- It's interesting that several of us felt insecure writing other ethnicities into our books because we were afraid of "getting it wrong." That's a valid fear when we consider that other ethnicities have different cultures than our family culture. But what if we're writing about, say, Americans or Canadians, or any resident of a country with a diverse population? Does that change anything? I'm Polish American. Would an Irish American feel nervous writing about a character like me? I guess it depends on how I was raised. If I were from a Polish neighborhood in Chicago and if my Polish-speaking grandmother lived with us, then yes, that Irish American writer better know something about Polish culture. But if I grew up in Suburbia, Anywhere, USA, the fact that I'm part Polish wouldn't play as big a part.
- With this said, it seems like our fear of "getting it wrong" stems from a fear of being labeled racist. If our ethnicity is different from our protagonist, we might worry that we'll be judged for any flaws we give that character.
- And then there's the fear of stereotyping. Say we have a Chinese-American protagonist who plays tennis and gets straight A's in school and her biggest fault is that she studies too much and cares too much about her grades. Uh. No. That's a HUGE Asian-American stereotype. We fall into stereotypes when we're afraid of really getting to know our characters. Maybe we're afraid to make our Chinese-American protagonist a drug dealer because we might offend Chinese-Americans in general. Or we worry people will think we're trying to say all Chinese-American girls are drug dealers.
- These are valid concerns and it's important to be aware of these issues as we write, but I don't think they should stop us from writing with diversity.
- My challenge to myself, and maybe to all writers, is to allow myself to be color blind in that first draft. Craft your interesting, fascinating, flawed protagonist and then, later, decide on the color of her skin. Would that change your book at all? Isn't it fair to assume that a fourth generation Korean-American is just as American as a fourth generation Italian-American? If there are details to tweak, there's time to tweak, but if we're worried about stereotypes, perhaps this could be a way to combat them.
Samuel Park on my blog next week. He'll be sharing some writing wisdom with us to celebrate the paperback release of his debut THIS BURNS MY HEART. There will also be a little giveaway involved that you writers will love, so please stop by.
And last, but certainly not least, the Hacky Sack Club is going strong with two more members! I am working on my Wall of
- Leigh T. Moore who charmed us all with her fabulous juggling video (though she did not juggle the cat)
- Melissa Sarno who wowed us with her hacky-sacking-while-speaking-Hindi video