Sunday, August 25, 2013

The lack of Multiculturalism in novels...An issue thats beyond just black and white

It's been a dirty truth and constant reality that racism and racial prejudice is still a big part of American culture. Whether anyone chooses to acknowledge such, is completely up to the individual.

Perhaps it stems from not experiencing racism or racial inequality first hand. Maybe race does not play a big deal for some, because they do not allow it to, or they otherwise feel accepted by all.

But whatever your feelings on the matter, one thing is certain. Most people assume racism is strictly Black and White.

It's an ugly part of American history that slavery existed. But I'm not trying to make anyone feel guilty about something they have little to do with. What I'm here to discuss, is why is everything in novels about different races so "Black and White?"

Most my life I've encountered novels only featuring White protagonists. I'm fine with that. Because we are in a time where books with different types of heroes and heroines are being made available, and I don't always have to go with the default "white" protagonist. But I have a concern about protagonists that are not white or black, or even straight, or thin or anything else that is not deemed as the cultural norm in American society.

I've yet to read only ONE book with a gay man as a lead in a YA fantasy novel. This partially my fault, as there are plenty to choose from, you just have to be willing to put in legwork to find such. I wouldn't have even known about the book had the author, Perry Moore, hadn't been the film producer of the "Chronicles of Narnia"  series and made the news by accidentally overdosing, thus making it impossible to release a sequel. I read Entertainment Weekly often looking for interesting books and movies to check out, and when I saw this news, I bought "Hero" and found that I actually enjoyed it.

But while I don't feel like there are enough characters whom are of African diaspora, I at times feel how can I really complain. Asian, Native American/American Indian/ First Nation/ Indigenous races, Latino(Of any race), Middle Eastern/Western Asia often hardly get that.

Whenever I see Asian protagonists, even by American authors, they are often foreigners, not native to the US. While this happens all the time and still continues to, there are plenty of Americans whom are of Asian descent whom were born here. Where are their stories? So much of American history is geared towards seeing Americans of Asian descent as "Other". To this day, there are so many American born Asians whom still get asked "Where are you from?" No accent, no grip on their ancestry's native tongue. We just assume they must not have been born here. WTF.

Latino is a bit more difficult. As an Afro-Latino, when I cant find Latino culture in books, my go to is African American lit. Why? Well I can relate either way. I am after all Black. While I may not be keen on some aspects of the culture(perhaps certain cuisine choices) there is little difference from being considered African-American and Afro-Latino to me. Because I've always measured them with the same ruler, I dont always require both to get by.

But since Latinos come in every race, I don't know how to bring up them being in lit, outside of culture, which is highly misrepresented. Authors like Alisa Valdes , author of "The Dirty Girls Social Club" have brilliantly written Latinas of ALL RACES in contemporary settings, where none are immigrants, maids, gang members or baby mamas.

However, even with the success of the series, she's found it difficult to get Hollywood to budge on her bringing it to the big screen. Hollywood doesn't deem it realistic for Latinas of all races to be behaving the way the "default" Caucasian female might.

I know. Sounds ridiculous doesn't it?

And there are a ton of different human classifications that define us, that are misrepresented, especially in books. Many individuals tell me it shouldn't matter. That if there characters are universally  relate-able, why should something as small as race make a difference? makes a difference, or at least to me, because I don't think images that look like me are not relate-able. I don't think images that look like Keiko Agena are not relate-able. I don't think I have to be gay to relate to a story about two women or men falling in love. Because my love isn't any different from another person's. My sense of style isn't different that anyone solely based on race. Perhaps there are many things I can do, say, or wear that perhaps a non-Black person can't. But they are small compared to the things we as a human race can ALL do.

I've written too much already, and this conversation is not over, but I would like to know what other people think about multiculturalism in books being merely Black and white.


  1. Love this post.. even as an Asian, where there is a growing number of Asian characters inserted into novels these days, I still get annoyed. Why? Because most of the time when you hear "Asia" people more often automatically think "Japan" or "China" or "Korea" -- well, you get the idea; cultures and physical appearances around those areas.

    Not that I'm discrediting those cultures, mind you. I love a good Japanese-inspired novel myself. What really gets to me though is how it reinforces the idea that Asia = Japan/Chinese, when there is a whole LOT more to it than that. And don't even get me started on the exoticism of Asia in general.

  2. Thank you for taking the time to comment =D

    I also apologize for such. I suppose it is an umbrella term to describe anyone who's ancestry hails from the continent Asia.

    Im ashamed to admit that my boyfriend, whom is Caucasian is also guilty of assuming Asia is limited to these limited demographics.

    We were just watching Slumdog Millionaire, which if you haven't seen features people of Indian descent in prominent roles. Needless to say, since I saw it in the movie theater, I've seen it almost a dozen times. And he kept wondering why I kept referring to them as "Asian."

    I think what angers me most about it, is he's half English, and in the UK, Asian is an umbrella term often used to describe Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, or anything South Asian.

    Needless to say, I feel as though I have to always teach him the difference between things in terms of culture vs race.

    I think I just love so many different looks and cultures, my first instinct is to research them, and see what makes them different from each other.

    I recently picked up a read, and while it's not an American book, it has a lot of Indonesian culture and characters.

    Ugh.If I get started I won't stop. But I know referring to Asia and only expecting certain ethnic groups is like saying "Latino" and only expecting Mexican, Puerto Rican and Spanish. Even Africa is an umbrella term, as there so many countries, I suppose one could be lazy enough to refer to all ethnic groups in that continent one thing.

    Thanks for commenting. Not over ;p But loved your incite.

  3. I love this blog! I just followed you. I'm always excited to see books that actually have a bit of diversity.

    Ink & Tea Reviews


Thanks for leaving awesome comments!We appreciate and reply to everyone!