Writing While White

When I was writing my first book, I made the conscious decision not to describe characters in ways that could be used to definitively identify them as belonging to (or not belonging to) any particular race. I wanted readers to be able to imagine the people they were reading about in whatever way they wanted. I thought this would help. I was mistaken.

Unfortunately, it’s pretty well accepted today that for most readers, unless a character’s race is specified, they’re interpreted as, by default, White. That’s one of the ways white supremacy works: being White is normal; everything else is “other.” 

One of the things I make an effort to do when reading is to picture characters who aren’t explicitly identified as White as being… not White (and I’m sure there are others who do the same), but this is still a conscious decision I have to make. It’s still very easy to assume Whiteness. And a book in which everyone is White–even if that’s not what the author intended–is not representative of the world we live in. 

I didn’t include race, or racial markers, because I wanted to leave it up to the reader to decide, to allow for inclusivity. Obviously I can’t know how everyone experiences the book, but my guess is that most people simply read these characters as White, based on the evidence they are(n’t) given. It doesn’t matter what I may or may not have intended as the author; a book is what’s in it at the time the reader reads it. If something is important enough that the author wants people to know, they–I–should have included that in the first place. 

In drafts of stories I’ve worked on since, I’ve made a point of mentioning characters’ races–and not just “other” races, but White as well. (It’s equally important to point out Whiteness, or it continues to be the default, with the implication that everything else is different, and lesser somehow.) This doesn’t feel natural for me. To begin with, physical description is not one of my strong suits–but I also grew up in a culture where it was considered somewhat racist to even identify someone by race rather than ducking around it. But it’s something I have to work on. It’s my responsibility as an author to insist that BIPOC do exist, not just leave it up to readers to imagine them there.

However, it’s also important to point out that my lived experience–as a White person who grew up in a mostly White community, and still lives and works in a (different) mostly White community–means I am not best positioned to be writing about BIPOC. No matter how much research I might do, how sensitive I might be, their stories aren’t mine. The best I can do is ensure that what I do write is representative, and that I’m working hard to get that representation right–and, perhaps most importantly, that I call attention to voices who are getting it better than I can. 

Here are a few recent young adult novels written by BIPOC authors that I’ve really enjoyed and would recommend:

This is Kind of an Epic Love Story by Kacen Callender
American Panda by Gloria Chao
Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi
The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert
Fire Song by Adam Garnet Jones
Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann
Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead

(Note that you may find some of these classified as adult fiction, because our society is also more likely to treat young people (and books) dealing with difficult issues as adult (book)s when the people involved are minorities.)

That’s a small list. (And we could talk a lot about why there are so few books by, and even about, BIPOC.) But it can be a start. 

A Statement.

All week I’ve been reading the news with growing horror. Every day it’s worse and worse.

Two months ago, the United States voting public freely elected a proto-fascist, isolationist plutocrat with no relevant experience to the presidency. (That was bad enough.) Now, in the eight days since taking office, President Trump has already set into motion so many appalling policies, signaled approval of so many appalling positions, and made so many appalling appointments that it’s hard to even know what to be most upset about.

Continue reading “A Statement.”

This Writing Contest is Kind of Cool

It’s been a long time since I’ve paid very much attention to any writing contests, because most of them charge quite a bit of money to enter, and most of them are meant for short stories, and I realized a while ago that I don’t really like short stories. But this contest is for super-short stories (also known as flash fiction), which I do sometimes enjoy, and there’s no entry fee.

Continue reading “This Writing Contest is Kind of Cool”

Ebook Sale!

25% Off Weeks and Days ebookThis one’s exactly what it says on the tin: the ebook version of Weeks and Days is on sale, currently 25% off at Smashwords. You’ll need to enter the code SSW25 to get the discount, but since it’s part of Smashwords’ big annual ebook sale, I’m under the impression that you’ll be prompted (or at least reminded at some point) to do so. Smashwords offers ebooks in various formats (including, yes, whatever it is that’s used by Kindle) so if reading digitally is your thing, check it out here. The sale runs through July 31.

That–reading digitally–brings me to something I’ve been wondering: do you read ebooks? And, if so, do you prefer ebooks to print, or only read ebooks when print isn’t available, or have no preference, or something else? I’ve heard the many pros and cons of each, but when it comes down to deciding, what do you actually choose to do?


I Lied. This Is the Real Cover.

Maybe you remember the Weeks and Days cover reveal post I did a couple months ago. Maybe you could tell I wasn’t super excited. (“Eh, voila,” anyone?) I’ll admit it now: I wasn’t.

I’ve been iffy about that cover for a long time. It was serviceable; it could’ve been worse–but those aren’t exactly ringing endorsements. I never really liked it. A few days after I got my last proof copy back from the printer, I realized that I hated it so much I was already fantasizing about re-releasing a new edition with a re-designed cover–and the first edition hadn’t even come out yet.

So: re-designed cover. Yay!

Continue reading “I Lied. This Is the Real Cover.”

Weeks And Days: Excerpt Number Two

We’re now two weeks from the release date so, as promised, here’s another brief excerpt from Weeks and Days. (If you haven’t read the first excerpt yet, it’s here.) This part happens pretty early on–I didn’t want to throw something at you totally without context, and I also didn’t want to give too much away.

Also, keep in mind that I’ve taken this chunk right out of the middle of a section (which is why it begins and ends kind of abruptly). I hope it still reads okay–and I hope you enjoy it!

Continue reading “Weeks And Days: Excerpt Number Two”

Weeks and Days: An Excerpt

So. A month from today–April 6–is the official Weeks and Days release date, which is… honestly, I think it hasn’t really sunk in yet. That this is happening. Soon.

Regardless, the book comes out in a month, and in recognition of that, I wanted to give you a small sample of the contents. Weeks and Days doesn’t have chapters, but if it did, this would be the first chapter (or chapters, or partial chapter, depending on how long they were). Call it a teaser, call it a free sample, call it whatever you like; here’s the first part of Weeks and Days.

Continue reading “Weeks and Days: An Excerpt”