Preempting racefail: Or, why my novel may never see the light of day

16 May

Once upon a time, there was a philosophy graduate student who really wanted to be fiction writer. She decided one day that she could write a story so much better than those soap operas she watched while working on her dissertation. And her story–unlike those soap operas–would have lesbians.

Naturally, she made the main setting a university and populated it with students and faculty. And since it was a bit of a lark to entertain her while she wrote the dissertation, she didn’t plan ahead of time what the plot or the characters would be. She just invented a whole bunch of names and, because she was sensitive to these things, she made sure they had a lot of diversity. There were white people and Asian people and black people and Native American people; there men people and women people; young people and middle-aged people; gay, bisexual, and straight people; working class, middle-class, and upper-middle class people.

Then she started writing in order to find out who these people were. She wrote and wrote and wrote, time permitting, and, as often happens in fiction stories, one of the characters took over and decided that this was her story, and she was to be center stage.

And she just happened to be Native American.

Valerie was, not unsurprisingly, a graduate student. She was intelligent, gifted, generous, and ambitious. She was also promiscuous, emotionally immature, a bit of a drinker (although adamantly anti-drug), and had mommy issues up the wazoo (her mother essentially, but not completely, abandoned her as child.)

Why is my character like this? Because that’s the kind of main characters I write.

The Asian character ended up becoming a minor character in the story, and the black characters include a central character who is a good-hearted, efficient nurse with a tendency to be a bit of a control freak in relationships (Felicia), and her aunt Debra, one of the professors at the university (whose main purpose seems to be to offer sensible advice to her niece and the other, more central professor character).

There is another fairly central character, the main character’s cousin, who is a half-Native American/half white (French Canadian) man (Rene’). He is also presented quite often through the lens of his sexuality, since he is there to incite the inhibited passions of the central professor character, but he is also presented as the sensible, loving best friend of his cousin.

The rest of the present-day cast is pretty much white. And each of them has their failings. You have the impulsive underaged ingenue Lisa, who, incidentally, the main character Valerie seduces in order to piss off the ingenue’s mother, who is her faculty advisor. Of course, Lisa actively seeks out Valerie’s affections, at least after the initial seduction. This is a coming-out story for her. You have the faculty advisor, Elizabeth, who is a mother figure not only to her daughter Lisa, but to the main character Valerie as well. Elizabeth is a major control freak, emotionally unavailable, and trapped in a marriage that makes her unhappy. And therein lies the emotional crux of the novel, Dis/inhibition–emotionally charged graduate student works out her mommy issues on her emotionally cold, controlling faculty advisor. Other white characters include the black nurse’s flighty artist girlfriend Sarah and the ingenue’s father/faculty advisor’s husband, the loving but unassertive, depressed Arthur.

Valerie’s actual mother is a character in the story as well and is a bit shallow, flighty, judgmental and emotionally immature. And (naturally) also Native American. There are two other full-blood Native American characters in the story, the main character’s father and grandfather, both presented as kind, intelligent, and complicated. Or as complicated as you can get considering they are both dead and therefore only appear in memories and flashback scenes, mostly from the point of view of characters who loved them. The father died when Valerie was a toddler. The grandfather is the father’s father, and the man who raised Valerie. He was also a university professor and Elizabeth’s mentor, thereby sealing her role as a mother figure to Valerie.

Short story long, I don’t think there’s a single character in this story who isn’t three-dimensional and complicated, but I worry. Two of the most prominent Native American characters in the story are written as emotionally immature and seemingly incapable of long-term relationships. Now one of them, my main character Valerie, is struggling with her emotional issues and trying to work through them and that’s the whole point of the story.

But still, someone could come along and say, “You don’t present Native Americans very sympathetically in your story. And while we’re on the subject, white girl, what makes you think you have the right to write Native American main characters at all?”

I could protest all I want that I didn’t set out to write a Native American main character, I simply wrote a character that just happened to be one, and by the time I realized she had taken over the whole friggin’ story, she had become a real person to me, and I couldn’t change her race any more than I could change an actual person’s race. That’s who she was. That can’t change. That’s no longer negotiable.

But you see my quandary here, and I have been aware of it for a long time. I tried to strike a balance in my story between Valerie’s good qualities and her bad qualities as a person, between her being a graduate student-who-just-happens-to-be-Native American and her being a young person with a connection to her Washoe/Piaute/Ute heritage. I did research into what that meant. I based many of the story bits dealing with her her heritage on a Native American ex of mine I lived with for four years.

So why is I still feel like I have no right to put this story out there in the world? Am I silencing Native voices by being a white person writing in a Native voice without being one?

I think people can write in the voices of Others they are not, and they can do it successfully, but it’s all a matter of being able to understand that Other’s experience as best you can. For example, I don’t often have an issue with a male writer writing a female main character. Sexism abounds in our world, there’s no doubt of that, but a lot of men can pull it off (and vice-versa). Why? I suppose it’s because the opposite sex is an Other we come into contact with everyday, interact with constantly, and even have close intimate relationships with. A racial Other…we don’t necessarily have that. But I know I would never have thought of having a Native American character before my four years with my ex.

I recently heard from that ex again, and there is a lot of complicated baggage in that relationship that makes me want to keep my distance. But it’s also an opportunity to cultivate a new relationship with her in which it might be possible someday soon to run some key chapters past her and get her reaction to them.

So why am I still hesitating?

I wish I had more people of color on my flist to respond to this.

47 Responses to “Preempting racefail: Or, why my novel may never see the light of day”

  1. spiletta42 May 16, 2009 at 8:58 pm #

    Oh for frak’s sake.
    Yes, this Racefail thing has served us well, hasn’t it — demanding diversity while making all the actually thoughtful people afraid of it, fantastic. Just write your book, and when it’s finished, track down a few readers of different ethnicities to read it, if you’re that worried. That shouldn’t be all that hard, seeing as you live in Phoenix. Find a nice writer’s group, and it’s bound to contain some diversity.
    That said, I’m sure you’ll do a fine job — they’re real people to you, and people are just people. It’s not like having a different ethnic background is the specific difference that makes one think about relationships or sex or whatever in a slightly different light than the person next to them. No, what shapes people is their specific individual mix of specific parents and teachers and role models and ex-lovers and books they’ve read and experiences they’ve had and whatever.
    Now, if you make all the Native Americans into naughty bad werewolves cannibalistic serial killers and all of the white people into speshul flowers of magnificent perfection and there’s not a black person or a hispanic person in sight in the middle of Los Angeles — then you’ve got a problem. But having different kinds of relationship issues basically at random among a diverse group? There is no bad there.
    Of course I could be speaking from my heteronormative white privilege and therefore I might be unworthy of an opinion.

  2. spiletta42 May 16, 2009 at 9:05 pm #

    Sorry if I was a tad bit ranty there, but Racefail and my own half-written novel are causing me very similar grief, and in the back of my head I was sort of counting on you to be one of the people I could talk to about that at some point, because I figured you as someone who would probably have a stronger handle on the issue.

  3. neshaffer May 16, 2009 at 9:30 pm #

    Alas, I am like you, trying to muddle through as best I can. I am noticing, to my discomfort, that all of the characters in my new story seem to be white, but since none of them are full-blown characters yet, I can still change that.
    Nothing to do but the best you can, and when all else fails, shut up and let other perspectives do the talking.

  4. spiletta42 May 16, 2009 at 9:49 pm #

    I think, regarding our writing, we need to not worry about it at all until the editing stage, just like any other issue that’ll make you all blocked and paranoid if you let it.
    As for fandom, well, fandom likes to be hysterical, judgmental, and reactionary at the drop of a hat, so we need to take the Racefail fallout with a grain of salt.

  5. neshaffer May 16, 2009 at 9:59 pm #

    I find myself mostly reading the posts of non-white people whom I respect on this issue. Hoping to get some glimmer of advice, even if my writing woes aren’t their problem to solve.
    I am long past the writing stage in this particular story. It is in the polish-or-perish stage where I either have to decide to send it out and get it ready for that, or tuck it in the bottom drawer of some backup CD never to be seen again.

  6. rahael May 16, 2009 at 10:08 pm #

    well, I have no idea whether I belong in that category, but I did write out a couple of comments from my perspective of writing characters who came from a different caste from me. The caste system is pretty brutal. I definitely had some questions I had to wrestle with. I am still working on it now, to make sure that I accurately reflect the difficulties and problems my characters would have had that i could not possibly ever fully know. For me, I could not write without putting those tihngs in, because that injustice was fundamental to the way society functioned and why the privileged were privileged.
    The reason I didn’t post those comments ultimately was because I kept looking at these other comments and thinking…..yeah, not sure I belong in the category.

  7. spiletta42 May 16, 2009 at 10:13 pm #

    I vote for polish.

  8. neshaffer May 16, 2009 at 10:14 pm #

    Rah, if you have any insights to share (lol, I almost typed “incites”), I would appreciate hearing them. You have had to deal with a lot of crap in your life, and I’m sure some of the most annoying crap comes from people who mean well but still fail. How would you feel, for example, picking up a book by a British white person where the main character and their family is of Sri Lankan heritage?
    If you would prefer not to, or would prefer to send me an e-mail, that’s also cool.

  9. cornerofmadness May 16, 2009 at 10:43 pm #

    i know sort of what you’re talking about. Take Machiavelli Moon many of the characters are Lakota right down to some of the language spoken but yes I have the same fears of people taking offense when the exact opposite is meant.
    I think someone summed it up in the replies to an absolutely dreadful erotica, she identified herself as a woman of color (her words not mine) and the only thing worse than people of color not being written by white authors was when they were .
    So that leaves you with the quandry of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. makes several good points

  10. neshaffer May 16, 2009 at 10:54 pm #

    My first instinct is to write characters of color who are Oreos (brown on the outside, white on the inside), your basic Star Trek approach to PoC’s. You want to have diversity in your story, so you just magically make some of your pre-drawn characters of various races, but don’t change anything else about them. It’s well-meaning, but it ignores that they have aspects of themselves that draw from their heritage. But you can only know about that heritage second-hand, so that’s where you start messing up. I know my grasp of Native American heritage, for example, is very piece-meal, and that’s where some feedback from my ex might help.
    This is eggshells, and me walking on them.

  11. chaos_by_design May 17, 2009 at 12:05 am #

    My first instinct is to write characters of color who are Oreos (brown on the outside, white on the inside), your basic Star Trek approach to PoC’s.
    I don’t think that’s a good approach either.
    Honestly? I think you should do the best you can; get some people of the ethnicities your writing about to read it and get their feedback and take it seriously, and then leave it at that. You’re bound to piss some people off no matter what you do, but honestly, I really don’t think white people only writing about white people because they’re scared of offending POCs is the answer. That just seems like letting white liberal guilt win.

  12. shadowkat67 May 17, 2009 at 12:05 am #

    I’m not a person of color, as you know, but…I want to give you a list of established writers who have written complex and interesting characters that are not their gender or heritage:
    1. Tony Hillerman
    2. Arthur Updike – wrote mysteries featuring aborginies in Australia
    3. Alexander Mccall Smith – who wrote the mysteries about the black female detective in Botsawana, he’s white by the way and not African.
    4. Wally Lamb who wrote She Must Be Undone
    5. Joss Whedon who wrote Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    6. John Wells who wrote most of ER – which featured some multi-faceted and interesting black characters and has won Spirt awards
    7. J.K. Rowling who wrote Harry Potter – about a boy, when she is anything but.
    8. Mark Twain who wrote Huckleberry Finn
    Equally, there are persons of color who have written stories that aren’t great and have been the subject of controversy – Shondra Rimes the African-American female writer of Grey’s Anatomy. And Alice Walker – who wrote the controversial Temple of My Familar.
    I understand the hesistation. But it makes me angry that you are. Not at you. Is your writing of an Native American any different than you writing about Connor? OR how about the heterosexual fanfic writers who write slash fiction? It sounds to me as if you wrote a character who just happens to be Native American. It is not “all” that she is. It is part, an important part. And what you have to say – could promote discussion, you might make people aware of things. You might find out something about yourself and your own views. If you never put it out there – then how do you know if there’s a counter-perspective? Isn’t writing about communication? Isn’t it about the exchange of perspectives? How do we learn – if we don’t take the risk and fail?
    And yes, I’m being a bit hypocritical since I’m procrastinating getting my own novel out there, for very different reasons. In it, I have a central, male character, who is Hispanic, and it is more than possible people will be offended by how I depicted him. But, I can’t control that.
    And I won’t know until I try.
    If Mark Twain had played it safe, worried, we wouldn’t have Huck Finn. And perhaps a far better example if Joss Whedon and Gene Roddenberry had played it safe we would never have met Buffy and Spock, and Ururo and Sulo, and all the others.

  13. neshaffer May 17, 2009 at 12:13 am #

    If I could think of some exemplar white writers who meant well and got deservedly mediocre grades on their efforts, it would be Twain, Whedon, and Roddenberry. Twain wrote before any white person worried about these things in the way we do now, and so we have to take that into account, but I honestly think Whedon was genuinely trying to be feminist and sometimes failed miserably and Roddenberry was genuinely trying to be inclusive (and patting himself on the back for it), and white-washing the very diversity he hoped to make visible.
    These are all legitimate criticisms, and yet these were all brave, well-meaning writers who broke new ground at the same time.
    It isn’t simple, by any means.

  14. shadowkat67 May 17, 2009 at 1:30 am #

    No it’s not. And I think what a lot of people forget is there are also persons of color, who mean well, but equally get it wrong and do make mistakes. Shondra Rimes is an excellent example – the writer of GRey’s Anatomy – who offended a good portion of the homosexual community, yet meant well. And there are others. Writers are human.
    And..sometimes the ones who don’t necessarily well actually do good. Margret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind – did provide one of the first black actress’s with a supporting nomination at the Academy Awards and did show a mentality that needed to be shown to be countered.
    We can’t provide a counter-point, if we don’t hear the argument.
    And just because we don’t hear it, doesn’t mean the argument doesn’t exist.
    I just don’t believe staying silent or censoring the voice, whoever’s voice – it is, especially one we don’t like or agree with, is always the best answer. I say that, even though I deeply and profoundly wish that I could permanently silence the Rush Lumbaugh’s and Sarah Palin’s of the world. But, I know silencing them wouldn’t solve the problem and might just make it worse.

  15. cornerofmadness May 17, 2009 at 1:39 am #

    nods. exactly. I learned what I did by immersion in the culture for a year.
    but that year was 15 years ago now and I don’t have anyone I would even know who would look and say cool or look and say offensive
    then again out of ALL the very very many Native American mystery series out there I’m not sure there is a handful of actual Native American’s writing it

  16. midnightsjane May 17, 2009 at 2:52 am #

    I have been pretty careful not to comment on the whole Racefail thing, because I have conflicting feelings about it. I don’t think that you have to be a member of a certain segment of the population to write a complex, intelligent character, and it almost seems as if some people are saying that unless you have walked in someone’s shoes you can’t write about them…or that you don’t have the right to include them in your story. I think that if you write with respect for your characters, no matter who they are, that that is the important thing.
    And the premise of your novel sounds quite fascinating to me.

  17. scrollgirl May 17, 2009 at 4:46 am #

    I’m a person of colour and I don’t have a handle on it either. But the more I read about Racefail, the more I learn, just like I learned why it’s important to have positive gay characters on tv and not just be content with slashy subtext.
    For your novel and Masq’s, I agree that all you can do is create well-rounded characters, do your research, and find POC who are willing to edit.
    (Masq, re the Oreo approach, I have to agree with . My sister and I joke about being white-washed, but we are inescapably *not* white. The very fact that we have white-wash jokes proves it. I get the eggshells. *hugs* And bless Roddenberry for trying. Doesn’t mean we can’t do better.)

  18. scrollgirl May 17, 2009 at 4:48 am #

    I agree with your comment 🙂

  19. scrollgirl May 17, 2009 at 5:08 am #

    Is Shondra Rimes queer herself? Not to say gay people can’t also hold homophobic attitudes, but being good in one area doesn’t automatically mean you’re good in all areas. As we’ve seen, there are plenty of feminists who perpetuate racism, and there are gay activists who perpetuate sexism, and anti-racist proponents who perpetuate classism, and so on.
    Why do you keep talking about censorship? No one has said anything about censoring anyone. There’s a difference between finding something offensive and choosing not to waste your money, and censorship. The fact that you didn’t vote for Sarah Palin is not censorship.

  20. neshaffer May 17, 2009 at 5:39 am #

    You know, there’s RaceFail and then there’s RaceFail with Native Americans. It just almost seems worse in the second case, because there’s been so many uses and abuses of that culture in American writing. I might not feel half the white guilt uncertainty I’m feeling if my character was oh, say, black or Chinese.
    Isn’t that weird? But its’ true.

  21. cornerofmadness May 17, 2009 at 5:44 am #

    , an agent, has been discussing this a bit in his LJ but more on the sides of racism isn’t limited to just one race and that as a group we’re becoming so overly sensitive we’re paralyzing ourselves

  22. egretplume May 17, 2009 at 6:43 am #

    I don’t know you at all, here via Mammothfail, but your novel sounds good to me.

  23. issen4 May 17, 2009 at 7:40 am #

    Sorry, I was surfing links from and saw this, and your post just sort of annoys me.
    But still, someone could come along and say, “You don’t present Native Americans very sympathetically in your story. And while we’re on the subject, white girl, what makes you think you have the right to write Native American main characters at all?”
    First, what you described above… Hasn’t happened yet, has it? You’re worried about something that may not even happen. What’s up with that?
    Second, so what? It’s not like your portrayal is/would be the gold standard of characterisation for Native Americans, so what does it matter if you’ve made your Native American character less than perfect? She is who she is (or in your experience, who she wants to be). It’d be even more insidious if your character was written as some kind of Mary Sue.
    I admit that it’s nice (but not essential) to have characters of races other than white in a book, but once you’ve decided to have them, the most important thing would just be whether they’re credible characters/readers like them/their importance to plot, etc. Not whether they’re represented sympathetically (whatever that means: what ‘sympathetic’ to one reader may not be the same for another reader).
    And third… again, why not? White people write about Native Americans (when they care to, unlike Wrede) and about other races all the time. Clearly, it’s not hurting their chances of publication, or reception by the public. Wrede’s book, by the way, despite the questionable premise, got published and is still getting read. So, really. What’s stopping you?
    Lastly, so you write your book, your book is published and people read it. Then it turns out someone hates your portrayal of the Native American character. Or maybe they hate your plot. Or your setting. Or some other characters. Your sex scenes. Your choice of words. Whatever. Writers get criticised*, sometimes violently. Fact of life.
    I know the above sounds really pissy and I really, um, I don’t know who you are and in a way, I’m really spewing out my frustration about RaceFail at you. I’m sorry for that. But from your description, you seem to be doing a pretty good job of writing your book, so er, carry on?
    *You might even sell more books that way.

  24. rahael May 17, 2009 at 8:01 am #

    hi masq, would you mind screening my comment and the replying posts?
    I shouldn’t have posted anything here and I regret it.

  25. neshaffer May 17, 2009 at 2:09 pm #

    Done.

  26. darlas_mom May 17, 2009 at 6:34 pm #

    I think Racefail is probably one of the most important internet explosions I have ever been privvy to. It opened my eyes to a lot of things I never saw and it opened my brain to a lot of things I never thought about. I think a considerable portion of the people who were there for it came away from it as better people, thanks to a large number of people who wrote really thoughtful essays on the topic after the original imbroglio, and it also stirred others to some necessary action, which gave us all awesome things, like .
    But it had its negative effects, too, and this is one of them.
    Sweetheart, Racefail was not about who should write and who shouldn’t, or what people should be allowed to write. One of its many facets was about a lesson we all should’ve learned when we were children: Think about what you say before you say it. And you are doing that. Of course you’ll offend a few people, there’s no way to get around that. It happens to us all. But if I may paraphrase “Batman Begins” here, we fall so we can learn to pick ourselves back up. A failure in your first published novel (is it?) is a step towards making you a better, more aware writer.
    It’ll be uncomfortable, maybe even painful, if you get called on for having race issues when writing characters of color. But the answer isn’t to hide away your CoCs and pretend they never happened. I think it is a far, far worse thing to write only white characters to avoid offending people than it is to write characters of color with hard work and good intentions, and miss the mark.
    I can’t define for people of color which reading experience is worse- being written wrongly, or not at all. But in my heart, I feel that the worse writing experience is definitely the one where you let fear control what you put out there.

  27. neshaffer May 17, 2009 at 6:54 pm #

    I have, for the most part, avoided the RaceFail debate because internet debates about those kind of hot-button topics give me hives (and literally) and break my heart and leave me feeling way too pessimistic. I have limited myself to what my flist has to say about it, and most particularly PoCs on my flist, trying to gain insight into their opinions. The one friend who did comment on that (privately) said a white writer writing PoCs would never stop her from reading it if the writing is good, but when it’s done badly, she’s not going to read it.
    I would never stop doing PoC characters, that isn’t what this is about. It’s about taking a PoC as my main character and therefore trying to write her experience of the world when that clearly is not a “write what you know” kind of situation and I have to muddle through some parts in a way that even *I* see as awkward.

  28. darlas_mom May 17, 2009 at 8:21 pm #

    There were some really good essays out of Racefail. I recommend pretty much everything by and , if you haven’t read them already.
    Forgive me, but…I’m sort of at, “So what?” With a good writer, I feel that a minor character isn’t less actualized than a main character. Sure, the main character’s getting more screentime (pagetime?), but why does that make her more potentially offensive than secondary or tertiary characters of color? Even if you totally nailed it with her, you could still be poking people in the eyes with the rest of the cast. That’s kind of how it generally goes when you’re accidentally offensive. :-/ So…I guess I don’t understand why a PoC main character is more worrisome than any other PoC character.
    As an aside, I think “write what you know” is really only useful half of the time. There has to be a place in writing where you have to start utterly winging it, using only what you were able to cobble together from various books and what you were able to ask your friends, family members, or any experts you had the chance to get in touch with.
    I know positively nothing about what it’s like to be mentally ill, for example, and when I’ve had to write mentally ill characters, I had only “DSM IV” and what a friend with depression and social anxiety disorder, and another friend with schizoepilepsy, had to say about what it’s like. It turns out, to no one’s surprise, that while symptoms are common things, experiences are not. And while I have as yet to have offended any mentally ill people that I know of, I know that what I’ve written cannot possibly reflect what all, or even most or many, mentally ill people have experienced.
    While racial background and mental illness are not remotely comparable, the experience of trying to write outside your own experience is always embedded with a certain range of frustrations and fears. (“Am I doing this right? Am I going to hurt someone? Why isn’t there anything out there with the exact information that I need?”) The only thing you can do is put forth every effort to learn while you’re winging it. And you can’t know how you did until someone else has seen and responded to it.
    For my part, I can only say that your novel sounds interesting. And that I think there aren’t enough novels with fully realized, thought-out Native American main protagonists in the world. It’s worth trying to polish and put out there.

  29. neshaffer May 17, 2009 at 9:46 pm #

    Thanks for your thoughts. There will be much to muddle through when I have the time to get back to this novel, and I am thinking of posting excerpts in a locked place for more specific feedback.

  30. fifi_bonsai May 18, 2009 at 4:55 am #

    People don’t “happen” to be anything.
    Er. Racefail 2.0 came about because a Nice White Lady preempted racefail and thought the better way to handle it would be to eliminate the Native Americans.
    I left a comment recently in a post about female characters. I spoke about how until about a decade ago if you had asked me about my favorite TV characters they would have all been male. Now? Not so much, and it’s not because every female character out there is perfect or sympathetic. Not at all. It’s because they’re three-dimensional.
    Writers started respecting their audience enough that they realized they didn’t have to write perfect women, stereotypical women. They could write women as they are, warts and all, and it would be fine and dandy. Do some zen exercises and and respect your PoC audience enough to realize that unless you create stereotypes instead of people, if you make these women complex and interesting, we’re not going to call you out on racefailing.
    If you don’t do well this time? Fail better next time.

  31. neshaffer May 18, 2009 at 1:43 pm #

    Re: People don’t “happen” to be anything.
    Thanks for your thoughts.

  32. fifi_bonsai May 18, 2009 at 11:19 pm #

    Re: People don’t “happen” to be anything.
    You wish there were more people of color in yr flist to respond to this, but not enough to engage with us.* lol Okay.

  33. neshaffer May 18, 2009 at 11:24 pm #

    Re: People don’t “happen” to be anything.
    I am just looking for a perspective that is not my own. Hopefully, multiple perspectives that are not my own.

  34. fifi_bonsai May 18, 2009 at 11:29 pm #

    Re: People don’t “happen” to be anything.
    Uh huh. Yr icon just convinced me. Saying “thank you for yr thoughts” is not dismissive at all.
    Meh. Maybe I’m just tired. G’night.

  35. fifi_bonsai May 18, 2009 at 11:34 pm #

    Exactly. Because when white people talk about what’s wrong with a book it’s called critical reading but when PoC do it it’s censorship. I would get worked up about it, but I frankly don’t have the energy.

  36. neshaffer May 18, 2009 at 11:35 pm #

    Re: People don’t “happen” to be anything.
    Oh, sorry. I didn’t realize that’s what you meant. I am a bit a shy with people I don’t know, and didn’t expect to get any attention with this post beyond my flist. I am interested in hearing what you have to say.

  37. scrollgirl May 18, 2009 at 11:38 pm #

    Re: People don’t “happen” to be anything.
    You got metafandomed, unfortunately. That’s where all the new people are coming from! If you want to get unlinked, just drop them a note, they’ll always comply with your requests. ETA: Or not! You got linked. I don’t know if naraht will unlink you, she’s just collecting any and all links related to MammothFail. But you could always drop her a note.
    Will respond to your email later, promise! And yes, I’m coming to DC!

  38. neshaffer May 18, 2009 at 11:46 pm #

    Re: People don’t “happen” to be anything.
    E,
    Right I saw that link, but how did they find me to link to me in the first place? I’m not complaining, since I do want to get some feedback on this, and so far everyone has been helpful, but it’s just a bit disconcerting. I am not used to my LJ getting outside attention.

  39. neshaffer May 18, 2009 at 11:49 pm #

    I guess I’m just trying to avoid the most obvious egregious errors that I may not see coming from a white perspective. I mean I hope I am capable of seeing them, but if there’s one thing this debate has taught me, you can’t assume you know these things.

  40. neshaffer May 18, 2009 at 11:50 pm #

    Thanks for your feedback. (Love Queen and Freddie M!)

  41. emily_shore May 19, 2009 at 7:17 pm #

    Re: People don’t “happen” to be anything.
    Hello there,
    I was pointed here by . I’m “Naraht,” the one who’s been organizing the link collecting. Basically we use a combination of Google/other search engines and recommendations from readers. No endorsement or criticism intended by linking… we just round up everything that seems to be related.
    Hope that explains matters for you. Sorry it was disconcerting.

  42. neshaffer May 19, 2009 at 7:42 pm #

    Re: People don’t “happen” to be anything.
    Thanks for your explanation. I don’t need you to remove the link at present, everyone who has come here via it has been helpful.

  43. lady_jem May 23, 2009 at 12:52 am #

    I know it’s probably a lot of the same stuff others have said, but…
    >”… I simply wrote a character that just happened to be one, and by the time I realized she had taken over the whole friggin’ story, she had become a real person to me, and I couldn’t change her race any more than I could change an actual person’s race. That’s who she was. That can’t change. That’s no longer negotiable.”
    Of everything you said, this is the thing that makes me at least fairly certain you’ll do right by her. She’s a person to you, and to do less would be to dishonor the woman she is, and you won’t do that. In a way, it makes the journey more interesting, because (now that she’s taken over “the whole friggin’ story”–I love the way you say that, it’s the way I’ve felt sometimes, like “look, dude, you were hired as an extra, no one invited you to take over the joint.”) in a way you’re no longer creating her, you’re trying to discover her and learn more about her, and her peeps too. Like you were researching a biography of a whole family tree, you know? (Unfortunately, it’s also a lot more work…but that’s life, I guess.)
    >”But still, someone could come along and say, “You don’t present Native Americans very sympathetically in your story. And while we’re on the subject, white girl, what makes you think you have the right to write Native American main characters at all?”
    Oh, someone will, count on it. But so what? In the end, which matters more? Some random stranger’s idea of what constitutes sympathetic treatment of a particular group, or Valerie’s story?
    I’ll read it. It sounds like a good story.

  44. neshaffer May 23, 2009 at 2:20 am #

    Thanks, that’s actually very encouraging.

  45. ramblecrazed May 23, 2009 at 8:02 pm #

    *
    Polish it, finish it, and do a self publish (if necessary), to make it easy for me to read it.
    It sounds interesting and I’d most prefer to buy a hardcopy to read.
    =)
    *

  46. neshaffer May 23, 2009 at 8:11 pm #

    Hey, if it ever does get published, I’ll send you a free signed copy!

  47. claws_n_stripes June 11, 2009 at 5:26 pm #

    Yes, this Racefail thing has served us well, hasn’t it — demanding diversity while making all the actually thoughtful people afraid of it, fantastic.
    I could probably fill out a bingo card with that sentence alone, and the part about “thoughtful people” makes me especially twitchy, but today I feel like playing nice. So, here.

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