So recently, if you’ve been on Twitter as much as I have, you’ve seen a lot of talk of diversity and diverse books. As a woman of color, I’m very for diverse books that don’t only include own voices, but also just books that have PoC that are… well written characters. Sounds simple, I know right? Crazy.
In today’s post I want to talk about how important it is to have different people reading your work. To authors out there who want to work with characters out of their race or out of their… whatever I want to point out how important this is. I mean please, if you have a book that centers around PoC but the only people who seem impressed or pleased are white people, there’s a problem. Really. If you are working on a story that deals with characters outside of your personal experiences, I think it’s important to go through the correct measures and have people that are part of the culture you’re writing about be part of the editing process. Most importantly, have them read your work.
It’s scary. Oh boy, is it scary–but this is the only way you’ll be able to do it correctly (in my humble opinion). If you don’t have people who experience that kind of life style daily, who have been brought up in a different culture than yours–how do you expect to create such a realistic experience? Even if you think you know because you were surrounded by PoC growing up, I guarantee that you don’t fully understand.
Personally, I want to see more amazing Asian characters that aren’t just smart characters or nerdy characters or whatever. I just want to see a person who happens to be Asian. That so hard to ask? PoC aren’t really that hard to write. Just write people. Just write what you imagine a person would do–but if you plan to delve deeper into their cultures and how it affects their thinking and actions, that’s when you need to do some research and some cross referencing.
Look I’m not saying any of this to be aggressive or hostile. When you’re in school and you’re required to write a research paper, if your paper doesn’t have enough research done it’s not a good paper and you don’t get a good grade. Why doesn’t this translate to fiction? You guys want to say, “oh it’s fiction, suspend your disbelief”. Yeah okay, I’ll do that when people stop describing my eye shape as almond. Authors will jest and say, “Oh I’m on some NSA list for checking how long it takes for acid to eat away at a corpse” but aren’t willing to do the same sort of research for cultural experiences? Amazing. Really.
I’m not a big supporter of having PoC written only by PoC. All I ask for is sufficient research and having it beta read by the people you’re writing about. If you’re an author that’s afraid to get it wrong, here’s an easy answer, have those people read it before it hits the shelves. I honestly don’t know what that’s not a solution many people have taken. I encourage more people to write Asian characters and Asian Americans (this is because I’m Korean American so of course I’m being a bit specific to myself, but I’m also implying everyone else as well). Just reach out to these types of beta readers more often because I’m telling you they’ll give you a much more satisfying answer and critique of your work.
If you don’t think you know any beta readers, I’ll be happy to take a look at your work as long as you’re willing to wait a while because, at the risk of sounding really snobby and douchey, I’m a really busy person.