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J is an unpublished author, represented by Carrie Pestritto of Prospect Agency. J's first novel is a YA fantasy horror, regarding a siren who must choose between the haunting life and humanity. J draws on occasion, reads quite often, and is a founding member of the critique group 'Thoughtical Verbosity.'

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Color Outside Ze Lines

So hilarious, sasstastic author Jaime Reed recently wrote in her blog about race issues. Her post is here: Color Outside the Lines.

I started writing a reply to her awesome post, then realized my reply was working up to be roughly blog-sized and I didn't want to take up too much of her personal internets. So here we go: my first official unrequested blog post that is strictly a response to something someone else blogged about.

Give me some time and maybe I'll think of a title with a cool acronym. But probably not.

Now: about coloring outside the lines.

I've had a lot of thoughts similar to Jaime's in the process of working on Ze Book.

I'm Caucasian, but spent a good chunk of my childhood in Maryland. My brother and I were the only white kids (and I the only girl) past tooth-sprouting age within hang-out distance. A few kids tried to pick on us for being the odd ones out, but for the most part we had no issue making friends and having regular life-threatening, poorly-supervised childhood adventures.

So that racial barrier is not as much an issue for me as I imagine it would be for those who grew up in a more monochromatic world. During my formative years I ran wild with my brother and a handful of kids who happened to have skin darker than my own. They were my best friends. They were awesome. One of them (super lifetime secret!) was my first kiss. We were five. Five-year-olds do that if you're not watching.

My first thought when I see someone who is African American is of my childhood friends, and not about the differences between us. I'm not colorblind. Nobody is, no matter how sweet and kind and open minded they may be. But I feel that the differences between the many billions of people on this rock called earth are awesome. The differences are what make everyone beautiful in gloriously unique ways.

Still, I'm very aware of the walls that go up around every unique culture.

There aren't many MCs that break the cookie-cutter mold or, as Jaime Reed said, color outside the lines. And that sucks. A lot. What sucks even more is that most--certainly not all, but the ones that get the most attention--of the MCs that ARE from a different culture or physical appearance mostly star in novels that deal solely with how The Man comes down on them for being different.


I remember being a young female reader trying to find awesome books where other young females go out, kick balls, save the day, bring home nondescript booty, and settle back in front of the fire preparing for their next adventure. Instead I found a lot of books about quivery-lipped gals being tragically put in their place by the menfolk. Maybe they'd bust free from the crapsack society. Maybe they'd just sort of waffle along and end the way they began. Lamely.

How this plays into Ze Book:

My MC is a biracial young man. He has a white mother, while the world would identify him as black. It affects his life, obviously, but it is not his key characteristic. Nor is it even remotely what the novel is about. His ethnicity is mentioned, because the novel takes place in the 30's and nobody would believe it if not a single character commented on the fact.

Part of what I want to do with Thomas Kaiser, apprentice sorcerer-detective extraordinaire, is add a drop in the great bucket of minority characters just going out and doing awesome things that don't have anything to do with being minority characters.

And in the end, Thomas is Thomas is Thomas. He would still be Thomas if he was white, Chinese, Eskimo, or a purple-polka-dot-platypus. Anyone, regardless of background or race or gender or taste in music, should, could and hopefully will eventually star in a story that is just about twisting life's fingers until it cries uncle.

That's my opinion, anyhow. It came out rather wordy and I'm afraid a bit preachy, but those are the facts.

Now I need to get off of this blog and log in some more Thomas-time. Ze Book is not going to finish itself.

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