It just occurred to me as I was doing the dishes last night. I was just sort of pondering what my main character would look like and then it clicked. I consistently have main characters who are African in my stories. (Thus far Ugandan, Sudanese and Zimbabwean, but I plan on hitting more countries as I write more extensively!)
This strikes me as a little crazy. For one it tells a LOT about the types of people I pay attention to in general. (I do draw a very big distinction between black American folks and African folks – not in a negative way, it’s just that a lot of the cultural ideals are quite different.) It also reflects the that I think casts and characters in current American story lines are really not all that diverse. Like, not at all.
I believe that I use African characters more than black characters because I want the diversity but fail to understand the culture of black Americans. I observe it but it makes no sense to me. Just like if someone put a massive calculus equation on a chalkboard, I could copy it down, perhaps even memorize it, but it’s still just a bunch of numbers, letters and symbols to me. It holds no meaning and I am in no way attached to it.
I’ve been on the hunt for a picture of a girl who looks the way I see my current main character, Kadyn Jakola. Trying to find a black American movie star or singer who is darker than Jennifer Hudson is a serious challenge. I usually can’t stand him but Malcolm X was spot on about intraracial prejudice. Shudders. This makes me really sad. Anyway, this gorgeous girl is pretty dang close to what I see when I picture Kadyn. Only with a shoulder length straight bob and long bangs brushed to the side. Stunner, right?
And this is what I imagine Kadyn’s older sister, Adia, looks like. I’m not sure about the natural curls, I don’t think she has time to manage them. But everything else is about right. (I know I’m stretching it but, because of a twist in the story, they don’t look much alike.)
Anyway, to move on to the next topic. I’m not sure how anyone in the publishing industry will feel about having a main character who is black. Is that weird? I know magazines don’t usually put models/actresses/singers on the cover who aren’t white because sales go down. And unless you’re Denzel or Big Willie, you probably aren’t going to see a lot movies with black actors as the main character.
Here’s the thing: I don’t want to harp on the issue. Because no one likes to listen to someone harp on racial issues unless they themselves also harp on racial issues. But realistically, could a black main character might keep me from getting published? I hope not. That would be sad. But that’s the world we live in.
So I’m not going to ask “Would you read a book with a black person as a main character?” because that’s a dumb question. No one who would say “no” would be reading my blog. :)