The Frustrated Reader: Let’s Talk about Race

Race not diversity. Because those are two different things and diversity will be talked about at another time.

What makes this topic for me frustrating are two main ideas on two levels: the publishing end and the writers, who decide to talk about race through their characters. For African American writers, no matter what the genre is your book will be listed as African American and placed in an African American section. For instance, Octavia Butler is one of the queens of Sci-Fi but you will only find her book in the African American section of a library and not the Sci-Fi section.

This is an issue that needs to be addressed if the literature world is ever going to deal with race. It shows that African Americans are not only good enough to stand with White authors. It’s not a fair race when some of the competitors get a mile head start. Although this is a publishing issue, a lot of authors are unaware of this (yes, there are some who don’t care but I care). It is obvious how to fix this but it isn’t going to be fixed unless more authors care.

Frustration number 2:

What gives me the right to talk about the struggles of a Hispanic person if I am black? I have not been Hispanic a day in my life, so why I would I do that? I have an issue with this because although a story may be fiction it still holds truth relevance and a connection to the reader. By being Black, White, Indian, Hispanic, Native American anything other than my defined race no matter how much I study I cannot write about an event or a person’s feelings about their race and their struggle if I have never experienced it.

And let’s be clear, if you’re writing about faeries, animals or any kind of inanimate objects, you’re not talking about race. Race and its issues are only talked about with humans.

The way to fix this is to be conscious as a writer that you cannot write about everything and the attempt should not be made. As a reader, I want to be able to connect with the character, especially when it comes to issues regarding race. Reading about something and writing about is not the same as writing your experience through a character. If you are writing about a black person getting into a fight over being bullied for their dark skin, it isn’t going to be an accurate portrayal because it is told through you as a non-black person looking at it. This is something authors need to understand. Trust me when I say readers can tell and authors do matter.

Characters shape the author and their viewpoints, so it is important that authors new and old to be conscious of writing about race.



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