- somekindof-salvation asked
^ ^ ^
Wow, it’s almost like ALL children deserve to see themselves in media, not just the cis straight white abel-bodies neuro-typical ones.
hey, remember how everyone was like “holy shit, actual black girl protagonist in historical fantasy” when Kate Elliott’s Cold Magic came out?
remember how she at least looked sorta brown on the cover? a little bit?
now, this cover is pretty goddamn whitewashed compared to the book’s descriptions
but here is the kindle cover art
blue eyes and everything.
they’re not even fucking trying, are they
look at how similar the designs are
down to the hairstyle, the swirly overlay, and the gear in the background
literally the only thing they changed was making her whiter, and turning all the brown design elements blue
THEY WERE LITERALLY LIKE “I CAN SEE NO WAY TO IMPROVE THIS COVER DESIGN EXCEPT TO USE A WHITER GIRL”
Wowwww. And they kept everything else the same, so it’s not even like they wanted to change the pattern design or anything, it’s like “we like that cover, but she’s not white looking enough…”
Young adult author Veronica Roth’s bestselling dystopia Divergent has a main character of color—but it’s not exactly directly stated in the series. Discerning readers noted that Roth’s main character Tobias, aka “Four,” was never explicitly mentioned as being white. After affirming in a Tumblr post last year that the character was actually biracial, Roth noted that she pictured him having light skin but later vowed to “use her words” to make sure that her wishes for a diverse cast were known in the event of a movie.
“I really hate whitewashing,” Roth wrote. “I really do. It’s VERY important to me that it not happen.”
But when the announcement of Four’s casting came in March, Roth’s priorities had shifted:
"Recently I saw Theo James’ screen test with Shailene Woodley, and I was sure within seconds: this was ‘Four,’ no question. Theo is able to capture ‘Four’s’ authority and strength, as well as his depth and sensitivity. He is a perfect match for Shailene’s incredibly strong presence as Tris. I’m thrilled!"
The problem? Theo James is white.
By Malinda Lo
[Image: The book cover for Inheritance (left); the author, Malinda Lo (right)]
Yesterday my novel Inheritance, the sequel to Adaptation, was published. Inheritance picks up minutes after the end of Adaptation, and I think of the two books as one big story cut in two halves. They’re X-Files-inspired science fiction thrillers about a 17-year-old girl, Reese Holloway, who has to uncover what exactly happened to her and her friend David Li while they were unconscious at a secret military base in Nevada following a freak car accident.
My first two novels, Ash and Huntress, were YA fantasies about queer girls. Ash was a lesbian retelling of Cinderella, and Huntress was inspired by Chinese and Japanese traditions. I am both a lesbian and a Chinese American, and the subject of my identity comes up often when I do interviews or panels. So, when Adaptation came out, I was known for writing YA about nonstraight, nonwhite characters. That’s fine — up to a point.
Last fall, I did several events to promote Adaptation. At one of them, someone in the audience asked, “Is Reese white and straight in order to make Adaptation more mainstream?”
(Talk about a loaded question!)
I answered, firstly: “What makes you think Reese is straight?”
The person who asked that question had only read the first paragraph of the jacket copy, which described Reese’s feelings about David: “Reese and her debate team partner and longtime crush David are in Arizona when it happens.”
She hadn’t read down to the end yet, when a girl named Amber is mentioned: “When Reese unexpectedly collides with the beautiful Amber Gray, her search for the truth is forced in an entirely new direction…”
The jacket copy didn’t spell it out because we didn’t want to spoil the plot (although personally I think it’s pretty suggestive), but let me tell you: Reese is not straight. This is an assumption you should never make — not in fiction, and not in real life.
But the question of whether I made Reese white in order to make the book more mainstream has a much more complicated answer.
Was I tempted to make her white because … well, everybody knows that books about white people sell more? To be honest, of course that thought crossed my mind. It probably crosses the mind of every author out there writing about people of color. And if it doesn’t cross their mind, someone will suggest it to them.
But let me ask you this: Should authors who have written about people of color in the past never be allowed to write about white people?
And here’s another question: Since I’m a person of color, should I only write about people of color?
The answer to both questions, in my opinion, is no. As a writer, I’m allowed to write about whatever the hell I want. As a writer of color, I’m allowed to write about people who are not like me. The same goes for every writer out there.
Also: It is not a crime to want your book to do well in the marketplace. Some writers write only from the heart; others write almost entirely thinking about the bank. I’m going to bet that most writers fall somewhere in between, like me. I need to be creatively inspired to write, but at the same time, I know that the creative decisions I make can push a book in various directions: literary, niche, commercial, somewhere in between. I’m lucky that I’m married to someone who has a “real job,” and I don’t need to depend wholly on the income from my writing to support myself.
Because of that privilege, I have the luxury of writing the books I want to write. In Adaptation, the main character is white. Does that make the book more mainstream? I don’t know, because not only is she not straight, she’s involved in a bisexual love triangle with another girl (Amber) and a boy who is Asian American (David).
And there are so many racist stereotypes about Asian men.
In Hollywood, Asians are rarely if ever leading men because Asian men are either kung fu experts (who still don’t get the girl) or nerds. Bruce Lee or Long Duk Dong. There’s no in between. And in real life, plenty of women — women of all races — embrace these stereotypes by saying they would never date an Asian man.
[Image: Bruce Lee (left) and the character Long Duk Dong (right) from the movie Sixteen Candles.]
I have a father who is half Chinese. I have a Chinese American brother. I’m married to a woman now, but my ex-boyfriend, whom I was with for five years, was also Chinese American. Those stereotypes about Asian men make me really angry. That’s why I wanted to write a book in which an Asian American boy was a romantic lead. I wanted him to be sexy and strong and smart.
And I admit I thought his desirability would be underscored if he dated a white girl. I would be flipping the established, often very racist practice of white men being with exotic Asian women. I was purposely subverting that stereotype.
For me, the decision to make Reese white was tangled up in all of these complicated things. It wasn’t a simple, white = commercial success decision. And while I do think Adaptation and Inheritance are more commercial than my previous books, it’s not because the main character is white. It’s because the style I wrote it in is more commercial. It is, frankly, less literary than Ash or Huntress. It’s a science fiction thriller, and things actually do explode in it. There are conspiracies, and men in black, and Area 51, and a love triangle that I think is pretty darn sexy.
Whether or not it’s “mainstream” is for the market to determine, not me, though I freely admit that I’ve always written more for the mainstream than for the experimental fringe. I know that mainstream can have connotations of blandness and whitewashing, but it can also indicate acceptance and success. I don’t think it’s wrong — especially not for an Asian American lesbian — to hope for some of that.
Caring about diversity seems to me like the absolute bare minimum standard of decency.
I remember when I was still in school, I went to a gathering of people in my city, an informal fantasy nerds book group. So, we were all talking about books, and the subject of this one book series with a gay romance in it arose, and I began to tear it to pieces: I thought it was terribly written, I had to let everybody know how just so, so bad it was. And a girl who I hadn’t met before that day looked me dead in the eyes and said: “Those books saved my life.”
I sat there and stared at her, until I found my voice and said: “Wow, I’m so sorry, I was being an asshole.” She was very nice about it: she went “Eh, yeah” and then I asked her for some book recommendations and she asked me for some.
I was describing Unspoken to another writer, and I won’t say who they were but they are New York Times bestselling, and she reacted to the diverse elements of it saying “I wouldn’t do that: you can’t afford to do that with the sales of your last series, you can do those things after you’re successful” and I couldn’t help but remember that girl saying “Those books saved my life” and feel sick that anyone would ever say that. So I wrote the book the way I planned. I’m not saying I did a good job, or even a sufficient job, and it’s no excuse for the things I got wrong, but I did always remember that even doing what I’d thought was a lousy job, those books helped people by having representation. There’s no excuse for not trying.
I’m worried this story makes me sound self-congratulatory or big-headed: I don’t mean it that way. Nobody should ever be congratulated for having basic empathy. It’s normal to want to throw up if someone says something terrible to you. Other authors do a much better job of writing diversely than me–still more other authors, who don’t get the chance to be published because of institutional prejudice, would do a much better job than me. I’m just using the story to illustrate why I think diversity should be important to everyone. I just want to write good stories–and that means stories that are inclusive–and try not to be an irredeemable jerk. (Sometimes I fail at both those things.)
- wareve asked
Good question! Tumblr followers, what do you think?
- mistress-coyle asked
I’m not familiar with this book series or adaptation. My understanding is that the character Rose is of Turkish ancestry from her father’s side?
“People have no idea how often this happens. I have seen similar things happen to almost every writer I know who has written characters of color prominent enough so they could be on their covers.
Sometimes these writers get whitewashed covers they are forced to swallow… Sometimes the covers get changed, but if the books sell badly the covers (and the writers) are blamed, and the writer may not get another contract. People are being punished in this way, for writing characters of color, every day.“