Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Fisking "How to Write Protagonists of Colour When You’re White"

Well, this happened. I must now fisk something so stupid it must be smacked round.  Larbalestier's "How to Write Protagonists of Colour When You’re White" ... she's an Australian YA author who has already vowed to never write a person of color every again.

I'm sure everyone's first thought is, "Yes, and what happens when you write a white character and you're a "Protagonist of Color"? Larry Correia, the Portuguese author, I'm sure talked to plenty of his nearest and dearest white friends to come up with half of the MHI family.

And if you believe that one...

I suspect this is either under the notice of Larry Correia to fisk, or that it's too stupid for him to burn the brain cells on it.

However, I've got plenty of time, and I'm not using a lot of my brain cells, so...
Step One: Ask Yourself Why
Why am I fisking you? Because you're insulting and a moron. But mostly because you're insulting.
Why are you writing this book? 
To be paid to be entertaining. Duh. Like most people.
Why have you decided to write a protagonist whose background is different from your own?
Because that's every other person on the face of the planet.

No, seriously, every single person grew up in a family different from mine. Unless there are many Thomist philosophy professors married to microbiologists who then raised a historian, and whose family Christmas film is Die Hard. I think I'm unique. Thanks.
Is it because you want to make the world a better place? 
Are you being serious right now, or is it just brain damage? I'm hoping for brain damage. The closest I came to "making the world a better place" is writing A Pius Man, because I'm really sick of historians lying about history. I'm writing because it's fun for me, it entertains other people, and it makes me happy, especially when it makes me money.

Because doing so seems to be the cool new thing?
Yes. Writing is so very new. Authors writing about people they are nothing like? That goes back to Homer.
Because you lived for many years in a foreign country and you think that writing about it from that outsider’s perspective is voyeuristic and exploitative? 
I think that's actually called a National Geographic issue.

And ... you're one of those racists who hated the concept behind Marvel's Iron Fist, aren't you?
Because you have the imagination and understanding to do so? Because you’re the reincarnation of an African king? Because you came across a cool story in the local newspaper and only you can do justice to that story? Because you’ve been part of the community you’re writing about since birth? Because the voice of the character came to you in a dream?
Because your meds never kicked in? Because your parents dropped you on your head as a child?
Once you’ve figured out why you’re going to write an Indigenous protagonist or Protagonist of Colour and can explain your motivations clearly you can move on
Lady, I've only just heard of you and I wish to move on.

Also, at this point, I searched the article for one word: Patterson. If you don't mention James Patterson (white guy) writing Alex Cross (long running, bestselling black character) isn't worth a mention in this article, I already know that you're not to be taken seriously, because you haven't taken a serious look at any characters written by anyone of a different race.

Okay, I didn't take you seriously from the title of the post, so there's that.
Step Two: Research
Writing from the point of view of someone from a community that gets less representation in mainstream culture than your own is hard.
I think what she means to add here is "Because I am a soulless monstrosity devoid of all empathy."
Especially when what representation they do get is largely negative and/or stereotyped.
Stereotyped. Uh huh. I'm sorry, do you think that white folk are going to take notes on race from Birth of a Nation? Oh, wait, I'm sorry, I'm sure you're one of those people who wouldn't want me to take notes on Black Lives Matter by watching Ferguson or Baltimore devolve into race riots -- or note that Shaun King, white guy passing for black, was one of the BLM leaders.

You know, facts.
If you do not know people in that community, and have not spent time in that community, it will be an uphill battle to write from that point of view believably.
Because I can't possibly imagine living in a place where diverse and multicultural lands are. Oh wait, I live in Queens, with 167 ethnic groups that speak 117 different languages. Or was it 167 different languages spoken by 117 different ethnic groups?
Which is why you must research.
Oh, thank you, oh font of wisdom, I never would have imagined doing that without you telling me to do that.

Oh, wait, sorry, I'm a historian and a writer. I can't write anything without having done at least an hour of research. And that's just to make certain that I get the right ballistics on the right weapon. It would never occur to me to research anything else.

No, really, do you even write, lady?
As much as you can avoid accounts written by outsiders—all you’ll learn is how outsiders see them, not how they see themselves.
Yes, because the people within the community have no reason at all to make themselves look better than they are, or misrepresent themselves in any way.

You know, like Margaret Mead's book Growing up in Samoa was based on the research of two adolescent girls who made up whatever lies would sound good to the left-leaning feminist who wanted to paint Samoa as a feminist paradise among noble savages. It came from the natives, therefore it must have been true. Right?

Nah. No reason why anyone would make stuff up.

... Ow, I just rolled my eyes too hard. I may have sprained something.
Read books written by the people of that community. Watch TV and movies created by them. Look at what they write about themselves on social media. Listen to their podcasts.
Wow, that's ...

I'm sorry, does this creature realize what that does? I mean, good God, would this person really want me to base my impressions on the black community by what's written by Spike Lee?

And social media and podcasts ... she does realize that most people seem to distort themselves, reality, and at least mildly exaggerate personal and community traits on social media and podcasts? Does this even occur to her?
Confusingly, you will find many of their accounts of themselves and their communities contradictory.
No! Really? I'm shocked. Shocked I say... no, not really. The only thing shocking about that is that you were so stupid you feel like you have to state it.
Take a moment to think about that. Is it really confusing to have a wide range of opinions within the one community?
Consider the histories and novels that have been written about your community. It’s likely they’re every bit as contradictory. There is no completely unified community that agrees about everything. You know, other than, say, The Borg.
That's easy. It's called the People's Republic of China -- they definitely put in the effort there, or they cut your head off -- or perhaps Tor books. Or SJWs; they've certainly got a lockstep on what their history looks like. It's a total lie, but they agree on it. In public at least. Until they get new marching orders. 

Oh, wait, I'm sorry, according to this, "communities" are only racial, aren't they?

And that's another thing: are there no communities that are racially / ethnically diverse?  Where the hell do you live, lady? Outer Whitelandia? Because I gotta tell you, even slapping that label on Eastern Long Island (which the OW name is stolen from) breaks down if you pay attention for five minutes. I can't even say Utah, since they've got, you know, Larry Correia, to start with, and Brad Torgersen and his wife for another. Seriously, what claustrophobic little bubble do you live in?
Ask the people you know well in that community questions. Listen to their answers.
No. I thought if I was going to ask anyone anything, I'd completely ignore them. Twit.

Though I've got a friend of mine in Crown Heights. Pleasant black woman. Very nice. She's also a pagan dominatrix who's held jobs as a midwife, medical assistant and massage therapist, whose views on Jews border on anti-semitism, and who read Gilgamesh for fun, and made certain her son read Lord of the Rings when  he was 9. I'm sure she's perfectly representative of the community on Northern Parkway. Right? That can't possibly go wrong...

If you don’t know anyone well from the community you’re writing about go back to step one, Why are you writing this book?
 I don't know anyone in Italy, and yet I wrote A Pius Man. Does that mean I shouldn't have bothered, or can I get away with it because I'm white? Because "white" is a universal cultural constant all by itself?
Do not jump onto social media to ask strangers about their community. Though some may be kind enough to respond it is not their job to teach you.
But if I have friends, it would be their job to teach me?

So, should my black friends be asking me about my community, am I obligated to teach them? Because I'll be waiting to take that call. Oh wait, they don't have to, because you've completely excluded them from this article, haven't you?
Step Three: Find Sensitivity Readers
Oh come on, you have to be yanking my chain right now. Sensitivity readers? Traumatic Brain Injury much?
When you have finished your diligent research, and have a complete manuscript you’re happy with
No, I thought I would just jump in and half-ass it, whether I'm happy with it or not. God, you're making my brain hurt.
you need to have people from the community you’ve chosen to represent look at your book.
I'm sorry, I don't know many people in the Sudan. Or San Francisco. Or France. Or many of the other places I set my novels. You realize I have only one novel that's really a "New York"  book, right?

Oh, dang it, there I go again, thinking that a "community" meant neighborhoods and the people in them. You mean "random minority #3."
Approach these readers in good faith and pay them for their work. Because it is hard work.
You're kidding me, right? Because if someone came to me, and said, "Free book, it takes place in your neighborhood, want to read it?" I should decline, and insist that they pay me for it, because it's just so hard to figure out if my general area has been misrepresented, even though I grew up here and lived here for decades?

Oh wait, I could tell if they didn't described the cracks in the sidewalk properly.

Also, writers with money ... does it grow on trees on your planet?
When someone critiques your book about their community it’s called a sensitivity reading.
Well, that's the pussy name for it. Normal people call it the editing process. Perhaps beta reading.
It’s called that because they’re reading to see if you have been sensitive to the community you’re writing about.
You realize that being "sensitive" isn't the same as being "accurate," don't you? If I wanted to describe BLM destroying Ferguson or Baltimore, it may not be sensitive to have blacks destroying their own neighborhoods, but it would be accurate. Maybe I should never write anything about the Baltimore crack wars, because that was largely black-on-black violence, and that wouldn't be sensitive of me. Or any writer.

How insulting would you like to be? Because you seem to have nailed speaking down to people and infantilizing anyone different from you.
If you have instead written stereotyped caricatures then critiquing your book is going to be even harder work.
If I've written any caricatures, then my book will suck anyway. Thanks.
For some readers it will be painful work.
I hope my books aren't that bad. Yours probably are, so I get where you're coming from. Lord knows it's hurting my head to read your crap.
It’s best to have more than one sensitivity reader.
It's best to have more than one reader. Period.
Some readers might tell you the book’s fine, or only find a few minor problems with it, while others will find major problems. No community agrees on everything. Listen carefully and rewrite your book accordingly.
And then do ... what? Grab the opinion that suits you best? Which opinions are invalid and which aren't?
I had two of my readers tell me they found some of the dialogue of the black characters in Liar jarring. While other readers had no problem with it. I opted to change it.
Read: "Because I am a spineless wuss who can't risk offending even one single person of color."
None of those readers had a problem with Micah’s use of the word “nappy” to describe her hair, though they agreed it might be a problem that I, a white writer, was using it. After publication some readers found it offensive. I discuss that at greater length here.
 If you're writing to please anyone other than yourself and your target audience, you're doing it wrong.
No amount of careful rewriting based on your sensitivity readers’ critiques will shield you from criticism.
If you want to be shielded from criticism, you shouldn't be writing. Or be on the internet. Or have an opinion. You should crawl into -- no, under -- your safe spaces and pull the cover over your head, and stay there.
That is not what sensitivity readings are for. They are to show you how to write your book as accurately and as sensitively as possible.
My idea of sensitivity training is to see if I can feel my hands after hitting a punching bag without gloves for thirty minutes.
And there you have it in three easy steps you now know how to write from the point of view of a Person of Colour or an Indigenous person. What could go wrong?
Aside from the fact that you were completely insulting, demeaning, and talked down to every other culture in existence, and that your very title and premise is racist, and assumes that white people can't write any other race -- not culture, but race -- and that black writers apparently don't need that same effort? Can't think of a thing.
What’s Wrong With This Guide
I thought I was doing that list quite well, myself.
Sadly, a lot goes wrong, particularly at step one.
Then why do you even think you're qualified to be writing all this crap?
Let me speak from my own experience, having written six books from the points of view of Teens of colour and an Indigenous teen.
Do you even hear your pretension anymore?
I went wrong at that first step. I did not ask myself why I was doing this.
I think it's called virtue signaling. I could be wrong, I'm new here to this depth of the stupid end of the gene pool.
It did not occur to me that writing from an Indigenous or PoC point view was problematic.
If I had asked myself, these are the reasons I probably would have given: that I wanted to examine racism, and that I was trying to make YA more diverse.
I'm told that Katniss Everdeen is actually some variety of mixed-race in the novels (no, haven't read them, don't intend to, and if you don't believe me, do a Google search on the debate). I hear that Jagi Lamplighter's Rachel Griffin is Asian. Also, Harry Potter dated a Scottish Chinese girl, aided the rise to power of an African to lead the wizarding world, and took a set of Indian twins to the prom. I'm certain between two of the biggest YA franchises in the universe, as well as an Indie pub, no one will notice what you're doing, who you're doing, or who you are.

No, seriously, who the bleep are you, lady? Should I even know who you are, or why I should care about your opinion?
My old belief that I couldn’t write about racism from a white point of view is garbage. Certainly books like To Kill a Mockingbird show that. 
I'm certain you have no problems, given how racist you are every time you make some of your assumptions.
But books like Mockingbird have other problems. Racism in Mockingbird is something that good white people save black people from. 
Funny, as I recall it, no one was saved in that book. The defendant was declared guilty, and was killed while trying to escape. In fact, the only person who was saved was the Scout, the white girl, saved from the racist redneck by the autistic next door neighbor. Other than that, it was about understanding multiple types of different people from you, within one's own neighborhood -- understand the cranky old lady who's kicking a morphine addiction, or the poor family, or that the black housemaid has perfect elocution when she comes to work, but has to slip into a different dialect when she goes to her church.

No, really, what book were you reading lady?
Racism is something that bad whites do, not a system of oppression that benefits all whites.
Uh huh ... avoiding for the fact that the footnote for that link is sketchy as hell, I really must look up how all those Irishmen were employed over blacks in the 1860s, because racism benefitted all whites...

Oh, wait, I'm sorry. The Irish were unemployable except as cops, and slaves complained when they thought they were being treated like Irishmen.

A sense of history is just lost on you, isn't it, lady?
There need to be more books in YA that examine white complicity in systemic racism.
You mean aside from To Kill a Mockingbird, where it was decided that Atticus was in the minority, and the rest of the white population wanted to just lynch the defendant? Did you sleep through that part of the semester in English lit, or did you just skim the cliff notes?
I also thought I was saving YA by writing PoC and Indigenous main characters. It’s a notion that is dangerously close to the idea of the white saviour.
This is the part of virtue signalling where you acknowledge one or two "minor" racist qualities you may or may not have, while completely ignoring every other bit of actual racist assumptions you have been making. Right?
Once I’d proffered those two woeful reasons I would have explained that I was qualified to write these books because I spent part of my childhood living on Aboriginal settlements in the Northern Territory of Australia and because I have many friends who aren’t white. At the time I doubt I’d have realised I was literally saying, “Some of my best friends are black”
How nice for you. Did your friends actually give a crap? Because I notice that you're not talking about how your friends browbeat you for screwing up. In fact, coming back to this point having read the entire article, at no time did you claim your aboriginal friends actually bitch, whine or complain at you.
Yes, I’m ashamed.
You should be. Your stupidity is bleeding all over the internet, and should be quarantined. Never blog again.
Arrogantly, I did not let what I didn’t know about my Aboriginal and PoC protagonists be a bar to writing them.
You're not letting what you don't know about sociology, culture, or reality act as a bar to writing this, so at least you're consistent. Which I suppose makes you a hobgoblin of your own mind.
I made my protags of the same class and gender as me, which I figured would give me enough commonality to write them convincingly. Spoiler: it doesn’t. I did not consider how much I didn’t know about the ways in which race and ethnicity shape class and gender. It is impossible to know what you don’t know, which also makes it incredibly hard to write believable characters’ whose experiences are far from your own.
Wait, hold on. You were going to write to make YA more diverse, and yet you made your main characters just like you? Wow, you're bad at even being a good SJW race peddler.
All writers need to have the ego it requires to write.
Yes, I had you pegged as an egomaniac.
But we white writers also need to step back from feeling we have the right to write the stories of people with less power than ourselves.
Wow. So you just made the blanket assumption that every nonwhite person has less power than you, and is thus automatically inferior to you? Did you just do that? Really? Because I'm relatively certain that the black millionaires in this country have somewhat more power than I do. Heck, Larry Correia has more power than I do -- as he owns his own mountain, and enough guns to take Panama.

But you have just stated that I can't write anyone who's a different color different than I am, because, obviously and automatically, they're not white, therefore I am automatically more powerful than they are.

And I still like that I can't write about anyone else's community but "my own," and she's not saying that I can't write about Jews, or native born Italians, or Appalachians (who are all in different communities), they're fine, but I can't write about my Guyanese neighbor or the Indian couple across the street, even though we've all lived in the same neighborhood and have gone to the same school and the same church, and live in the exact same socio-economic bracket.

Does she even have an idea about how small minded that is?

Also, stop with the "we." I'd rather not be in the same gene pool as you.
Especially because every year more books by whites are published than by any other race.
So, you're saying that the New York liberals who dominate the publishing industry are racists who have completely locked out every other ethnicity? Or are you suggesting that "any other race" don't submit as much?

Also, wait -- I have written a trilogy where an African pope, who grew up in Sudan, joins forces with a Jew and an Egyptian (among others), but I can't write that story because I should find out if a black person wants to write it?
  1. Stop being so narrow minded. Ten writers with the same idea will execute it ten different ways.
  2. Stop thinking publishing is a zero-sum game. That's what self publishing is for.
  3. No, seriously, you're accusing the publishing industry of locking out everyone but whites, aren't you? Well, fine, liberals are racists. I'll talk to Baen, then. Do you have any numbers on proportions of submissions versus rejections? Because you're just throwing crap out there, aren't you?
So, fine, stop writing and do something else. Leave everyone else alone.
In YA, not only are the majority of books by white people, so are the majority of books about PoC and Native peoples. When we write these books we are literally keeping books by PoC and Native writers off the shelves.
Considering how crazy you have to be to be a writer in the first place, are you certain this isn't an indication that those folks aren't saner and more pragmatic? Seriously, why would anyone want to be a writer if they had a choice? It's legalized schizophrenia. Maybe they're just saner.

Honestly, who are you keeping out of publishing? Are you personally keeping them from having access to Createspace of Kindle Direct Publishing?  You do realize that your incestuous world of big five publishing is falling apart, right? That anyone who wants to be published can be published if they have the material? Or do you think that the only books who count are the ones done by the big five? Because if that's the case, you have more problems than race relations to worry about.
Outside of my books with multiple protags, I now only write white protagonists because I realised that I was part of the problem of lack of diversity in YA, not the solution.
Yes, yes, if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

Do us a favor, eh? Just stop writing. Because if everyone in your book is like you, your books must be so boring.
There are books by white writers with PoC protagonists that are loved by some people in those communities.
Go ahead, name one. Please. Be my guest. Say James Patterson. Come on. Say it. Saaaayyyy iiiiiitttt.
But I think we white writers can do more good by calling attention to the books by PoC and Indigenous writers and by thinking about PoC and Indigenous readers.
Fine. Stop writing. Larry Correia needs more money to buy another submachinegun, you racist, you.
In answering the question of why you want to write a book about someone else’s community try to think of those readers before you think about yourself. Think about who is better qualified to tell their stories: you or them?
If you're writing someone else's story, that's called plagiarism. If you're not writing a story that will please you, why are you bothering? Really, is the money that easy to come by for you?

Also, if you're trying to write stories that will completely and absolutely offend no one on the planet Earth, then what fun is that? Who are your bad guys? Martians? Listen, lady, an all-white cast in my novels makes me nervous. Again, I grew up in Queens, a monochromatic room makes me nervous. Are you honestly going to tell me you're so worried about misrepresenting someone, every novel from now on is going to be 100% white bread? Congratulations, you've just become an even bigger racist -- you won't have any other races in your stories. Nicely done.
Misusing Sensitivity Readers
Oooo, kinky.
In the last few years I have heard multiple stories about white writers in the YA, Romance and SFF communities misusing and abusing sensitivity writers. 
That's why it's so important to establish the safe words beforehand.
Writers who have employed sensitivity readers in bad faith, only wanting these readers to give them the Indigenous or PoC seal of approval. Spoiler: there is no such thing.
Are there honestly people who go around saying "My black friends approve this book"? Because I have to say, that's even more idiotic than this person.
Sensitivity readers do not read your manuscript to give you cover. They read to show you how to make it better, how to make it not offensive.
Again, that's called an editor. Get it straight.
If they think that’s not possible they will tell you to kill the project.
Uh huh.

Um, lady, you do realize that you just said that the writer should take the product of weeks / months / years of work and flush it down the toilet, based entirely on the word of whatever random person they happen to choose as this "sensitivity reader?" You do realize that writers don't like burning that much time, energy and effort, right? After all, you claim to be a writer, don't you? You have just imbued these readers with the power to destroy God knows how much of someone's life.

Because sensitivity uber alles.
Listen to them.
Lady, I'm not even listening to you.
Writers who keep getting the same critique from sensitivity readers and ignoring it are acting in bad faith. 
Wait, I thought every reader was different. And now, suddenly, they're all going to be in lockstep? When did this suddenly happen?
If more than one person finds the same problem with your manuscript LISTEN TO THEM. 
Now we're just back to standard beta readers.
And if it’s more than five or ten or, as in one case I heard about, twenty people pointing out the same problem?
If they have 20 beta readers, where do you collect them? Because I need a butterfly net and a stun gun to collect that many.
And you continue to ignore them and send your manuscript to yet another sensitivity reader? You need to stop. You need to burn the manuscript and go all the way back to step one and realise that you had no good reason for writing that book.
Again, you want to insist that someone burn the work of months or more. That's called a rewrite. Maybe change a character if you're going to insist on it. But to burn the whole thing? No, writers save what we can and move on. Maybe you should try it.

And money is the only reason to write a book. Because if no one's paying you, what the hell are you doing?
You also need to realise that you have trashed your good name in the community. People talk. People know what you’re doing and they’re appalled.
You mean the community that no white person can ever be a part of, or ever understand without the aid of someone of the exactly precise color holding their hand? That community?  Yes, I'm sure that's how James Patterson does it. I'm even certain that Suzanne Collins is a partially black poor girl living in a gulag-like state that has gladiatorial matches.

Frankly, I think the bigger problem is that this theoretical person or persons -- who never have any name, nor can she point to an example -- has possibly burned potential customers.
If you can’t take critique from the people who know the life experiences of your protagonist better than you do then STOP.
My pagan friend from Crown Heights will not be giving me advice on how to write my Sudanese Cardinal turned Pope, thank you.

And, I'm sorry, are communities so homogeneous in Australia that giving a manuscript to any random person of the proper color will result in a better impression of a community than, say, the person living in the exact area? Because, trust me, my friend in Crown Heights will probably have a different impression of things than the black Catholic priest from the Bronx, but I suspect neither of them will have a better impression than I would of someone living in this exact corner or Queens.

Also, if I'm writing a character of any depth whatsoever, I'm already living in that person's head. If someone else is writing them better than I can, then something is seriously wrong here.
Pointing to the good reviews your book received once it was published, the prizes it won, is irrelevant. The vast majority of trade reviewers are white. The vast majority of major literary prizes come from white institutions. 
I sincerely hope she personally took that poll of this "vast majority" of reviewers from over the entire planet. Because the planet is a really big place. I would hate it if she missed a spot.

And money? Is that relevant? Because James Patterson is a bestseller. Are blacks really up in arms over his presentation of Alex Cross living in the bad parts of Washington DC?  Because if they are, he probably hasn't noticed, because he's buried under his piles of money.
We white folk are not the best judges of accurate representations of any communities other than our own.
Is Australia a land of apartheid? Because, I'm sorry, using the word "community" to represent a racially and culturally homogeneous block of people is so alien a concept to me, I have problems wrapping my brain around it. Hell, Harlem is the most monochromatic section of the city I can think of, and the community is still broken down by Jamaicans versus Dominicans, versus five other different backgrounds. And then there's East Harlem, where it all goes into a million flavor of Hispanic.

Where I am from, a community isn't about race, it's about people who live in a neighborhood who socially interact with each other on a daily basis. It's about a shared and common culture. It's .... will someone teach this woman sociology!?
Nor is pointing to the Indigenous readers and Readers of Colour who’ve told you that they love your work. All too often they are so starved for representation that many have learned to be generous readers of even the worst representations. 
Wow. Just wow. You know, you need to put on an American Southern accent before you say "Dem poor chillun so desperate, dey'll say anything fo' anybody." Then you can go and sing "Mammy."

No, seriously, I am blown away. Not only is she accusing white authors of using nonwhites as human shields, she's declaring that those who back a book in defiance of "the community," are doing it because they will sacrifice their honesty and personal dignity by prostituting themselves for "the white author," just because someone of the same skin tone is on the cover.

And, wait, hold on, so if I have a black ensemble cast, and blacks read it in droves, but Al Sharpton hates it, I'm supposed to flagellate myself and cry mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa?

I'm thinking ... no.
All too often I have heard teenagers say they’re just grateful to see themselves on their cover, to be able to read a book about someone like them, even if it doesn’t ring true.
Please, keep the unsubstantiated, anecdotal claims coming.

Is anyone else finding this more fantastic as we go along? Because I have trouble wrapping my brain around it.
Read the thoughtful analyses of books on Edi Campbell’s blog or on Debbie Reese’s American Indians in Children’s Literature. Some of the problematic books they discuss received multiple starred reviews and prizes.
Yes, because blogs that are all about political activism and racial politics are going to be the true arbiters of what a "community" thinks.

If this is her idea of what a community thinks and how it feels, no wonder why she's so dismissive of the opinions of readers. Readers are the little people, who are just too stupid to know what's good for them. Better to get the politically approved spin on a "community" than to value the opinion of those people in the community WHO ARE BUYING THE BOOK.
What makes Edi and Debbie’s work powerful is that it is so clearly about the children and teenagers in their communities. Their mission is not to castigate white writers; it is to find books they can recommend wholeheartedly to those readers.
They have you well trained, I'm sure.
That is all the readers of any community that has been historically stereotyped and underrepresented wants: to read books that won’t make them roll their eyes, wince, or put the book down because reading it is too painful in the very worst way.
Yes, as a white Catholic male, I await the day when I can pick up a book or watch a TV show that isn't Blue Bloods and not see a Catholic priest as being evil Jesuit #9.

But I'm sure I don't count in this discussion. Because no one needs to do any work on representing me, because whiteness is uniform and universal.
It’s Not About Us
Lady, you've been all about Eve since minute one, and your neuroses as well. So it's a little late for that crap.
Their work is not about us white writers. This debate about diversity in literature is not about us white writers. 
Sure it is. The word "white"  appears in your article 68 times, more than "PoC" (28) and "Colour" (13) combined.

I think you've made it all about being white.

And what do you mean "us" lady? While I am Caucasian, I'd rather not associate myself with anything you might be attached to.
The only way to fix what’s wrong with publishing is systemic change at every point within the industry: from the CEOs of publishing companies through to the writers and editors and agents and sales reps and booksellers and librarians. Right now the majority are white. That has to change.
Fine. I'm sure that Edi and Debbie, and the Black Millionaires of King's County, GA, can start a publishing company that's self segregated from the "white industry."  Because it's not segregation if you're doing it yourselves, is it?

Or were you hoping to go into Tor and fire the Nielsen-Hayden's and Moshe Feder? Because I gotta say, it might be better to start new publishing companies than taking over ones that are sinking.

And, again, where is indie publishing in all of this? Self publishing? Independent is more than half the market now. Is she trying to insist that Createspace and Amazon, and self publishers are keeping nonwhites out of publishing? Really? Or, again, do they just not count?
But we white writers keep centring ourselves. As Patrick Jones does in his recent article,
Writing While White, published in the June 2016 issue of Voya where he discusses writing PoC teen protags as a white man:
I shared the first few chapters with two award-winning black female authors who said, more or less, “No, you—as a white male—can’t tell this story.” I also asked a black female librarian from Flint to pre-read it. Her comment-slash-question, “Why didn’t you have them eating fried chicken and watermelon?”
Chasing told one black girl’s story; the pre-reader saw it as a white retelling a stereotypical story. I caved, but at the time, I didn’t think it was the best move. I understood the arguments about writing outside of race, but I didn’t accept them. So Tonisha became Christy.
That's seriously not helpful feedback. 
Jones did the right thing in that he asked knowledgable readers to critique his book and they said, don’t do this. So he changed “Tonisha into Christy.” Well and good. Except that Jones does not seem grateful for their critiques nor does he acknowledge their hard work. He seems to have wanted his sensitivity readers to give him the PoC seal of approval and is annoyed that they didn’t.
"You can't write this because you're white" and "Why didn't you have them eating fried chicken and watermelon" is useful critique? Those are insults. He's suppose to be grateful for that?

And, seriously, what's so hard about reading something and throwing out insults? There are whole YouTube channels dedicated to reviewers just like that. But you'd like him to crawl on his hands and knees and say, "Thank you, may I have another?"
Jones also doesn’t seem to understood what they told him. Maybe they did say to him, “No white man can write this story.” But it also seems like they were saying, “You, Patrick Jones, cannot write this story. You have not created a believable black girl living in Flint. You have created a stereotypical caricature of a black teenage girl living in Flint, who might as well be eating fried chicken and watermelon.”
So now this person is a mind reader? Or she can read between the lines so well, that, yes, this is what they must have actually meant. "Bad Jones, how dare you misunderstand this helpful critique. How dare you not bend over and take it like a good self-abusing white person! Don't you know you're guilty because you're white? These perfectly well meaning readers must have meant well and gave you in-depth critiques because they are person's of color, and they're always well meaning. Because they have color."

Does that sound racist to anyone else? Or is it just me.
He presents their thoughtful critiques as bad advice that he caved to.
Objection! Facts not in evidence

Why is she assuming they were at all thoughtful? Because if those are direct quotes, I'd have some serious quibbles with these authors.

Why is she so certain that it must have been so very thoughtful a critique, and not an automatic, "You're white, screw you"?
He says he understood their arguments but that he didn’t accept them. He describes the long-running debate about racism and the need for more diversity in YA as noise.
If your writing is an example of the "debate," then yes, you are glorified static.
That’s the language of someone who is not listening.
Says the woman who assumes that phrases he puts in quotation marks weren't actually quotations.

Who's not listening?
Someone who mischaracterises this vital movement to change YA as being about whether white people are allowed to write PoC protagonists. This is a common misconception.
Again, this article is all about white people, while everyone else actually have a minority of mentions. Lady, you've made it about white people.
Later in the article Jones says he’s decided to stop writing PoC protags because he worries Teens of Colour might view his books as “perpetuat[ing] stereotypes.” But then he undercuts that central concern by saying he’s stopping because it’s all “too complicated and stressful” making it about him again.
I wonder why a person in a high-stress job like writing would worry about cutting out more stress from his life. Hmm....
This is a complicated and stressful debate but the central question is not whether whites like me and Jones can write PoC protagonists. No one is stopping us white writers writing whatever we want. Let me repeat: the majority of books in YA in the USA with PoC or Native protags are written by white writers.
Yeah, sure, feel free to keep saying that, but I don't hear how you intend to either
  1. Get more of X People to write Y books
  2. Get more of X-YA People to read more of Y books.
  3. Get more of X People to inhabit Z positions of power in publishing.
  4. Get Professor Xavier and Wolverine to write X-books (yes, I had to)
Hell, I've made more of an argument about that, and I'm just here to make fun of your inanity. I NOW HAVE MORE CONTENT AND SOLUTIONS TO YOUR ISSUES THAN YOUR OWN ARTICLE DOES.
We whites have to stop hijacking the debate to talk about us.
That by all means, stop talking. And stop saying "we," pale face.

If you meant that, doesn't that mean you would have turned over this blog space to one of your PoC friends to write it? Thus far, you've made it all about you.
By all means grapple with this question on your own, as Jones has done, as I have done.
Yeah, sure. "Jones is wrong, and did it wrong, and I'm right, but you can feel free to grapple with it like he does."

Whatever. I feel free to make fun of you, and point and laugh at you in public.
But we have to stop taking up space on Twitter, in Voya, and elsewhere to do so.
Yes, she seriously said that. After writing 3,200 words -- twelve typewritten pages -- on the subject, she objects to any white author who has this conversation on Twitter. On their own personal Twitter feeds. Because you're just taking up space, and you have nothing to say on the subject.

Congratulations, any white author, you are no longer allowed to express any views on this anywhere in public. Seriously, how is that not what that translates into? You're not even allowed to have this conversation on your own Twitter feed? Is Twitter now a limited commodity? Are nonwhite authors being locked out of Twitter?
If you read all the other articles in that issue of Voya you’ll find work by Debbie Reese, Edith Campbell, Sarah Park Dahlen, Amina Chadhri, Marieke Nijkamp and others on the truly central issues around Native American and PoC and other communities’ access, safety, autonomy, constructions of intersectional identity and so forth.
Ignore the token white guy in that article, he was just there so we could have one....
But PoC Writers Get to Write About Whites It’s Only Fair We Get to Write About Them
Too late, I made that joke already.
We whites do not know as much about Indigenous people and People of Colour as they know about us. This is a large part of why when we write from their points of views we all too often get it wrong.
Wait, what? I'm sorry, "they" know all about "whites," but "whites" know nothing about "them"? How? Because being white is such a consistent, blanket thing that is monocultural, and thus if a nonwhite knows exactly one white person, they know everything about all white people?


I am seriously asking this question: what pocket dimension does she live in that she thinks that "white" is such a uniform culture that any "nonwhite" doesn't have to do any of the same research that a white person would have to do?
Yes, we’re all human. Yes, we all have the same physiology. We all experience love and hate and desire and jealousy. We all need to eat and go to the toilet. But I’m no longer sure that our white imaginations are enough to fill in what we don’t know about loving and hating and existing as an Indigenous person or Person of Colour in a world where whiteness is prized and white people hold most of the power.
Now we're just back to Australia as an apartheid state. The way she puts it, perhaps it has concentration camps and racial purity tests. Because, seriously, "whiteness is prized"? Prized whiteness, is that an award? Do you have to enter a contest to win it? Or do you just have to be a serial killer like Buffalo Bill, and skin your own white people?
In a world where the vast majority of our publishing, film and television industries, and other media is run by, produced for, and about white people.
Yes, because white people own BET, and the 50% of the channels are for every language group under the sun, and did you fall asleep the day when Disney claimed that they had to kowtow to the Chinese because they have a billion consumers? Has someone started the Egyptian embalming process on you early, and ripped out your brain through your nose?

"Oh, white people run and make it for white people." Yeah, sure, right, because I, as a conservative Catholic male, have everything in common with media executives who think that guns are bad unless the government holds them, that all Catholic priests are child molesters, and abortionists are only murdered by right-wing pro-lifers.

By this understanding of how culture works, there must have been no problems between Serbs and Croats in Yugoslavia, because they're all "white."

There is no conflict in Northern Ireland, because they are all "white."

By this narrow minded, narrowly conceived, and narrowly defined version of "community," blacks in Harlem and blacks in the South are perfectly aligned in thought, word and deed.

If ignorance is bliss, how come she has not yet been raptured?
On Twitter writer Justina Ireland has talked about how: 
Every PoC lives with a dual consciousness. It’s the idea that PoC have to take on two identities in order to survive in a hostile society. Meaning: we learn how to act white in order to be successful. At school, in jobs, and in publishing. We know what it takes to be white. Which is why PoC can write white characters effortlessly. Because we’ve all played a white person at one time or another. . . Bottom line: the oppressed are forced to learn to identify with their oppressors, it rarely happens in the other direction.—Justine Ireland.
Hmm, where have I heard that idea before? Let me think ... let me think ....

Oh. Yeah. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. You know, the one that she dissed earlier? (IE: A scene where Scout is taken to the local black church, and bilingual is cross-cultural, as opposed to different languages).
White people do not have to take on two identities to survive in a hostile society. 
Spoken like a human being who has never hung out with a person who has ever held an idea in her head even slightly dissimilar to those around her.

No, honestly lady, what echo chamber do you live in that you think this is true? Again -- Catholic conservative in New York City. Trust me, learning camouflage is a survival skill. As is knowing how to interact with the Bhuddists on my block, the Black Baptists down the street from the Hispanic parish (which is my parish, by the way), and having polite conversations with Hasidim a mile north and hoping you don't piss them off because you support Israel.

So, sure, lady, "white people" know nothing about being a world that could be hostile to them.
Our society is not hostile to white people.
Define "our." I've gotten dirty looks in Harlem, and stared at like an alien in Chinatown. I have to watch my tongue every time I'm out in public, lest I get the wrong political activist trying to assault me because I have different ideas. And it's not because I'm "white," it's because I live in a world that doesn't tolerate dissent.

Here her footnote generously includes fat people.
Though it can certainly be hostile to other parts of our identities as many white women and most LBGTIQA and disabled and poor and working class and fat whites can attest. But our society is not hostile to our whiteness.
In this offhand dismissal, I guess that parts of New York society just hates other parts of my identity, and really and truly loves my whiteness. I must defend it with my life, lest they skin me for it.

Where the hell is this corner of the universe in which "white people" are some magical master race and have "power" over all they survey? Because this is just getting surreal now. Because Shaun King (a BLM leader) passes for black, even though he's white. And the less said about Rachel Dolezal the better.

... If "society" is not hostile to being white, then why would "whites" pass for anything else?
In a recent discussion writer Doselle Young put the difference more strongly, talking about:
....take a gander at white folks’ reactions when a beloved celebrity of color decides not to obscure their cultural identity.
White people lose their damned minds.
I'm sorry, is Denzel Washington passing for white? Are the Kardashians not some sort of Indian variant? Is Kanye West not ... a total schmuck who happens to be black? Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock are still black, aren't they? Because I don't remember them changing color or pretending to be anything else. Idris Elba? Eamonn Walker? Marlin Boulet? Michael Ealy? Sam Jackson? Did I miss a memo?
What happens when we reverse that? Do we, as white people, have the same kind of insights into POC experiences, that PoC have into what it is to be white? We do not.
I seem to recall Eminem has had some success in entering rap, generally considered to be a "black" cultural element. Also see Shaun King and Rachel Dolezal. How about Elizabeth Warren?
How would you respond if someone you didn’t know started telling you about your identity? 
I would fisk her into next Tuesday. In fact, I'm doing that right now.
As Doselle Young puts it:
Would you, as a writer, really expect someone else to do better job with the most telling details of YOUR autobiography? What forces would they need to marshal in order to pull that off? How many interview hours, how much research, thought, blood, sweat and tears would it take to get YOUR story right?
As "autobiography" makes it impossible to be written by anyone but me, no.

If you meant that someone other than me can do a better job of writing my biography? The answer is probably yes, if only because my memory comes and goes, and details are becoming fuzzier as time goes on. At this point, I'd want to talk to everyone who knew be back they just to make sure I got the details of my own life correct.
Everyone’s identity is complicated. 
Not really. I'm Catholic. Tom Knighton sexually identifies as a weapon of war. John Scalzi can't write his way out of a paper bag. This article I'm fisking was written by a Politically Correct zombie. See? Very easy.
All of us belong to different religions, cultures, subcultures, groups, clubs, kinship networks. 
Oh, no, there you're wrong. You must be. Because you've made it quite clear that none of this matters for "white people," and their uniform "whiteness."  For them, nothing else matters, they have no other issues, they have no other identity to struggle with. They are merely "white," otherwise, all of these nonwhite groups you've been talking about might actually, possibly, have to research something.
We all come from particular families. One of the most common complaints I hear about white people writing Indigenous and PoC characters is that we leave out their families and friendships with people like them. We tend to give them absent brown families and present white friends.
That depends, you want to discuss the "broken family" syndrome common among blacks in America since the 1960s? Didn't think so.
All of which leads back to step one: Why are you writing this book?

Maybe you shouldn’t.
Great advice. Stop writing. Time to retire.
Too late
Think long and hard before you write a book about a community not your own.
By that standard, I couldn't even have written Honor at Stake.  I don't even know people in Greenpoint.
Listen to your sensitivity readers.
His name is Allan. He breaks things with his head.
Whose story are you really trying to tell?
My own. Not yours.

I think I have made my point. This is garbage. Aside from the basic simple research angle, there is not one iota here that is not made-up, BS, politically correct claptrap. Notice, while she says that the real discussion is about getting nonwhites into publishing, she dedicates less than 10% of the article to the idea, and perhaps less than 5%. For a topic that has nothing whatsoever to do with white people, she burned plenty of electricity on .... white people. And their gleaming, sparkling, master race whiteness.

And there are so many basic, brain dead stupid questions that are not being answered.

  1. If "nonwhites" are not represented in publishing, are they being kept out or are they not interested? If the former, that's racist, stop it. If the latter, why would you drag anyone into an industry that has so many problems?
  2. What are the numbers on the submissions by "nonwhites," versus acceptance ratio? Because if they're  submitting in smaller numbers, and getting "real jobs" instead of writing, why drag them into a sinking ship of an industry?
  3. If "nonwhite" characters are being written by white authors, who are the nonwhite authors writing?
And I'm sorry, when the only definition of "community" here is nothing but racial politics, I call bullcrap. Because my community is my parish, and if this author were to witness it, her tiny little brain would explode, because we have women showing up in Indian Saris, sitting next to Hispanics, behind blacks and in front of whites.

Community is defined by the content of your character, not the color of your skin. Perhaps she should look up the idea.


  1. "I think you've made it all about being white." This is so true. The whole of "white privilege" is a way for upper middle class white women to make the question of racism all about themselves.

    That said... at first I was sad, truly sad for this woman because she wrote some nice books (assuming) and instead of people liking that she's obviously been made to feel that she committed a horrible sin and this is expiation.

    And then I became less sad because... I think you're right. I think that she's a flaming racist. She's the white woman who is there to help. (And writing from an outsider's point of view is not *exploitative*, it's often extremely illustrative because we can often see others more clearly for the contrast and then see ourselves more clearly for the same reason. Living in different parts of the nation and overseas has helped me to see just how different and unique my birth culture (and yes, I've got one) is, and also how universal the human experience is. For those not blind the most remarkable thing about being in some odd corner of the world is the familiarity... A young soldier upon arriving in Iraq wrote on his blog that the *most* amazing thing to realize was that those exotic foreigners on the news were just... people.) But she's there to help, and what's more, she's still there to help. And you're right about the condescension... all of "those people" are still exotic and strange and beyond her comprehension. There's no moment of let down when, as most people have who live anywhere "foreign" and are sensitive at all, or that young soldier experiences, when instantly the exotic dies and you're just surrounded by folks.

  2. Mr. Finn, How dare you continue to remind me that a great number of my favorite authors are Catholic. Partly kidding, but you, Mr. Wright, GKC, and Hilaire Belloc have all made it more difficult to remain a Protestant. That is, my protests are much quieter than in the past, and fewer.
    I know far better than to protest the uniformed practice of "Catholics" that don't know doctrine(met too many, and us Prots have our own). I've worked with one woman that thought the Catholic church no longer believed in purgatory; I resisted the urge to pull out my copy of the Catechism. Some people can't be taught.

  3. "It did not occur to me that writing from an Indigenous or PoC point view was problematic.
    If I had asked myself, these are the reasons I probably would have given: that I wanted to examine racism, and that I was trying to make YA more diverse."

    "I also thought I was saving YA by writing PoC and Indigenous main characters. It’s a notion that is dangerously close to the idea of the white saviour."

    "But books like Mockingbird have other problems. Racism in Mockingbird is something that good white people save black people from."

    This woman is lucky she's indoors.

    All people regardless of skin color want are entertaining stories. That's why they don't buy literature anymore.



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