I still don't get it.

I've been reading about Millenia Black's situation [UPDATE: That blog entry is gone. Maybe I'll erase this one if she asks me to!!] and I keep trying to understand it from the publisher's POV. (Read about it here and here .)

Here's what I know: It's all about the bucks. So if that's true, then the bucks must be in AA literature and that's why they're pushing her to change her characters from white to black. Hey, money in AA literature is good!**

Hmmm. If more bucks is not the reason then I don't get the publisher's thinking. And I wonder--would they do this forced niche thing to a Latina writer? (Is Latina the word we use now?)I wish a recognized Latina writer would check into the conversation and put in her two cents. I've read on various loops that editors believe that black writers can't write white characters. Or maybe that editors think readers don't believe it. Huh? It all strikes me as utterly bizarre.

I can sort of see the argument that someone from the dominant culture (white) couldn't accurately portray a subculture (pick any one) without some research. On the other hand, any family or circle of friends or workplace is a culture onto itself -- and any writer can invent that world.

I'd be more outraged it I wasn't so danged confused <-- my new motto. another update. Outrage Accomplished at last (phew! and ta! da!):

The desire to compartmentalize--it's about money and so I can't get too worked up. Publishers will do what it takes to tap any market they recognise.

However pushing any writer into writing for a market based purely on her race/ethnic background, her age, her job, her sexual preference, her geographical location, her eating habits--is just gross.


**My take is money going into any books = good. Even books about Christian vampire mafia gangs posing as SEALs.


  1. Clearly I'm not an editor of a NY publisher, but I do like to think of myself as an editor, lol, and *I* don't think that any author of any race can't write a character of another race. Did that makes sense? So, I think whoever saying that on the loops, "editors" don't think that, is making a sweeping generalization. Rather like saying all romance readers live in trailor parks and eat bon bons ;)

    I wish I knew what the publishers motivation was here. WHAT were they thinking? This doesn't seem like the type of thing someone would ask on a whim (though I can't imagine asking at all) but I'd love to hear the reasoning behind it. Which, of course, we probably never will, dammit.

    I feel for the author, she's in an unenviable position. One she should never have been placed in.

  2. I've never understood this drive to compartmentalize literature (and music, films, TV shows, etc...) according to race. Does it matter whether an author is black, white, asian, latino or whatever, as long as the story is good. The first time I saw an African-American literature section in an American bookshop, I thought, "What the hell?"

    As for trying to force an author to write only about characters from the same racial and ethnic background, if that principle was to be applied to every author and every genre, literature would be a lot poorer. We'd lose historical fiction, because an author could not possibly write about a period he or she hasn't lived in. We'd lose science fiction, because we are neither aliens nor live in the future and therefore cannot possibly write about it. And crime fiction could only be written be criminals or policemen.

  3. Anonymous2:48 AM

    There is so much more to this story. And there are going to be a lot people with egg on their face when it's all said and done.

  4. Anonymous6:37 AM

    yeah, Angie, the whole thing is so Mysterious--I'd be surprised if we ever know the whole thing.

    Nicely put Cora.

    anon, maybe all won't be said and done in public--so they (we?) won't even know the egg is there.


  5. I hadn't realized this situation existed, how odd. It would seem to me, instead of pushing a writer to change her characters, shouldn't they look for new writers with established multicultural characters? I freely admit I couldn't do justice to certain races/genres/time periods. Heck, there are times I have trouble writing men, and I'm pretty used to them. . .

    Publishing is a strange, strange world. . .

  6. Hmm...the post is gone. Something must be happening. I wonder if that was a condition of meeting her demands? Word is that she served them with a demand letter, so perhaps they made that a condition of meeting it...? Dunno, it's all pure speculation at this point, we don't know all the facts. I do hope we get the facts soon though. I still think this issue is a very important one no matter what happens. Wouldn't you agree?

  7. I don't see doing research to write about a particular race as any different than researching any other aspect of a story!

  8. Well for craps sake, if a female author can write from a mans POV, then they can certainly write from the POV of a different race.


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