Oh lor.... if you want titles, leave it with me and I will go hunting for them. I can remember a synopsis of film far better than I can remember a title.

mirandashell
01-15-2014, 10:57 PM
Ok.

Paramite, I've started a new thread in Movies and TV so we don't derail this one.

http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=8650757#post8650757

Ken
01-16-2014, 12:12 AM
I once spent a year reading books in alphabetical order on a random shelf in the store chosen by an employee.

Similar to a character in Sartre's, "Nausea." He read all the books in the library in alphabetical order. More than 10,000 or so. I believe you can top that yet. So hop to it !

;-)

Rufus Coppertop
01-19-2014, 07:46 AM
For a white reader, a useful exercise would be: imagine if all the books you had ever read, from the time you were a toddler being read picture books, had ONLY black characters. Every single person was black, and no-one looked like you at all; or if there were white characters, they were in secondary, menial roles. And I start wanting to read good books where the protagonist and other important characters are white.

And someone with black skin tells me to lighten up because hey it doesn't matter. We're all the same under the skin. Colour just isn't relevant.

I'm pretty sure I'd think, wow, easy for you to say, you patronising dork.

Corinne Duyvis
01-21-2014, 06:32 PM
Instead of choosing books based on the color of the author's skin, a better goal would be something like, "I will only read books written ABOUT characters or settings that offer a peek into different cultural and/or socioeconomic environments because I'm tired of reading books that revolve around middle class western-Europeans."

Here, though, you run into the problem of white authors generally being given more credit for writing PoC than PoC authors themselves. While I always want to see more PoC represented in fiction, the last thing I want is for it to be at the expense of actual, living PoC! Given how underrepresented PoC are in publishing-land, I think there's a lot to be said for supporting PoC authors regardless of the ethnicity of their characters.


The only 'resolution' I would make regarding books I intend to read would be to read the books that look interesting/entertaining to me regardless of who wrote them.

That's really all that matters to me.

Practically everyone reads that way. The problem is that all of us have subconscious biases (and yeah, white people probably more so than others). If I'd looked at the percentage of white authors/characters vs. PoC authors/characters in the books I read a couple of years ago, it would've been vastly, hugely disproportionately white. (And straight, and cis, and able-bodied.) Was that a conscious decision? Not at all.

This year, I thought I'd made a more concerted effort to branch out. At the end of the year, out of curiosity, I tallied up the numbers, and I was surprised at how skewed the percentages still were. It's really messed up how we're so programmed to see white/straight/etc. as Normal and everything else as Other that it takes such an effort and conscious thought to try to make sure you're not subconsciously snubbing huge swathes of people who are underrepresented and badly represented as is.

So, yeah, making conscious decisions to read more books by X or about Y results in supporting an underrepresented group of authors, thus helping them gain a much-needed stronger foothold in publishing, and being exposed to really, really good books you might have otherwise missed out on without even realizing it.

J.S.F.
01-26-2014, 11:51 AM
To me, as a white guy from Canada, reading books about people of color, different religions, sects, belief-isms and whatnot is one thing--and I'm all for it, as I can gain some insight into other cultures--but writing about it is a horse of a different color, no pun intended.

In the past, I've always written from a male and straight POV, because that's how I grew up and what I identified with and still do, so in a sense it's easier as I'm writing about what I know best. Last year and this year, I decided to do something different and came up with a gender switch novel and a novel with a lesbian MC. It was very refreshing in its own way to write both of these works. (How successful they'll be is another story, but I still enjoyed writing them)

In the future, I'm aiming to write something with a person of color as my MC, but I'm afraid that I might be cast as a writer who cannot truly understand what it's like to be (insert color or race or orientation here) and maybe that's the risk all white writers take when writing about PoC. I don't know. Any thoughts on this? Not a derail per se, but a letmeknowwhatyouthink type of thing.

kuwisdelu
01-26-2014, 12:29 PM
In the future, I'm aiming to write something with a person of color as my MC, but I'm afraid that I might be cast as a writer who cannot truly understand what it's like to be (insert color or race or orientation here) and maybe that's the risk all white writers take when writing about PoC. I don't know. Any thoughts on this? Not a derail per se, but a letmeknowwhatyouthink type of thing.

I think there's a difference between a book about being X and a book with X as a main character.

I think you probably need to be X to write a truly great book about being X.

But I think as long as you do some research, ask the right questions, open your eyes and ears, really see and listen rather than just watch and hear anyone can write a great book from the perspective of an X person as a main character.

Not all books with a PoC MC are about being a PoC, nor should they be. (Nor does that mean you can't address PoC issues in such a book; it must means being the PoC experience isn't one of the central themes of the book.)

I'm half Native American. I think I can write about the half Native American experience. But honestly, I don't think I could ever write about being a full-blooded Native American, any more than I could write about being black, etc. But that's not to say I would never write a story with a full-blooded Native American or black person as a MC. It just wouldn't be about that experience.

Know what I mean?

blacbird
01-27-2014, 02:25 PM
I'm reminded of the old Red Foxx line from the 70's sitcom Sanford and Son, where he and his son's junk business had been robbed. Two policemen showed up to take his statement, one black and one white. The white policeman asked Foxx the normal questions about the perps, including:

"Were they colored?"

Foss hesitated for a moment, and said, "Yeah. They was white."

caw

aruna
01-29-2014, 09:40 PM
In the future, I'm aiming to write something with a person of color as my MC, but I'm afraid that I might be cast as a writer who cannot truly understand what it's like to be (insert color or race or orientation here) and maybe that's the risk all white writers take when writing about PoC. I don't know. Any thoughts on this? Not a derail per se, but a letmeknowwhatyouthink type of thing.

My last novel had a white female MC -- the first time I've ever done that! It didn't cause me any agony or doubts -- having read books from the POV of white females ever since childhood, I feel I can get inside the skin of such a person quite easily. I guess it's much more difficult the other way around, PoC not being the default, and simply due to the fact that they often have to face and endure situations a white person cannot imagine.

But I am sure it can be done, and done well, by any good writer capable of empathy and willing to put him/herself into the shoes of that character and think/feel with him/her. There is that universal spark of humanity which is in us all; try to write from that, and when you put your character into situations that are a consequence of his or her race or orientation, you will know how it feels: you need to really FEEL that hurt, or humiliation, or anger yourself. We all know these emotions; if you can write them well, you will be able to write your PoC well.

Snitchcat
02-01-2014, 10:15 AM
I'm not making a concerted effort to find PoC authors, or PoC MCs. Main reason: lack of interest in doing so.

However, the newspapers and magazines are also filled with PoC journalists, mostly Indian-Chinese, or Hong-Kong-Born Indians. Great writers. These writers really understand the Indian and Chinese cultures, but write well in English, or Chinese, depending on the medium. Spoilt for choice? Definitely.

These days, I'm surrounded by 'PoC' authors (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) and one author I do like to follow is Nury Vitachi (Indian). Wonderful books, 3D characters, comical, setting is China / Hong Kong.

And, IMO, Vitachi does Chinese MCs very well. I think he's perhaps the only non-Chinese author I accept as being able to write Chinese MCs with authenticity. Maybe I'm biased? :tongue

So, not a conscious decision per se, but certainly one influenced by my environment. :)

kuwisdelu
03-22-2014, 08:21 AM
I get her. I truly do.

So do I.

I've decided I'm joining you.

I'm making an effort to read more genre fiction, too.

So for the rest of 2014, I'm exclusively reading SFF novels by PoC authors.

Hapax Legomenon
03-22-2014, 09:02 AM
Okay, when I was a little kid, there was this book series called The Royal Diaries. They were books about young royal girls from all over the world and they were mostly about how having power and duties is hard and growing up is hard and I ate that shit up like no tomorrow. Half of it might have been that the covers and binding were beautiful, but I loved the stories too.

And then after a while, I don't know when, that sort of thing kind of... stopped? I don't now if it's because there wasn't just a flat out series I could grab or because books like that aren't as visible, but it did stop. And a lot of the books I ended up having to read for school were about being women or being PoC and that didn't really interest me for some terrible reason -- the force at which they were administered being a big part of it. I guess there's a difference between a minority perspective and a PoC perspective, though, which is not always elaborated on in these sorts of things.

Like, I did want to write a thriller based on a steampunk Ottoman-Empire alternate, but I've been scared off of it for a long time for the same reasons J.S.F. have articulated. Then again in this case a significant number of non-white (for a certain measure of non-white, I guess) characters would not be minorities at all.

shaldna
03-26-2014, 08:41 PM
I'm not making a concerted effort to find PoC authors, or PoC MCs. Main reason: lack of interest in doing so.

All I'm interested in is finding as many great book to read as possible. I don't give a donkey's bollocks about what colour (or gender, age, nationality, religion or sexual orientation) the writer is.

I just can't help but think of all the other great books she's going to miss out on by limiting herself like this.




And a lot of the books I ended up having to read for school were about being women or being PoC and that didn't really interest me for some terrible reason -- the force at which they were administered being a big part of it.

I think a lot of this is because of the way books are chosen and taught in the school setting. We aren't taught to appreciate the book for the book's sake, we are forced to see the book in a different way, and to think about them and analyse them in a certain way that we may not have done otherwise.

aruna
03-26-2014, 08:52 PM
But many readers miss out on great books by the publishing fear of PoC books. This is a very real phenomenon. The only way to conquer it is for readers to make the specific effort to go after books with PoC characters/non-mainstream cultures and countries. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy when publishers say that "readers don't buy such-and-such books". How will they know if they don't publish them?
For me as a writer this has been extremely frustrating. I'm glad I've found a small publisher at last that IS willing to publish such books. I'm determined to prove it's a myth!

(And as others have said above, it's not about the writer; it's about the books themselves; she's just assuming that PoC writers are the best people to write PoC books.)

I actually have this black-on-white i a reader's report of a novel I wrote several years ago, set entirely in Guyana. I had a professional consultancy take a look at it after it failed to find an agent or editor, and they said that the main problem was that it was set in Guyana which is not considered commercial. I might just look for that report and post a snippet of what she said.

My old agent, too, said "publishing is xenophobic" and not to write books set in Guyana. I was so upset by that that I fired her --which might not have been a good idea! Not ONLY for that, of course, and she was actually right.

The only way to change publishers' minds is to deliberately hunt down such books and buy them. There are great books among them too! There are always great books we are going to miss.

kuwisdelu
03-26-2014, 09:15 PM
All I'm interested in is finding as many great book to read as possible. I don't give a donkey's bollocks about what colour (or gender, age, nationality, religion or sexual orientation) the writer is.

I just can't help but think of all the other great books she's going to miss out on by limiting herself like this.

No matter how you read, you are going to miss out on a lot of great books. There are more good books than most of us have time to read.

But as aruna says, without making a concerted effort to read PoC authors, they're going to be missed more often, due to underrepresentation.

In deciding to read novels exclusively by PoC for a while, the way I look at it — I'm excited to discover all the great books that I've missed out on before.

aruna
03-26-2014, 09:22 PM
OK, I found the quote. This was from a very well established and reputable UK consultancy, someone with her hand on the pulse of publishing.





The other commercial query that I have is whether Guyana as a background is sufficiently interesting to a UK readership. As a former colony it should have some resonance. But I doubt very much whether the average reader would be able to place it accurately on the map, let alone have any idea about the history and culture of the place. Some former British colonies have made a strong impact and novels set there remain perennially popular, others struggle. As a result most fiction editors have an in-built awareness of which backgrounds will sell and which won’t. Hence, for example, it is a truth universally acknowledged that novels set in the Indian subcontinent find more favour than those set in Africa or indeed in South America. It’s a fact of life and a perception that is difficult to change.

I note that your previously published titles have featured Guyana or had a Guyanese dimension but have also had a strong Indian connection and have tended – rightly or wrongly- to be classed commercially with novels about India. .... But the main thrust of the book concerns Guyana and the early years of two of the central characters who grew up there, plus the third main character’s introduction to the country. You cleverly focus on the fact that xxx knows little about the country of her mother’s birth, preferring to think of herself as native of Streatham whatever her cultural heritage, thus allowing readers to see Guyana partly through her rather detached eyes. Yes, there has been a growth in fiction titles which feature the diverse ethnic backgrounds of native Londoners in recent years. But I still wonder if this background is going to count against the novel. UK readers are notoriously insular in their likes and dislikes and reluctant to address their lack of knowledge about other countries. Clearly it’s up to an author to choose his/her own battleground and you have to write about what you know. But be aware that agents/editors may not necessarily welcome a Guyanese/English setting.

ETA: This is something I simply DO NOT understand.
I mean, fantasy is supposed to be HUGE right now. Why is that readers are willing to go to fictional countries and worlds, but not to real countries, ones that actually exist, and increase their knowledge of the world we live in?

Thing is I don't believe it is true. I believe that if great books are published set in such countries or in different cultures readers WILL go there. But it's a vicious circle.

aruna
04-27-2015, 03:34 PM
Follow up article, after a year. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/04/24/i-only-read-books-by-minority-authors-for-a-year-it-showed-me-just-how-white-our-reading-world-is/)

kevinwaynewilliams
04-30-2015, 03:39 AM
Why is that readers are willing to go to fictional countries and worlds, but not to real countries, ones that actually exist, and increase their knowledge of the world we live in?

I have the same issue with people that claim that they couldn't possibly enjoy my book because they "can't relate to black children". They can read about elves, orcs, and even bunny rabbits without a problem, but they can't relate to black children?

Ravioli
04-30-2015, 04:14 AM
I see it as a way of opening myself up to new stories, rather than re-iterations of the same formulaic fables we've heard time and time again.
Because among white authors, such variety is unthinkable? I like people who manage to praise one, without trashing another. So that "same formulaic fables" part was really, seriously, unnecessary.

I have no problem with the endeavor, and I don't find it racist. Personally I'd find it a bit too limiting in case a white book sounds more promising than a book-of-color, but may she knock herself out.

I try to read a bit more non-white literature myself, not because I got tired of "the same formulaic fables", mind you, but because I, being tall, blonde, and greenish-eyed, want to hear the other story, and why exactly white privilege is privilege. Especially since there were brown, and mistreated-for-being-brown, people in my family.


I have the same issue with people that claim that they couldn't possibly enjoy my book because they "can't relate to black children". They can read about elves, orcs, and even bunny rabbits without a problem, but they can't relate to black children?
Dude. You win the internet. There's a black kid right around the corner who needs his predominantly white society to relate to him, which would be rather easy what with both being human and all, and that society is busy being emotionally involved with fictional characters that are just barely human enough to be able to kiss the human protagonist without worrying over-protective parents. Seriously, your post is way deeper than fiction. It needs to become a viral quote. It needs to become a goddamn billboard.

jtrylch13
06-01-2015, 07:47 PM
So many thoughts. I just read this whole thread and since it dates back a bit I'm regurgitating things that have already been said, but . . .

So I won't be limiting myself to only reading POC authors, but I am consciously trying to read more books about POC characters. I would never limit myself, but with the WNDB campaign, it kind of opened my eyes to the fact that I never read books that aren't about white people. And as some other people have already said, there's this subconscious thought that, "Oh, that books is by or about black, Asian, disabled, gay, etc. people and therefore is not meant for straight, white, female me." I never decided to think this way, I just did. And it takes effort to unthink it. Which is really what is needed. I'm not going to swear off white writers (I am a white writer!) but I will make an effort to seek out stories that are not about my experiences for 2 reasons: 1) If I and others don't, publishers will never change their views of whether POC books are marketable, and 2) Reading stories from the viewpoint of someone different than me helps me to grow. Suddenly, learning about something that makes me a little uncomfortable isn't so scary. I read Angela Nissel's MIXED, and as a white person, there were times I felt, guilty, annoyed, upset, all the emotions, because I hadn't seen the world through that perspective before. But I am so glad I did read it. I am better for it.

I loved reading everyone's thoughts in this thread and I'm only touching on a few things, but there were a lot more that spoke to me, so I'm so thankful this thread exists.