Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Writing Diversity: Should a White author write a POC? How? Thoughts and a Resource List

Writing Characters of Color ... if you are another color
Photo by Roxsm
Writing People of Color (POC) while White.

You guys. This post is going to be long. Why? This stuff isn't easy. I've been reading and thinking and compiling for a few years now. It just can't be boiled down to a few talking points.

In addition to (and really, more importantly than) my own thoughts, there are links to a whole lot more information and wonderful resources. While I've tried to compile a lot, I know there are many I may have missed. This is a work in progress, so let me know if you know of great resources I've missed!

Due to the length of this post, I've decided to update it with a table of contents for easier reference:

Table of Contents

  • The Diversity Gap in Literature
  • Priority #1: Supporting Authors of Color
  • Book Lists: Authors of Color
  • For White Writers: Should We Write POC Characters?
    • Should White Authors Write Characters of Color?
    • Racism & White Privilege 101
    • Listening to Authors of Color
    • Writing POC Characters:
      • General Guides
      • Writing POC Characters in Sci-Fi / Fantasy
      • Writing Black Characters
      • Writing Native Characters
      • Writing Latinx Characters
      • Writing Arab/Middle Eastern or Muslim Characters
      • Writing Asian Characters
      • Writing White Characters
      • Good Rep / Bad Rep
      • Ditch the Stereotypes
      • Microaggressions
      • Describing Characters
      • Sensitivity Readers
      • Final Checklists & Considerations
      • Problems After Publication

 { Sidenote: If you take issue with anything I have (or don't have) here, let me know! If anything makes you upset, or if you just want to talk, please do. I'm here for you.  Post in the Comments. Or, if you're not comfortable with that, DM me on Twitter! }

So, let's begin with the reason a lot of us are probably here reading (or in my case, writing) this post:

The Diversity Gap in Literature 

ICYMI, we live in a racially diverse world, but most of the books, tv, and movies that come out each year?  They don't reflect that diversity. And that's really sad.

It's inexcuseable that there are millions of kids in the U.S. who can't readily find books they can see themselves in. Inexcuseable that so few of the books that make it through the Whitened-system that is publishing and onto our bookshelves are written from the perspective of a POC (Person of Color - ICYMI). According to this article by the Prindle Post, for the first time in U.S. census history over 50% of the children in the U.S. are children of color ... but CCBC statistics show just 28% of kidlit books published in 2016 featured an MC of color and only 6% of the children's books published in 2016 were written by authors of color (And that only talks about publication, not distribution and how easily these books could be found in stores!!!)

People. We can do better than that.


           ** NOTE: In this post, I'm focusing in on racial diversity and representation. 
                These are not the only voices that are disproportionately absent from our literature. 
                See this resource to get started thinking about some of the other missing voices. **

Priority Number One: Support Authors of Color. 

This Is HUGE And Cannot Be Overstated And/Or Emphasized Enough. We NEED To Provide More Support For Books From Authors of Color. This includes #OWNVOICES.  

          (this is an entire blog/post/dissertation in and of itself)

Buy a book written by an author of color. Write a review. Tweet about it. Talk about it. 

As a reader, this is one way to help. Dedicate your time to reading and promoting books by POC. Read non-white authors for a year. Signal boost their voices. Use your platform, if you've got one. There are great lists and author interviews and more coming out of the We Need Diverse Books  Campaign (Also on Twitter #WNDB and on Tumblr).

{I've also started compiling Links to Lists of Authors of Color below. Click to jump to that section}

But the other big/huge thing that needs changing?  (and that may or may not be capable of changing from the ground up -- ie via reader demand) The White Monolith of Publishing. If we have (virtually) only white gatekeepers (read: literary agents, interns, editors), how can we possibly hope to publish stories and voices that don't speak to white people in the same way they do POC? Answer? We can't.

Where to start with that? Well, start by reading this: Publishing Needs to Fix its own Racism. Then check out all the good work that Twitter user @SC_Author is doing with his #WriteInclusively, and #BigFiveSignOn Campaign with Lee & Low Publishing. Also check out the new organization Writing In the Margins, and new pitch contests like DVPit and WCNV.

Basically? We need more support for authors of color. If you are a lit agent, perhaps you could offer personalized feedback on queries written by POC.  You could actively seek out diverse books. If you're an editor you could put a call out to agents reminding them not to gatekeep diverse books, you could use these suggestions to be part of the solution. If you are a professional editor or published author, perhaps you could open up to mentorships like this one or this one. This may help break down barriers with existing gatekeepers.

But what this also comes down to? We need more agents, editors,  and lit interns of color in the publishing biz. And there are institutional barriers to doing so. One barrier? Virtually ALL publishing internships are unpaid. That's effectively going to prevent all but a few from opting in. We need to break these barriers down.

More resources:

23 Writers with Messages for Straight, CIS, White, Male Publishing || Being a POC Author Sucks || Who is Climbing and Who is Getting Left Behind? || The Privileges of Being a White Author || Diversity is Not Enough: Race, Power, and Publishing || Reading While Black || 12 Reasons Why We Need Diverse Books || To Anthology Editors || Navigating an All White Publishing Industry || What We Can Do || A Cheat Sheet for Selling Diversity

{This doesn't even begin to do the topic justice. I'll try to collect more and add, and expand into a full blown-post about the importance of prioritizing  #ownvoices  <<< Also, check out that hashtag. Note that it is not just for authors of color, but also for authors from other diverse backgrounds. } 

Book Lists: Books by POC & Native Authors

Need recommendations of books written by Writers of Color and Native Authors? This is a set of resources for you!

Apologies in advance -- most of these links will be heavily weighted toward YA / MG titles, because that is what I gravitate toward. However, I will keep expanding to include others!

Also note that while I've tried to keep this collection as strictly focused on POC & Native Authors as possible, a few resources may also list a few books with POC / Native main characters too. I will try to note those when and where I see them.

General Lists:

Sci-Fi / Fantasy Lists:
African-American / Black Authors

New Releases by Black Authors

Young Adult & Middle Grade Black Authors

Adult Black Authors

PB & Children's Book Black Authors

Other Black Author Lists

Twinja's Black Book Bloggers List ||  Black Nerd Girls || African Book Addict ||

Asian-American / Asian / Pacific Islander Authors

East Asian / East Asian - American / Authors

Filipino, Malaysian & Other Southeast Asian Authors

Indian / Indian-American / Sri-Lankan Authors

Other Asian Author Lists

Native Hawaiian #Ownvoices -- Reading for SJ || Hapa Booklist || 8 Books for Asian-Pacific Heritage Month  - RichInColor || Asian-Australian Kidlit || Read Asian Oz ||

See also: #AsianLitChat and #AsianLitBingo and #ReadAsianOz

Latinx Authors

New Releases by Latinx Authors

Young Adult & Middle Grade Latinx Authors

Adult Latinx Authors

Muslim American, Arab American & Middle Eastern American Authors

See also: #RamadanReads#RamadanReadathon#ReadMuslimOz,  @MuslimReadathon & @Salaam Reads

Native Authors

Reviewers of Racially Diverse Books

Bookstagrammers: @BooksBeforeBandaids ||

Book Clubs:  Mocha Girls Read || Diverse Study Group - WOCReads || Social Justice Book Club || The Latina Book Club || Midwest Black Speculative Fiction Alliance

But I'm not just a reader, I'm also a writer. 

And as such, I'd like my books to reflect the diversity that we see in the world. But you know what you guys? I'm scared to do it, and this is why:

          I'm White.

Which means that by definition I can't write "from the perspective of a POC." I don't come from that perspective.  So I can't write my MC from personal experience. Which of course leads to the question:

Should You Write POC if you are White?

If I do, am I being a good ally, or a bad one (aka not-an-ally)?  Well, in exploring this question, I scoured the interwebs for stories, perspectives, emotions .... answers. I'm compiling some of the resources I've found here.

*** ATTENTION: This post contains a lot of links to other blogs/posts/people that discuss these issues far more eloquently than I. If you follow the links (and you really, really should), be aware that some of the posts are older. The people who wrote them may no longer have the time/energy/headspace to engage in a fresh onslaught of questions about these topics. Go with your gut, but I'd strongly advise to just listen/read, rather than engaging the original posters. 

Be respectful of their time.

On a related note -- if you or your blog post / website / twitter / etc are listed here and you'd prefer not to be, please, please let me know and I can remove the link! 

So,with that rather lengthy intro here we go ...

Should You Write POC if you are White?

I really, really hope you read past this next paragraph, because there are a lot of different perspectives and nuances and voices on this topic, and I've linked to some of them below, and they're so, so important to hear. But for the sake of readability, I'll sum up my own thoughts (to date) on the matter here:

Should you write POC if you are White?

If you do your research in a thoughtful, respectful manner, and you think long and hard about why and how you are choosing to write a POC ... if you think long and hard about whether you're helping or hurting with your representation ... then yes, you should probably try to write the diversity that is actually, by the way, the reality of our world.


In most cases, it's not appropriate for a white author to write a POC Main Character. I won't go into details, but I have an entire discussion about the topic here. The tl;dr? Publishers effectively have quotas regarding the types of books they publish (based on perceived demand), and they're only going to publish X number of books about certain topics each year. When white authors write MCs of color, they are effectively competing for slots with authors of color.

In 2017, only 26% of the books with African-American main characters were written by African-Americans. People, this just isn't right. How is this helping correct the long race-based imbalance of power in our country?

However, if what you're wanting to do is write a diverse cast of characters, then yes, absolutely -- this is just an accurate reflection of the world. However, there are so many things that many of us white folks simply don't see. People of color often experience a very different world than we do. One that is often laced with racism. So, with that in mind:

Research. Try your hardest and listen, listen, listen to people's stories. Think about cultural appropriation, tokenism, and stereotypes. Think long and hard about whether you are the one to write this. Think about overt racism and institutional racism, microaggressions, and how they would affect your character. Research the crap out of it. Listen some more. Write. Edit. Get diverse beta readers. Be prepared to fix things. Be prepared to shelve your manuscript if it is hurtful.

Finished? Know this: there will be criticism. Should you be nervous? Yes. Because if you write accidentally harmful words - no matter how well intentioned - they're still just as harmful to those they hurt. In the end, you might fail for some people. You might make mistakes (I hope not big ones). You might hurt people (I hope not many).

People might be angry at your work. Don't tone police them. This isn't really about you and your feelings.  (Could people be nice about it? Sure, but there's a long history of the predominant race/culture not listening until people raise their voices.)  Listen to their hurt. Listen to their criticism. Apologize.

Don't be paralyzed by fear. Take time to reflect. Take time to heal yourself if you need it. Then get out your pen/keyboard, and do better.

    So. Those are my slightly coherent thoughts to date. 

    Please read on to see what people far more eloquent than I have to say on the topic:

Writing People of Color While White : A Resource List

     {   This Resource List is an ongoing project.  So, So, Incomplete. 
            Please comment.  Please suggest.  Please correct me.   }

Should White People Write POC? 

{ See also: Discussion: Even IF we "get the rep right" should we be writing the other? }

Maybe Not*

There's been a lot of crap || Should we be writing the other? || White people don't have a really good track record ||  I'm skeptical || "I hate white people writing for black people" ||  On Problematic Representation || Hard to write without misrepresenting (Video) ||  Like they have a right to || The disparity between author and audience can be problematic || A form of literary blackface? || "I wouldn't know or understand enough" || Racefail 2009 || No one needs whites writing POC. Best to step back.  || White Privilege, White Audacity, and Strange Fruit || Be Prepared to Shelve a Manuscript if you Need To || Mistakes vs. Homogeneity || It's The Wrong Question to Ask || Why I'm Not Going To Write POC POV Anymore ||

Or Maybe So*

Writer-Allies need to Bear the Burden too, or Progress Will be Slow || White People: It's Your Responsibility Too || 5 Wrong-Headed Reasons to NOT Write PoC || It's the Real World: How can you NOT write diversity? || Transracial Writing for the Sincere || The Challenges of Writing Diversely -- Avoiding Bandwagon or Grabbag Mentality || The Importance of Diversity || Diversity and Fantasy and "The Other" ||  Braving Diversity Intro,  Part 1,  || It's not easy, but don't hide from it || Whiteness in Fantasy? Come on, this is what we do - we make sh*t up || Why I Write Inclusively as a White Woman || Writing as an Ally || why writing "colorblind" is writing white || Why white people should write people of color ||  You'll mess up. That's not a reason not to do it  || Reach out  || On Writing SFF In a Post-Colonial World || I write where I come from isn't a good enough excuse || There is no one right answer || Apathy || What exactly are YOU risking? What are they? || I'm not saying "stay in your lane" || You're not going to please everyone, but ... ||

But maybe there is a difference between including diversity in your stories
and attempting to write a main character from the perspective of a POC. 

Why I'm Not Going To Write POC POV Anymore ||

And be sure to check out this awesome, ongoing discussion about the topic here:

Should the Privileged Write from a Marginalized Perspective?

*Note that many of these articles take a more balanced or nuanced perspective, and don't outright say "you should" or "you shouldn't" but I've divided them into Yes and No to help organize and highlight some of the key arguments.

But Remember:
White people writing characters of color is NOT the solution 
to the problem of diversity in publishing.
Supporting Authors of Color is.

If you do write a character of color, you Will be criticized. Maybe even before you begin. 
Get okay with that. 

This isn't about you and your feelings.

Don't ignore valid criticism.

I think Lamar Giles put this very well in his article on BookRiot a week ago:

"If helping someone (presumably underserved readers) is dependent on you feeling welcome, who are you really trying to help?" { read the full article here }

It's not about you feeling good || Reviewers are going to call you out on it. (and that's good). || Criticism in YA is essential || White Fragility || "Damned if You Do?" -- So Learn From It! || For those who aren't "Fans of "Call Out Culture" || You're going to be criticized even if writing your own race ||

Don't let fear stop you.
...But do let it force you to listen & to RESEARCH.
This advice is paraphrased from Gene Luen Yang in a speech at the 2014 National Book Festival. Read the full transcript or excerpts via links below:

     Don't Let Fear Rule (Excerpts) & (The Full Transcript)

Sidenote: I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about receiving criticism. Of course I don't want to mess up. Of course I don't want to hurt people. Of course I'd prefer that any criticism I receive wouldn't rake me over the coals and make me feel like a horrible person. I am the kind of person who tends to take things way too personally. But you know what?  I'm not going to let fear rule me.  I hope you won't either.

Stop and Think: Why are you writing diversity into your story?
Make sure you're writing POC for the right reasons.
(Hint: NOT for Tokenism, Exoticism, or for a Diversity "Tick the Box,"
  or because you think it's the new thing. )

Tokenism, exoticism, or 'othering' || Fantasy's Othering Fetish Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 || Are You Just 'Checklisting'? || wwc: tokenism || talk about tokenism || Marginalized Characters do not Define the Story || Are You Co-Opting? || Sympathy and Fiction ||  Writing With Color: What we want to see more of

Are you wanting to write about racial identity, or about racism?
 ... Remember: You can do that from the perspective of a white character.
You are a member of a race. If you're white, then you've probably got unexamined privileges that need to be examined. You're probably an (albeit unwitting) participant in systemic, institutional, and aversive racism. How about exploring THAT in a novel?

You could write about racism from a white perspective. || What do you have the responsibility to write about? Answer: Your Whiteness

But also ask yourself: Why aren't you writing diversity (read: reality) into your stories?
The world is a pretty diverse place. Have you whitewashed your stories?
Sidenote: I wanted someone to write a blog post titled "Whitening: Bad for your Teeth, Bad For Your Story" but there wasn't one, sorry. 

stop whitewashing || whitewashing: one of hollywood's worst habits || racebending is not white-washing || four types of whitewashing  || wwc: whitewashing prevention methods || why writing "colorblind" is writing white || Writing With Color: What we want to see more of || Every Single Word Spoken & Whitewashing || erasing the white default || the problematic approach of colorblind writing|| about that white as default thing || windows & mirrors ||

Are you writing an "Issue Book," or a Stereotype?
 ... and might you be appropriating someone else's voice?
Are you writing a story that's really best told by someone else? Someone who can draw from actual experiences, and write in their #ownvoice? If your book is an "Issue Book" / "Message" book you may want to think long and hard about this, and also whether what you're writing is actually just a stereotype.

Write marginalized characters, but not about marginalization || The White Savior

Before You Start Writing, Take Time to Reflect

Think About Your Privileges.
These are like invisible and unearned tools, resources, boost-ups, and "hall passes" that  simply come with being White.

The Advantages of Being a White Writer || White Privilege : Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack  (2)|| How to Explain Privilege to a Broke White Person || White Privilege Explained via Comic ||  15 Questions White People Never Have To Ask Themselves || This Is White Privilege || The Invisibility of Upper Class Privilege || Things I don't have to think about today || How Privilege Became a Provocation || Things You Need to Understand || 5 Questions For People Who Think They Experience Reverse Racism || White Fragility || Shall We Talk About Privilege? || Check my what? On Privilege and what you can do about it || White Privilege and Male Privilege || Conspiring For Change || Seeing White Privilege as Addiction might be a framework for change || How to Talk About Privilege to People that don't Understand || On Opportunity || White People Getting Candid About Their Privilege (& Twitter Feed) || Privileges of being a White Author ||

No One is Colorblind.  
People Who *Think* They Are Colorblind Are Part of the Problem

 Be Less Blind || 5 Tips for Being an Ally (Video) || When you say you don't see race, you're  actually just ignoring racism || The Colorblind Myth || Colorblind Ideology is Racism || Race 101: Colorblindness ||

Learn More About Racism

30 Resources to Help White Americans Learn About Racism || Racial Profiling || Baltimore Racial Justice Resources  || 8 Things White People Need To Know About Race || How to Tell People they Sound Racist || 10 Ways White People are More Racist Than They Thought || Racism 101 : Definitions || Resource Post for all Good White People TM || Dear White Moms || Resources for Change || Racism is ... ||

Learn not just about Overt Racism
But also about Structural/Systemic/Institutional & Aversive (aka Subconscious) Racism

People of color face racism every. single. day ... and it's not always (or even mostly) by people you'd call "racist" it's engrained in our system and subconscious.

What is Institutional Racism? || Individual vs. Systemic Racism  || Unconscious Bias: Racism is Not Always By Racists || Aversive Racism : The Nature of Contemporary Prejudice || Aversive Racism and the Traditional Publishing Model || 10 Simple Ways to Fight Everyday Racism || Things Not To Say As A White Person || Mainstream feminism and the erasure of women of color || On the Visibily Marginalized || "But That's Racist Against White People!" A Discussion on Power and Privilege || Institutional Racism is Real : Here's Why That Matters || You're Probably More Racist and Sexist Than You Think ||  How Can We Fix Unconscious Racism? || Everyday Racism - What Can We Do?

Listen to People's Stories

      (and always listen before engaging)

 ... About Writing & Publishing as a POC

On Being a POC in an MFA Program || The Danger of a Single Story (TED Audio) || Minorities in Publishing || POC vs. MFA || The self portrait of the artist as the ungrateful black writer || I'm Angry that Viola Davis Made History || Writing Diversity is Harder Than I Thought || Diverse Words - A List Curated by Agent Amy Boggs || Disrupting Publishing - Weekly Links || Guest Bloggers on Write Inclusively || Self-Publishing often only Recourse for writers of color || 23 Writers with Messages for Straight, CIS, White, Male Publishing || Being a POC Author Sucks || On Writing Inclusively || This is How Writing is Now || Who is Climbing and Who is Getting Left Behind? || Reading While Black || Decolonizing the Imagination || On Teaching Creative Writing as a Woman of Color || The Privileges of Being a White Author || On Race and Self-Representation || Nuestras Voces || The Unbearable Whiteness of Meg Rosoff || windows & mirrors || Why I checked out of the Diversity Discussion Du Jour || On Opportunity || Muslim Representation in YA Lit

... About Life and Race and Racism

Racism 101 || White Liberal Racism Denies Personhood || Writing With Color -- Resources  ||  Why I'm no longer talking to white people about race || Biracial - Hold Fast to Blackness || The Problem with the White Ally Club & This work injures me, this work heals me || The Feelings of White People ||  How to uphold white supremecy while focusing on diversity and inclusion || Solidarity is For White Women || I Don't Talk About Race with White People || Coping with the Toxicity of Well-Meaning White People ||  Black People Are Not Here To Teach You About Racism || On My First Time Being Racially Profiled || Natives in America || On Islamophobia || This is How I live Now ||

....On How (and how not) to work on being an Ally

11 Things White People Can Do to Be Anti-Racist Partners || 7 Ways You Can Be an Ally || The Myth of Allyship || Why It's Hard to Talk To White People About Racism || 10 Simple Ways White People Can Fight Everyday Racism || 101 Primer || Things not to Say || How To Fight Racial Bias When it's Silent and Subtle || White Fragility  || Real Allyship vs. "Ally Theatre" || White Fragility is Racial Violence ||

... De-Whiten Your News & Media Sources

Blavity.com || WeTheProtestors.org || Racialicious || everyday feminism || The Root || Indian Country Today  || National Native News || Native Peoples || Native America Calling || Indian Country News || Brown Girl Magazine || BlackGirlInMedia || HuffPost Black Voices || HuffPost Latino Voices || Mic Identities || Colorlines || Media Diversified ||

      ... and just because it's cool, read this.

Find Some Folks on Twitter (or Tumblr, or the Blogosphere)
that talk about this stuff

listen to what they say

     On Writing, Race, Intersectionality

     On Race, Identity, Racism in general


Ready To Write? Do. Your. Research.

Good intentions are not enough. We need to put in the work.

Okay, well some of it is fun ... aka reading awesome books ;o)

Read Authors of Color

YA Authors of Colo2014-15 releases ||  Latin@s in Kidlit PBMGYA || Latinas for Latino Lit || Diveristy in YA Lists || Rich In Color || WWC: Authors of Color || Urban Fantasy Authors of Color || 15 YA Books that Get it Right  || Reading While White || Reading in Color: ReviewsBooklists || Multicultural Fiction - A Mighty Girl  || Exploring Diversity Through Children's and YA Books  || Twinja's Black Book Bloggers List || Books by and About Marginalized Races - Dahlia Adler || The Cartoonists of Color Database || Famous Black Writers ||  American Indians in Children's Literature - Best Books || Oyate - Reviews of  Native Peoples' Literature || 22 Black Authors to add to your Beach Bag This Summer || The Brown Bookshelf || Librarything - World Full of Color || 10 Books Actually Written by Authors of Color || 23 Books by Asian-American  & other POC Authors || Goodreads #OwnVoices MG/YA/NA || African-American Spec Fic for Kids || Muslim Representation in YA Lit

Read About How To Write POC Respectfully and Responsibly: 

General Guides:

Writing With Color  ||  Know What You Write || How to Prepare to Write a Diverse Book || 12 Fundamentals of Writing the Other || Writing Authentic Characters of Color in 1st Person POV  || How to write Women and Men of Color || Gee I don't know how to research || Writing People of Color  || Writing POC 101- A Wattpad Collaboration ||  How to Write Diverse Characters ||  It's More than Just Representation || White Mind I, II, III || Respect & Research ||  Writing for a Diverse Audience || An Illustrated Guide to Writing POC ||  How to Write Men and Woman of Color if You Are White || Writing With Color: What we want to see more of  || Writing past your sh*t ||  Writing Race in Novels (audio) || #WNDBNano Webcast Q&A || If You Want to Deconstruct Issues, Do It Quickly || An Important Issue on Creating Characters ||  Your Terra Incognita is my Home

Writing POC in SFF:

Writing SF in a Post-Colonial World || Invisible -- The Importance of Representation in SFF || A Beginner's Guide to Researching your Diverse SFF || Apocalypse Responsibly || Writing the Non-Western Fantasy || Medieval POC || On Using Non-Western Influence in Fantasy || Writing Convincing Non-Western Fantasy || A Beginner's Guide to Researching Your Diverse SFF || Normalizing Diverse Characters in SFF || Magic and Muslim Characters || Misconceptions about Witchcraft || Diversity and Fantasy and "The Other" || On Fantasy's Othering Fetish

Black Characters:

White Authors Writing Black Stories || tammy teaches you how to write black characters || How (Not) To Write About Black Women || The Meaning Behind a Name || WWC - Writing Black Characters (multiple posts) || Stereotypes:   Token Black Girls / Magical Negros / The Superhuman Black Man / The Angry Black Woman / Mammy, Sapphire, Jezebel, and their sisters ||

Native American Characters:

Respect Native Voices and Protocols || American Indians in Children's Literature || Indian101 for Writers: Part 1: Know Thyself, 2: Know Whereof You Speak, 3: Keep it Real, 5: Walking in Two Worlds (sorry part 4 seems to be gone) ||  Native Representation || Myths and stereotypes about Native Americans (pdf) || The Dos, Don'ts, I don't knows, and Maybes of Native Cultural Appropriation

Latin@ Characters (Latinx / Latino / Latina) :

Latin@ Diversity in YA || Magical Realism & Its Roots in Oppression || Writing Latin@ Characters Well - Intro,  Part 1 - Labels: What ARE You?, 2 - Where Are You From?, 3 - No, Really, Where?, 4 - But You Don't Look Latin@, 5 - The Opposite of a Pass, 6 -  Say Something in Spanish, 7 - I Love Mexican Food!, 8 - Putting Out Those Fiery Stereotypes, 9  -  Banging Down More Stereotypes, 10 - Ingroup vs. Outgroup Conversations,  || How NOT To Write Ethnic Characters ||

Arab/Middle Eastern and/or Muslim Characters :
(Important to note that these do not go hand in hand, but nevertheless, are often conflated based on quick visual assessments/judgements and therefore these distinct groups may overlap in the sorts of microaggressions etc that they experience)

How to Write About Muslims || Muslim Representation in YA Lit || Muslim Characters -- WWC Questions Roundup || Arabian Stereotypes || An interesting thread on NaNo || WWC: Posts tagged Muslim on Writing with Color // Tagged Arab || Muslim Characters - Pakistani/Canadian || Magic and Muslim Characters || A Teen's Guide to Islam || Dismantling Arab Stereotypes ||

Asian Characters

Writing Indian Characters || Indian Characters 101 || Indian Stereotypes & Myths || WWC - Indian Character Stereotypes || WWC -  Indian Character Questions || Things to Keep in mind when writing South Asian Characters || Stop Saying Ni Hao to Me || Troubling Tropes in Asian / Asian-American  YA Characters || The "Model" Minority

White Characters:
Cause I'm going to hazard a guess ... you probably have white characters in your book too?

You could write about racism from a white perspective. || What do you have the responsibility to write about? Answer: Your Whiteness  || White Privilege : Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack || 15 Questions White People Never Have To Ask Themselves || Why it's Hard to talk to White People About Racism || When You Say You Don't See Race... || The Invisibility of Class Privilege ||

Other Types of Diversity:
As you've probably noticed, this post has really focused in primarily on racial diversity. However, there are lots of other types of diversity which are underrepresented in literature. For example, diversity in religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, and socioeconomic diversity.   Dahlia Adler has a great list of resources to get you started reading and thinking about the issues and prejudice that these diverse groups face.

Take a Workshop. Or read a book on the topic.

Writing The Other Workshop  || Writing the Other - A Book by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Black ||

Learn From the Mistakes of Other Books / Movies

Notes and Critiques on American Indians in Children's Literature || Eleanor & Park || The Help || Avatar || Revealing Eden || Shabanu || Hello, I Love You || Racefail 2009 || Troubling things in YA Asian and Asian-American Lit || Fine Dessert (Picture Book) ||

Plan Your Book Thoughtfully and Respectfully. 

If you're writing Fantasy or Sci-Fi, you may have a little more freedom (than if you're writing Contemporary or Historical) ... because you're creating a culture that none of us have experienced. However. This does NOT give you an excuse to do a crappy job that's going to do more harm than good.

There's Good Representation and Bad Representation

Bad Representation vs. Tokenism vs. Diversity || Appropriate Cultural Appropriation || Cultural Appropriation : Homage or Insult? || The Dos, Don'ts, I don't knows, and Maybes of Cultural Appropriation || The Harm of Cultural Appropriation || What is Cultural Appropriation? || Cultural Appropiation Bingo || How we Ignore Prejudical Characters... to everyone's detriment ||  On Writing Diverse Characters || On Fantasy's Othering Fetish || Voice Appropriation

Even if you're not writing an "Issue Book"... (and you may or may not be the best person to do that)

Understand the Micro-aggressions that POC face

 Microaggressions.com ||  Microaggressions - NYT || Why Microaggressions Hurt (Illustrated) ||  Phrases to be mindful of Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. || 21 microaggressions you hear on a daily basis - Fordham University || 7 Racially Coded Phrases || Words can hurt || Acting White? ... or Western Neutral? || WWC: Common Microaggressions List || Everytime someone asks to touch my hair, I send them this GIF || Stop Touching My Hair || 27 things you had to deal with as the only black kid in your class || The pain of the watermelon joke || You don't look Indian || The Racial Slur Database || Offensive Phrases that People Still Use 123  || 10 Ways White Supremacy Still Shows Up || 14 Things You Should Not Say ||  But You Don't Look Latin@|| The White "Savior" || 10 Things not to say to your Native American co-worker || Stop Saying Ni Hao to Me ||  Native Circle's List of Offensive words || How to Write About Muslims ||

Understand that (even well meaning) White people say and do
things that are disrespectful, hurtful, ignorant, and exhasuting

       dear white folk ... || angryblackgirlsunited ||  we are not people of color

Think about the 'White Default Mentality' and the details of your story
How well / accurately / inoffensively are you representing your characters?
Think about the fact that if left undescribed, many readers will default to imagining the character as white.

Describing Characters of Color - NK Jemisin Pt 2Pt. 3 || Should authors describe a character's race? ||  Writing With Color FAQ || Erasing the White Default || erasing the white default || the problematic approach of colorblind writing|| about that white as default thing ||

     Describing Hair: Dos and Don'ts

Words to Describe Hair  ||  Guide to Black Hair - Relaxers, Natural Hairstyles, || Why I Love / Hate My Natural Hair || Describing Natural Black Hair || WWC: Black Hair in History || 10 Black Hair Braiding Styles || Naturally Curly || Good Hair Movie (Clips) || Curl Pattern ||

     Describing Skin Tone:  Dos and Don'ts

 Words for skin tone || Fic and Skin Tone || If White People Were Described Like Characters of Color || WWC: Skin Color & Food Descriptions ||  Resources for Describing Skin Tone || Handy Words for Skin Tones (do note some come with asterisk/footnote) || Mistakes Well-Intentioned Writers Make || Are We Food? || Othering or 50 Shades of Chocolate || Erasing the White Default ||

     Dialogue, Speech, and Accents
     This tip from the NaNo WNDB webcast: watch some youtube, TV shows. Notice speech patterns.

Writing Diversity in Dialogue || Ten Tips on Writing Accents || On Accents and Dialects ||

    Clothing: Respect vs. Stereotypes and Appropriation

Native Appropriations || Why Cultural Appropriation is Wrong ||  Appropriate Cultural Appropriation || Cultural Appropriation : Homage or Insult? || The Dos, Don'ts, I don't knows, and Maybes of Cultural Appropriation || What is Cultural Appropriation? ||

    Diversify your Style Resources:

Afrobella || Ebony: Style || Essence || Beyond Bucksin (shop) ||

Ditch the Stereotypes, Cliches, and overused Tropes

7 Offensive Mistakes Writers Make  || Stephen King's Super-Duper Magical Negros || Writing With Color : Stereotypes & Tropes || WWC: Cliches || An Open Letter || TV Tropes Main Race Tropes,  White Hero, Going Native, etc || The "Model" Minority ||  Want to Write Diverse Characters? Don't Be an Asshole || There's no such thing as a "good" stereotype || Real Life Indian || Overcoming the "Noble Savage" and the "Sexy Squaw" || Oh Come All Ye White Saviors || Troubling Tropes in Asian / Asian-American  YA Characters || The Invisible Latina || 5 Latina Stereotypes || Latina Iconicity || I'm Latino but I Don't Speak Spanish || Token Black Girls || The Superhuman Black Man || The Angry Black Woman || Mammy, Sapphire, Jezebel, and their sisters || Dismantling Arab Stereotypes || Racial Stereotyping in YA Lit || Challenging Stereotypes in Kids' Books

Eliminate Racist / Culturally Appropriative Terms:
*Alternatively, include one or two in your novel intentionally
  and have your MC give whoever used the offensive term a stern talking to!

Why you shouldn't loosely use the term "Spirit Animal" || Common Phrases to Avoid || You don't look Indian || The Racial Slur Database || Offensive Phrases that People Still Use 123  || 10 Things not to say to your Native American co-worker || Native Circle's List of Offensive words || When Racism slips into everyday speech ||

Run Your Manuscript Through Some Checklists

Writing Diverse Fiction: A Practical Guide || Writing Race: A Checklist for Writers || 12 Fundamentals of Writing the Other - Daniel José Older || 10 Tips on Writing Race in Novels - Mitali Perkins and List 2  and List 3 ||

When You've Written it, Get Diverse Beta Readers &/or Editors.

 Diversity Cross-Check (faqtags) || Writing With Color - Colorful Critiques  (prev crits) ||  Betafinder || The Importance of Cultural Consultants ||

But Think About How/Who You're Asking.
People are busy. Not everyone has time to answer all your questions. Be respectful.

How (Not) to Get Help When Writing PoC ||  Cautions about selecting betas from Native Nations || No I Wont Write your Black Character For You ||

Listen to your readers. Fix things.
Did you screw up? Rework and get more opinions. Still not great? Maybe one of your betas would want to step in and help co-author it? (But maybe not).

Be prepared to shelve a manuscript if you need to. 

All Done (Read: Published)?  YAYY!!
Be prepared for the inevitable fact that even in "the finished product" you will make mistakes. 
You'll also get to think about other things, like:

Whitewashed Covers! || Don't Judge a Book By Its Cover || Why the Pretty White Girl Cover Needs to End || Uncovering YA Covers 2011 - Infographics ||

Be prepared for criticism. People have opinions (and a right to them). 
This is the 21st century. People have social media. You will hear them.

Criticism in YA is essential || "Damned if You Do?" -- So Learn From It! ||  Fear is Good ||

Know that you can't please everyone. Everyone gets one star reviews. It's part of being a writer.  *hugs* .... but also?

Some of those "angry" reviews might be things you need to listen to.

An angry review does NOT equal an inacurrate review.

Because, although it might not feel like it to you -- you may have "thrown the first punch."
These reviews might be from people expressing that you've hurt them. That your attempt at representation was problematic for them. That you've screwed up. Listen to them. Don't shrug their stories off lightly. Don't dismiss them. Don't derail the conversation. Don't tone police.

Reviewers are going to call you out on it. (and that's good). || Derailment Bingo,   2|| The Tone Argument || White Fragility || What's The Harm in Tone Policing? || For those who aren't "Fans of "Call Out Culture" || On Ways Authors Respond ||  A great example of a blog post thoughtfully responding to criticism  And another thoughtful response || A Way to Respond if You Get Called Out

And I have my own post on So-Called "Witch Hunts" and "Call Out Culture" in YA Lit

If an aspect of your published book is hurtful to people? 

Apologize. Listen. 

Then? Roll up your sleeves. Learn from your mistakes. Write Better.

I'd love to hear from you. If you have a comment, question, concern, issue with anything that's here, let me know. If there's a resource you'd like to see added, a topic that's not covered, etc, give a shout out. This page is a work in progress! If you'd prefer not to leave a public comment here, please feel free to reach out on Twitter: @CarissaATaylor

1 comment:

  1. Carissa, This list is outstanding. I so need these resources since as a white woman I added into my story an amazing character (poc) who had been only mentioned in my first draft. My beta readers wanted her to make an entry as a significant character who could teach a lesson...in a 6th gr. classroom. So I feel like I channeled this character, an elder black woman, whose character I adore.
    I have one poc reading my Manu for sense-testing. I wish I had more.
    Thank you for this incredible resource list and your wise suggestions!



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