Tuesday, March 18, 2014

I am a writer of colored character.

Christopher Meyers said - "Too often today’s books remain blind to the everyday reality of thousands of children. Children of color remain outside the boundaries of imagination. But what it means is that when kids today face the realities of our world, our global economies, our integrations and overlappings, they all do so without a proper map. They are navigating the streets and avenues of their lives with an inadequate, outdated chart, and we wonder why they feel lost.
When I realized how few characters of color exist in literature for young people I went straight to work and wrote a novel with a brown, male main character. BECAUSE the statistics were grossly unfair and biased. I cannot be a part of the mass of white authors who stay safely behind their Caucasian safety nets  in order to avoid stereotypes or inconsistencies in culture.  It seems many minority characters end up being either an overstated stereotype or a helpless victim easily disposed of.   OR the authors who, in order to avoid offending anyone, leave the minority race characters to be written by minority race authors who, apparently, have free reign to describe their race and culture however they feel because they won't be chastised as harshly.  I won't stifle my stories with extensive research in order to portray my colored characters in exact adherence to ethnic norms because in reality today many of these traditions have been dropped. (especially in Canada where generations have passed since our ancestral immigrations).  I can write what I know because in the end, we are all human and that is something I know a lot about.

I am also a writer of colored characters because that is what kids need.  Kids need to experience and related to their identity in the books they read.  They need to know that their race exists outside of cultural folktales.  They need to feel apart of the society they live in.  They need to feel included and confident to interact with the diversity around them. So, I'll do the best I can even though for some of you it might not be good enough. My character might act "too white" or "too unreal" and I can accept that.  What I won't do is omit the character because I'm not willing to take that chance.  I'm not willing to have my readers think the absence of colored characters is acceptable.


L. E. Carmichael said...

I'm reading between the lines here, Halli, but it sounds as though you've received some negative feedback for being a white writer whose characters include people of colour. Is that true?

Halli Lilburn said...

Not really. I have expressed my support for diversity and received very negative feedback because I "could never sympathize". I asked what effort they were putting towards the issue only to discover they felt outdone by my efforts. I can only shrug at this.