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I’m at Delilah Devlin today–writing POC characters

Although I titled the article “Writing Interracial Couples,” and do touch on why I write them (I’m one half of one), most of my article today is about my experience as a white author who writes non-white characters and the steps I take to try to create the best characters I can.

 

As a white woman, my representations of non-white characters are always going to be flawed. Despite being part of my husband’s family for a decade, a mother to two multiracial children, and a friend of persons of color, I have no live experience to inform my writing. I need to be very careful in my choices when writing non-white characters.

When writing Arjun, my male lead in Capturing the Moment, I made a deliberate choice to make him Indian-American. The experience of being Indian-American is very different than that of a person growing up in India (which is not to imply that there is a monolithic experience of growing up in India). Friends and family members have a wide variety of experience as to whether or not they speak any of the twenty-three official languages of India, eat Indian food, watch Bollywood films, like Indian clothes, and so forth. Arjun has an Indian first name and an Americanized nickname. He speak Punjabi. He has strong ties to his family, which is very important culturally. That said, by virtue of growing up in the US he has the same cultural touchstones as Meg, myself, my husband and friends, and so forth. In other words, I had more wiggle room to create an authentic character.

My beta reading team also includes several Indian Americans, and my primary beta reader is my husband. Whether on this story or others, they have helped me improve with each piece. A beta sent me an article  discussing why using food words like “chocolate-colored eyes” can be seen as offensive, and I have tried to ensure that I no longer do that (or fix it in edits). I once had a character speak in Hindi, and it was just awkward. In retrospect, a friend was right, and I was doing it to make them seem more “Indian.” They aren’t afraid to call me out and educate me, and I don’t give them white tears over it, although I have to sometimes make difficult choices because they have different opinions (for example, my husband has no issue with the food allegories, but I still chose to omit them). I even asked a friend to look over this blog post!

 

Read the rest, including my suggestions for authors of color you should be reading here. Don’t forget to leave a comment recommending your favorite authors of color!

**apologies in advance. There was something of a miscommunication regarding links, so the post is a bit ugly and missing embedded links.

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