Multi-ethnic characters, the publishing industry and why I don’t harp on racial issues…

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.)

(I can’t remember who this is. I’ve never seen her in anything. But she’s gorgeous. I’ll figure it out eventually.)

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. :)

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1 Comment

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One response to “Multi-ethnic characters, the publishing industry and why I don’t harp on racial issues…

  1. Hey. Another great piece. I would love to hear your story. I find it fascinating that you don’t feel like you connect with black america. Though, I guess I can get it on some front. Being multi-racial must have been interesting. I always love your honesty and vulnerability when you write.

    SN: The Shack did really well and its main character was a black woman.

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