who am i to you: lessons in diversity

Henry read two of my stories to help me find one to submit for my application, and he wrote an interesting comment on one of them:

People probably say this shit to you all the time and I know you must hate it, but I like the multi-ethnicity of these characters, and the fact that their race is not the point. It’s fresh, and makes them more endearing and not copied-from-tv-teen-dramas trite.

People don’t say that to me all the time, though I think about it a lot, and I both love and hate it. I don’t think it’s all that hard to do. All I did was give one character a Japanese name and then had her act like any silly, bitchy, ditzy drunk girl would act. Another kid I described as “Hispanic,” which should generally be avoided, but using it once is fine, I think. Another character had a thought where she was glad that she was black so that no one could see her blush. How simple!

I have a huge problem in literature with things like “African American fiction” being a genre, and an extreme inability to have a main character in a book be Jewish, Mexican, Hindu, black, or anything else without making the main conflict in the story about that person’s cultural or ethnic identity clashing with the mainstream. Want to know why we can’t all get along, world? Because our representations of culture refuse to let that happen.

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