Pettiness and Poor Author Etiquette

Something interesting happened to me on Christmas Day. I opened up the Goodreads page for my book Plastic Wings and found that I’d received my first one-star review. Given I’ve only received positive feedback since publishing, I wanted to know what I did wrong, if my book was problematic, and what I could think about doing differently in writing the sequel.

Interestingly enough, I found that the one-star review was from a quite popular, traditionally published author who hadn’t purchased my book (I run my own book sales, so I know how many people and exactly who the book has been sold to). I’ve never spoken to this author before in my life, and really, the only thing connecting my book to her was the fact that I’d written a blog post about a week prior listing books that attempt to be inclusive but are really more damaging than not. Go figure.

I bought the book a while back and was super excited to read it until I was informed that it was problematic by a friend and trusted blogger. While I was gravely disappointed about it, I already owned the book so I was planning on reading it anyway. Never mind.

When I originally planned out this post, I was going to keep her identity a secret because it felt rude to announce it. I’ve changed my mind for several reasons:

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Problematic Books and Where to Find Them

With people pledging to read more diversely, I’ve compiled some of the most problematic books that I see being passed around and included a little about why they’re problematic. This list is far from extensive, and I’ll likely add to it as I stumble upon more.

*Disclaimer: I haven’t read all of the books on this list. Some of them have been contributed by bloggers/readers that I trust*

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Writing Marginalizations: Why “Tan Skin” Isn’t Enough

I’ve been meaning to write series of posts talking about how to write marginalized characters. With everything that’s happened recently, now feels like an excellent time. For anyone wondering what qualifications I have to give you writing advice about marginalized characters, I’m a queer, neurodivergent, non-binary POC finishing off a degree in Creative Writing and working as an editor for two lit mags. My #ownvoices book comes out in a week.

(P.S. I chose the image above because it’s one of the worst/most offensive descriptions of skin tone I’ve ever seen. If you want to start with what you shouldn’t do, see above. The image is from Skin Renews Skincare on Pinterest.)

So, tan skin. I can’t even detail the number of times I’ve heard, “but it says they have tan skin. That means their a POC.” If you’re wondering why this doesn’t make sense, take a second and think about summer and beaches and yacht parties. Really, just think of an basic white movie. Remember all the people talking about how they want to get tan. It’s so wild! It’s almost like “tan” is a super ambiguous, rather subjective word that means different things to different people and can very frequently be used to describe white people!

So, without further ado, here’s a little “How To” when it comes to writing skin-tones for POCs.

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Moving Forward

Yesterday. I woke up at about 2:30 am to check the election results. I’d gone to bed the night before knowing very well who would win the election, but even then, I had to know for sure. I had to be completely certain because there was so much hinging on the result. I’d taken three times the dose of melatonin I’d usually take to knock myself out cold, and still I woke up two hours into the night because my anxiety was through the roof.

I barely wrote yesterday. I distanced myself from social media. I skipped class because I couldn’t bare to be face-to-face with a professor who’d so casually dismissed a Klan member’s racism some classes before. I’ve avoided using “certain names” in my posts because I just got over a bout of trolls and am not in the mood to do it again.

But in all of this, I think the thing I hated the most was the sudden, desperate need to end it all. I haven’t had the urge in a while, and definitely not like this, but it was there because for the first time since I left home, I honestly couldn’t see an out. This was it. It was over.

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On Tim Burton

Have you ever been so angry you just had to be productive?

 

I think it’s been going around long enough for most of us to be aware of what happened with Tim Burton. For anyone who isn’t, long story short, another celebrity just had to stand up to say how unnecessary diversity is. Not only did Mr. Burton feel the need to point out that diversity just isn’t important, he even felt it necessary to share how he had to spend his childhood watching black movies without ever demanding there be white actors in them. The poor soul.

If you’re anything like me and you grew up with a sick fascination toward the dark, gruesome, and disturbing, then you probably spent a lot of hours appreciation the work of Tim Burton. It’s honestly heartbreaking to look at someone and think, “You used to be one of my biggest inspirations, and now I can’t even stomach the thought of you.”

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But Why POCs?

So I’m winding down the final edits on my first novel, and there are a ton of insecurities and concerns running through my mind. It’s never easy to release your life’s work to the world, and with so many different things that people could possibly harp on, it’s really hard for me to figure out which decisions are the best ones.

That being said, one big concern my betas have expressed is the setting of my story. Originally, I wrote the entire thing in a sort of dystopian future in which everyone was a POC because I felt like the idea of POC being the majority in a couple hundred years wasn’t too unrealistic. I’ve gotten a whole horde of comments about how I need to explain the world, explain what happened that led the world to being mostly POC, and explain how this new world works.

I started brainstorming different ideas, different government rulings and cultural changes and all these different reasons why there would be so few white people in my story, and honestly, I’m kind of annoyed that I had to do that in the first place.

Walk into a bookstore right now and pick up a book. If you have a bestseller on your shelf, maybe start with that. Unless you were specifically looking for own voices books or books with characters of color, odds are, every character or the vast majority of characters in that book will be white. If you ask the author why they wrote all/mostly white characters, they’ll probably just say that they wrote what they know. My question is, then why is it wrong for me, a biracial author, to write what I know and create a world that has mostly POC characters, especially a world that involves man-eating angels in a fairly distant future?

I hate this idea that all-white characters is the default, and having mostly POC characters better come with an explanation. It makes no sense for there to be mostly POC characters unless its the result of some authoritarian government or weird plague or something. Why is that? Is it because there’s no way that POC could reasonably be the majority at some point in time? Or is it the fact that, despite POC already existing in droves on every continent on the planet, people still think of us as ‘other’, as a rare exception to the white norm?

I’m writing in my POC characters. Why are they there? Decide for yourself.