Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Apartment, and other things

I have officially begun the process of moving things into the new apartment. I also took some photos:

The kitchen:


 And if you turn around, the living room:



Also, to show you how far out in the boonies I am, here's the town:
with the pub with the best name ever
and here's the surrounding area.



Currently, my biggest dilemma is purchasing a shower curtain and a rod to hang it on. Sounds simple, right?

WRONG.

There are too many choices. Currently browsing Amazon for something cheap but not so cheap that it will disintegrate in a month, and pretty much everything has 50/50 great vs. awful reviews.

Speaking of reviews, I have received my first book review accusing me of being a racist.

Not gonna lie--at first I felt kind of offended. The reviewer's tone was a little nastier than necessary, but I do concede he/she has a point, and it's something I've thought about before. Something I've thought about a lot, actually, and said thoughts usually lead to the same question. 

I write mostly for the 10 - 13 age group, and I would love it if kids from all social/cultural backgrounds could read my books and enjoy them. But at the same time, I recognize that the vast majority of my characters are middle class white people.

I grew up in middle class white-dom. Sure I knew a few kids from other cultures and races, but the town I grew up in had LITERALLY one black family. The Asian kids I knew in school were all Korean (all 3 of them), and from what interaction I had with them, all I really knew about them was that their number one priority was school work and getting straight A's. Am I saying that was the sum total of their personalities? Absolutely not. But I didn't know them well, so that's all I saw.

Which is exactly my point. How do I include other races and cultures in my writing, as main characters, when I have pretty much zero knowledge of what it's like to grow up as anything other than white middle class? In a series of books I've been working on over the last couple years, I have one black main character. I think he's a pretty well-developed character, but he's in a post-apocalyptic setting where I've never had to write about his life before the apocalypse, outside of a short conversation with another character about being the only black kid in their grade. Because I don't know what it's like to grow up in whitewashed suburbs while not being white.

I also feel like if I just throw in a couple non-white characters just for the sake of being racially diverse, it's going to be superficial. In other words, it's just going to be garbage. Just another Politically Correct™ piece of rubbish completely devoid of anything remotely interesting.

One of the first things my college professors always told us was to write what you know. (That's why so many of us writers have ADD--we encounter a roadblock in the form of a subject about which we know nothing and go out and try to acquire knowledge about it, which eventually leads to the whole jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none problem so many writers have.) But the knowledge of what it's like to grow up a different race is not really something I can just go out and research. I mean I can research it to a point, but that's one of those things where the experience trumps any research I could ever do.

So that's what's been frustrating me for the better part of the last seven hours.


I don't know. What do you guys think?

21 comments:

  1. Racist? I don't think so. I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books when I was growing up. Still love them. Laura's ma said, The only good Indian is a dead Indian. Do I think that's true? No! It was a different time. They had different experiences with Native Americans, and they weren't good. Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote what she knew. It doesn't make her racist. It's a shame that someone would say such a negative thing about you. The apartment looks great. The floors are really nice. I love the tavern name, too.

    Love,
    Janie

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ugh...social justice warriors. (and i say this as an unapologetic liberal, but some of them just go too damn far) If the person calling you "racist" writes stories with white characters then maybe they have a tiny little point. Writing what you know is not racist; using the "N" word in your narrative or having your white characters do something deliberately demeaning to a POC is racist. We should all make an effort to be more diverse but unless you grew up in an ethnically diverse neighborhood, you cant be expected to write about POC well enough to pass their inspection. Being phony or adding a "token black character" would likely be considered just as racist as not having any characters of color to someone who is sensitive to such things. You can't write what you don't know, (which is why I no longer write) and if the reviewer is calling you out for being who you are and living where you live then that's some BS right there. I don't know... I'm trying to sound reasonable but it's probably not coming out right. I just hate it when people label people they don't know.

    Your apartment looks very nice btw. You probably have more kitchen space in your apt than I do in my house.

    ReplyDelete
  3. It would be racist to write about things you do not know well just to be inclusive.

    Appt. looks nice and roomy...love the floors.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Your apartment looks awesome! I LOVE those floors!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I was writing a story a while back and my MAIN character was African American, and that made me a bit uncomfortable. I sort of felt like I was doing literary blackface.

    I wouldn't worry about it all that much. A cast of characters should reflect society, but at the same time, the people who are focused so much on race as to speak up probably aren't going to get much enjoyment out of what they're reading anyway.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I, too, really dig the flooring in your new pad. Also, I wouldn't call a writer who writes what she knows 'racist'.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I feel like that the nice flooring is wasted on my white trash self..... I never noticed it until y'all mentioned it.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Most of our characters are white, and we don't apologize for it. We aren't going to shoehorn in other random races just because it's PC. With that said, our latest novel is about an NSA agent who fights terrorism, and there's a fantastic Muslim character we wrote about that we're just waiting to receive vicious hatemail about.

    And cheers to the new apartment! It looks great! (However, I didn't notice the floors either)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Love the apartment.

    I, too, grew up in a very white area. Although, we had a lot of Latinos and Asians. You may not know what it's like to be another race, but you could spend some time in a more racially diverse atmosphere, just for research. Who knows? It might kick something to the surface.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Apartment looks good and write what you want!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Continue to write what you know. The kicker is, the more you keep at it, the more you'll know. You're still young... You have a lot more life to experience. You'll find your knowledge base will round out over time.

    Beautiful apartment... I'm sure you'll be happy there.

    ReplyDelete
  12. You might not know what it's like to be black, but you can read about it, which might help you write black people better. You can also probably imagine what it's like to be black (note I said imagine, not understand) just like I can imagine what it might be like to have a magic wand, or a dragon (awesome). And regardless of color or culture, we all want some of the same things, like love safety, a better life for our kids, etc. Hope this helps and love the apt! Very cool!

    ReplyDelete
  13. oh, that looks like a nice space there. can't wait until you decorate it and make it your own!

    "Also, to show you how far out in the boonies I am," i'm sorry i just laughed inside. 'far out in the boonies'. oh God. funny thing is i've read as bonnies first time round. bonnie. bonnie. that something from Scottish slang, isn't it?

    Amazon reviews scare me. i always believe the one that's said what they've bought is a load of rubbish.

    good luck with finding what you need! xxx

    "But at the same time, I recognize that the vast majority of my characters are middle class white people." and that's made you racist? that doesn't make much sense to me. well, doesn't it really depend on where you place said character? i mean if you'd had your characters based in Bahrain, 60-70% of them would look like a bunch of Dornish characters, with other 30-40% of races being tossed in here and there.

    thankfully, i've no problem with diversity. in my own family, a few of my uncles are black, a few of them paler than the sun and then you've got me - i'm half-baked. so there's that. i mean it's not uncommon to see someone black here, it's not uncommon to see someone pale or someone that's in between. though come to think of it, out of all my Irish professors, i've not seen one that wasn't white.

    "One of the first things my college professors always told us was to write what you know." yes, i agree with this. that, or the other thing i do is just change the setting so it's not in the 'real world' so i don't make a fool of myself. even in Harry Potter fanfiction, i've a thing for putting out AU's just so i don't miss my mark. if the rules of the universe are completely bent well...

    i've never really known there is much of a race difference. i mean, i've never really noticed someone's skin colour as much. i mean sure, i know that "oh, he's black. he's pale, he's somewhere in between. he's ___" but around here, it doesn't really play in much. i'd write a black character the same way i'd write a white character. because i don't really think it makes a difference what your skin colour is. well, at least in HP fanfiction, i mean nobody's ever went like "Oi, __ is black. let's give him a hard time for it."

    hope i've not said anything offensive without meaning to! xx love you to bits. take care of yourself, alright?


    -Sam Lupin

    ReplyDelete
  14. I've been told that too
    Write what you know
    I think it's good advice
    As it's better to write an accurate account of what you do know
    Rather than writing a sketchy account of what you don't know
    Be that white middle class
    Or African American
    Or Asian
    The thing is
    Opinions are like assholes
    Everyone's got one
    I wouldn't worry too much about it

    The apartment looks class
    It will be fun putting your stamp on it and making it your own
    My dream is to have my own place someday
    And you are most definitely invited around for tea and cake!! X

    ReplyDelete
  15. Would you rather be "racist" for not including a character you didn't know how to write, or for writing a character that "must have been written by someone who didn't know what they're talking about"? Racist hunters: damned if you do, damned if you don't.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Oooh, pretty!

    I guess everyone will have their own perspective. I don't feel 'qualified' to say, but a hell of a lot of books and movies feature predominantly white characters. I get their point, but I'm not sure if 'racist' is the right word. It seems a little extreme. You're writing to suit the environment you grew up and and lived in. For a lot of us, that can mean little exposure to other cultures.

    tl;dr - don't let the haters get you down <3

    xxxx

    ReplyDelete
  17. comment reply to your comment reply:

    "I left most of the character descriptions super vague on purpose, so readers could picture them however they liked. :/" i guessed as much. don't worry. it's not really a comment you should be worrying about! love you so so much.

    "I've been working on your picture of the Burrow. BUT I'M NOT GIVING YOU A SNEAK PEEK BECAUSE YOU'RE NOT POSTING ANYMORE."

    NO NOT FAIR I WANT TO SEE

    speaking of which, someone's been working on her own illustrations (me, me, me) and i've got one for you too... when i go back to posting - hopefully next week, i'll share some but when you see the specific picture i'm referring to, you'll know. promise. ;)




    -Sam Lupin

    ReplyDelete
  18. I don't think it's racist to have only white characters if you aren't even sure how you'd handle a black character. I think a "token black" is just as racist as no blacks. There also isn't a problem with only white characters anyway. I've only ever written one black character. Doctor Osborne in Immortal Space is black. To me he just...felt...black. For lack of a better word. If no one in your book feels black then what can you do? If you'd like to introduce a black character or two then I guess you'll have to try and immerse yourself in the culture a little.

    ReplyDelete
  19. As an avid reader, I must say it's the story. Knowing about the characters is important too, but I don't recall ever thinking "oh, wow, that's a really racist thing to say/do/act". Some people have nothing better to do than to criticize the efforts of others....especially when they don't have any skills, lol.

    I admit I noticed the floors first! Very nice. At least you don't have carpeting in the kitchen ~ yes, one of our first apartments had indoor/outdoor carpeting in the living room and kitchen. Not good when you accidentally drop the coffee can you store grease from cooking in (yep).

    ReplyDelete
  20. The apartment is cute!! :) I also noticed the floors first - they're nice. I'm jealous - we have nasty carpet all over and faux-tiles in the kitchen and bathroom. Landlord couldn't even spring for real tiles :/

    Re lack of people of colour - first of all you're not racist, you're writing what you know and that's that. As an author it is obviously your prerogative to write the characters as you see them. They live and breathe in your mind, and if you see them as white, well then, that's what they are. I'd like to think though, that there must be characters who you see as not white and just don't write about because you don't feel comfortable writing about them (I'm sorry if this is presumptious, I mean absolutely no offense)

    As a POC I personally (and this is just my opinion) get a little pissed off when POC are portrayed as "different" in literature or film. POC growing up in the same environment as you probably have/had a life that is remarkably similar to yours. A black/asian/otherPOC kid growing up in middle class / upper middle class New Jersey has more in common with the white kids they grew up with than with black/asian/otherPOC kids from a different socio-economic environment. There are of course things and experiences that will differ (e.g. experiences with racism and discrimination etc.) and you can steer clear of writing in detail about those experiences but for the most part, if the POC kids in your stories live in the same neighbourhoods, and grow up with, and attend the same schools, and are friends with the white kids in your stories, they likely have a lot in common, and I think you should feel free to imagine what those friendships might be like and write about them. And if you're nervous of how anything you've written comes across, I'm sure you have friends who are POC who would be willing to read things over and give you a second opinion (I volunteer as tribute :)

    What I can tell you is that I don't see or feel myself as being any different from my white friends / neighbours / co-workers, which means I see myself as a person first, and that's how you should "see" any of your future characters who may happen to be not white. There's no need to tackle social justice issues in your writing just because you have a character who is not white - so I wouldn't ask myself how to write about a black or asian character, I would ask myself how to write about a specific character ...umm let's say Natalie, (who just happens to be black/asian etc). What is Natalie's personality like? Why does she always wear those bright pink shoes? Does her incredible gift for watercolour painting come from her mother or her father? Why on earth would a girl as smart and talented as Natalie have a such a huge crush on the neighbourhood douchebag? How does Natalie react to finding out that whenever she has that urge to paint, she's actually painting an event that will happen in the future? She's pretty much a fortuneteller whose medium is painting. What does she do with that knowledge? She Natalie, not she the black girl. I hope I'm making sense, and I hope this monstrously long comment is helpful. Basically I'm saying be brave - continue to write your characters as you see them, and if you see them as not white, then don't hesitate to write about them anyway. At the end of the day, we're all just people, we're all gifts - we just happen to be wrapped in a different colours of wrapping paper.

    xx

    ReplyDelete
  21. Another thought - I"m Asian but I grew up surrounded by white people. And the Asians I knew pretty much grew up surrounded by whites. So really, I suffer from an identity crisis. I'm not white, but I'm not Asian. Yet I am Asian but I feel white. Sigh. And oh, let's add to the fact that I'm Brazilian but still get treated like a tourist when I'm there, or I get accepted by the Japanese when I'm in Japan until I open my mouth and they realize I'm not Japanese. So the point is, I agree with what Nasimiyu said! HA

    ReplyDelete

We say whatever we want to whomever we want, at all times.