- Le Sheikh C’est Chic? Not So Much! – Suleikha Snyder gets on her soapbox and lays into the sheikh romance. I’ve never been comfortable reading them and she puts her thumb right on it.
Why aren’t sheikh romances tagged and shelved as interracial romances? Because, to a large extent, they aren’t. They are a white, Judeo-Christian woman’s fantasy as much as a sparkling vampire or an alphahole billionaire, largely written by and for that market. In essence, a sheikh is not real. Stripped of all true cultural markers — namely practicing Islam — pale on the book covers, bowled over by the first fiery western woman they see… this is the rhetoric. This is the narrative. And it serves only one audience — certainly not the pseudo-minority culture it portrays.
- Should white people write about people of color? – This beautiful essay by Malinda Lo should be required reading for everyone, writer and reader alike. The way she talks about her Chinese name and the way white USians react to it versus how Chinese speakers react to it is a perfect illustration of the issue.
When white writers come to me and ask if it’s OK for them to write about people of color, it seems as if they’re asking for my blessing. I can’t give them my blessing because I don’t speak for other people of color. I only speak for myself, and I have personal stakes in specific kinds of narratives.
It also feels as if they’re asking for a simple answer, and frankly, there is no simple answer. Writing outside your culture is a complicated endeavor that requires extensive research, being aware of your own biases and limitations, and a commitment to delving deeply into the story. However, writing any fiction requires this. There are no shortcuts to writing fiction truthfully and well. There really aren’t. The writer must put in the time so that they become confident in their decisions, and there are a million and one decisions to make when writing a novel.
- Guest Post: Writing in Color by Jill Sorenson – I liked this post from Jill speaking to white readers and writers interested in more diverse fiction.
How can we break this cycle? I would advise white readers to broaden their horizons. I think this shift is already happening, but it takes generations. There are more mixed couples and multiracial children every year in America. I believe the landscape of publishing will change with the times. Until then, why not read more authors and characters of color?
My advice for white authors is to do the same. Support diversity however you can. Cross-promote with authors of color. Consider including some multicultural selections in your anthology. Read outside of your comfort zone. Be the change you want to see in the world. But also be aware that you aren’t central to this issue, just as men are peripheral in the feminist movement.
- Diversity, Authenticity, and Literature – Preeti Chhibber talks about insider vs. outsider narratives and how things like an all-white (and one cat) lineup at Book Con reinforces white supremacy.
Here’s the thing. I work in publishing. And what I know is that when books sell well, more of those kinds of books get published. So then we have a New York Times bestseller list full of wonderfully talented white men, but not a whole lotta color happening. This worries me. Then you have the even more recent news of ReedPop’s Book Con inviting only white authors and entertainers as guests (and yes, yes a cat).
We here at Book Riot have written time and time again about the importance of diversity among our authors, and the importance of being aware of and making prudent reading decisions. But we’re just one voice. If one of the biggest and most representative book conventions in the world didn’t look at their guest list and see a problem, then that’s a problem. It’s a very telling look at the mindset of people who are tastemakers. Book Con is a consumer day, it’s for people who like to read, and those people are not going to be see any people of color on the stage. How can we expect to get a writer of color onto a bestseller list if our industry doesn’t even realize that they’re shoving them to the side?
- The Hugo Awards, Vox Day and Apologetics for Bigotry – “Judge the work, not the person” is getting a workout this week and this Fangs post beautifully disembowels the argument.
By urging us to focus on the quality of his work, you are asking us to discard his bigotry. You are telling us that his bigotry is less important than his work. You are telling us to ignore the fact he has deeply dehumanised marginalised people – adding to a society of dehumanisation that continues to cost us in every way.
You are telling us the stories he writes are more important than our status as full people. You are not only ignoring the loud message that we are not welcome in the SFF community, you are adding to it. You add your voice to the chorus saying “we are indifferent to the awful treatment of marginalised people” and that this genre is not a place where we belong and that it is a place where abusing us is acceptable.
Stories are important, but we are worth more than stories.
- Women in SF&F Month: Barbara Friend Ish – I have problems with this essay in that she seems to see “strong female character” as “female character who can overcome every challenge and defeats oppression with her fists.” Which, no. There’s a difference between a book that shows patriarchy/misogyny’s effect on women and one that justifies it or takes it for granted.
I think it’s time to take a good look at the limitations we’re putting on ourselves as readers and writers. I suggest that female characters, like male characters, should come in all shapes, sizes, and levels of kickassery. If a male character is weak, no one decries that character as an insult to men everywhere. Instead we examine his role in the story and what it might mean. Male characters are allowed to be real.
I think it’s time we accorded female characters the same courtesy. I think it is our job as feminists of every gender not to place and attempt to enforce yet another set of unachievable standards on all women, but to recognize that some are kickass, and some are heroic in other ways, and some are just not heroic at all. And that they can fulfill all the roles in the story that we can imagine for them, and their presence in those roles can teach us about being human, rather than simply about how we are supposed to be as women.
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An ice hockey fan from north of Boston and the genre's most beloved troll, Ridley enjoys reading contemporary and historical romance, as well as the odd erotica novel. As someone who uses a wheelchair, she takes a particular interest in disability themes.