I think about race. I think about race in terms of what I write; not my in-my-own-naval blog posts on philosophy, interpersonal ethics, and philosophy, but when I’m writing fiction.
But I haven’t thought about it enough. Because when I picture people in my head, I tend to picture people that look like me. Which is dumb, because I look around and the world I live in doesn’t look like me at all. It looks like an amazing blend of colors and styles and backgrounds and interests. My job, as a writer of fiction, is to build a world that is believable. For writing to be believable, it has to have sufficient connection to reality to be grounded. My reality isn’t all one color.
So I had a brief exchange on twitter with another author who is using the multi-racial composition of her book as a marketplace discriminator. Honestly, it made me sad. Why isn’t that the baseline? How do we still live in a world where you can say with authentic feeling that your book is unique because you have a multi-racial protagonist?
That being said, and I’m ashamed to admit this, when I was in the train with Willow and Ian, looking around at who else was there, Willow stood out as a bi-racial woman. I wasn’t thinking racial implications, I was thinking about her as a woman who is torn between two worlds. Someone who lost her mom and has been told ever since that who she is has to be boxed in and confined to be acceptable. Because that is the world we live in. Judgments are made long before you open your mouth.
I can’t go back now. Willow is who she is, and I’d like to think she’s complete. A product of her parents, of course, but who they were, not what they looked like. And some of the other characters are set. I can’t un-write Tane’s blue eyes. Or Ianthe’s blond stick-straight hair. But book two broadens the world of The Camellia Resistance. There are more opportunities for me to pay attention to what can only be described as laziness in imagination when it comes to characters. Writing character descriptions is far more interesting if you’re describing traits instead of features. Somehow, getting into what people are wearing and their finely-chiseled noses ends up sounding like historical romance. But it does matter, and it matters because too often, our cultural default is white. So I’m going to pay more attention in the writing, because maybe a white default is normal for the movies, but it isn’t normal for the reality I’m living in. Nor do I want it to be.