Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Why I Write More than Straight, White Characters


Over the weekend, I read a blogpost by author, Alex Brown, that got me thinking. Her post, HERE, talks about her experience at the SCBWI New York conference and some of the astonishing conversations she had about multiculturalism in children’s literature.
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As a lily white writer, it’s hard for me to put characters of different race and ethnicity into my stories. I worry I won’t get it right, that I’ll miss something, or piss somebody off, but in the end, I do it anyway.

Why? Because I don’t want to live in a white world. I want a rainbow world. I want to hang out with all types of people both in my real life and in my fiction. So I take a leap, a risk, I put myself out there  with gay characters and straight characters, with a half-Indian boy, and an African-American boy in Sing To The Wind. In my current WIP my love interest is half Costa Rican and he lives with his Tico mom and sister. Am I Indian, or African-American, or Costa Rican? Am I a boy? A teenage girl? No. I’m reddish-headed with freckles and blue eyes and too far past 40, but does this mean I can’t write these characters?

No way! The human experience is just that. Human. And even though cultural nuances will be different, basic human emotions are ALL THE SAME.

And that’s why I think we shouldn’t worry about writing outside of our race, gender, sexual orientation. We need to pick the characteristics that fit our story and our character and Go. For. It. Because we live in a melting pot and people are perfect whatever the melatonin level. (Now this doesn't mean you need a United Colors of Benneton cast just for the sake of ethnicity - every character decision should have a reason)

So write your characters colorful. Inside and out. Don’t constrain yourself to the comfortable place of exactly what you know. Take a risk. You might get it wrong, but if you don’t get it wrong how will you ever get it right?

Okay. Peace out. Rant over. Have a lolly.

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16 comments:

  1. So true! And I for one adore your rainbow-colored cast of characters. Keep it up! :-)

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    1. Thanks, hon! So glad you're checking my Spanglish for me! :0)

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    2. Love it! Also, thanks for the Lolly!

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    3. Love it! Also, thanks for the Lolly!

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  2. I totally agree. What I don't get is how anyone can not write about a rainbow world--that's what we all live in to different degrees. I've had a hard time not engaging some of my good, outspoken writing friends on this issue.

    Also I'm totally glad you don't expect me to check your Spanglish. I have enough problems with English :)

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    1. I do think more and more manuscripts have more and more diversity. But it's a shame it has to be singled out in such a way that it has. But then, I'm Pollyanna.

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  3. So, I just woke up and haven't gotten hold of all my brain power yet (which means I'll probably come back later and respond again), but, in the meantime THANK YOU for this post :)

    I really appreciate your continuance of the conversation, and LOVE that you're writing characters from so many different walks of life!

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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    1. No, thank you. It was good to put words to my fears and the whys of my writing.

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  4. Super-duper great message, JRo. Thanks!

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  5. White bread is pretty boring; it is better to lay out a tray of all types. Makes for an interesting gathering.

    Totally with you.

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  6. Amen! Love this.

    I've noticed I've been trending toward non-white characters a bit lately without really thinking about it. Granted, most of my races are made up because I write fantasy, but they're usually based off a real-world culture. In the last two years I've had a Native American/Polynesian based protagonist and a Chinese one, along with an Arab love interest in another book. Though the protagonist in my current book is quite Caucasian...

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  7. This is great! I totally agree and it makes me sad when people get really stressed about, "How do I write an Asian character?" and things like that. All characters are different to their writer, and just because one happens to be different in race doesn't mean you should avoid writing this type of character.
    Thank you!

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  8. So, so, so true! I have been having a blast with some Hispanic characters lately that I just want to move into their house :) Coming from Cali and the melting-pot of all melting-pots (okay, maybe not, but growing up as the only "white" kid in class I can at least say something about that) I love diversity. And now I live in Montana, where I'm teaching a human variation class to the most homogeneous class I've ever had (it's waaay too children of the corn here--freaks me out regularly!). This post is totally random, sorry, coffee has not kicked in yet this morning!

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  9. Basic human emotions are all the same! Exactly!

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Hey, do you ever wonder why they call it 'your two cents?'