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.
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.