Tomorrow (April 23) is the first annual International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day, but I put aside the time to get something organized this afternoon, and so I’m going to jump the gun. I doubt I’ll be the first.
Thus, this small offering: three short stories. All have been published, all have been revised since publication. They are all contemporary. The second of the bunch is pretty dark, so be forwarned.
Clicking on the cover will start the download of the pdf document (2.5 MB).
Coffe: Stereotypical SDMN. Physically enormous, all-forgiving, kind, accepting injustice and/or fate without flinching, unprejudiced to whites, some magical stuff with flittering Tinkerbell stars. It’s been a long time since I saw the movie.
asdfg: The book was so much better than the movie. Although that’s always the case isn’t it?
Wasn’t Coffey more or less the son of God in the form of a huge, dim-witted black man in the Deep South in the 1920s? Sounds pretty magical to me.
McDreamy. Pah! Cheater cheater… He has totally become slimy in my eyes. McCheaty!
Since you raise the question of the sdmn and actually use the word Negro, may I ask you a sort of related question. . . it has to do a little bit about character, but not specifically about sdmns.
Why do secondary black characters in white-written novels seldom have passionate or conflictual romance?
In fact, secondary black characters tend to be as one-dimensional as sdmns often are.
But I want to focus on the romance. You hardly ever see a black character in a steamy, real, emotional relational relationship where the significant other doesn’t get offed at the end–or the character gets offed, usually in a fairly grisly fashion–as if they have to pay for having the gall to engage in such a relationship (Blade 3–I knew the white chick was going to be so dead at the end AND Blade was never going to get any poontang either).
I’ve read a LOT of books and while this isn’t aways the case, it frequently is. Why so? As a black person, I’m finding it hard to understand and no white people will tell me the reason.
Monica: My use of the phrase came directly from an essay on Strange Horizons by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, which is here.
I need to ask for a clarification before I try to answer your question. First, you’re talking about romance novels, is that right? Or romance-related stories more generally (given the reference to Blade). Assuming for a minute you mean just romance novels, are you wondering why authors usually write about their own race? Because I think you’re right, that does happen. White authors are unlikley to write main characters who are black or Asian or anything but white.
And yes, that means that people of color are left out. So a couple of issues are tangled up in this one question: 1) why do people feel restricted to writing about their own race? Is that racist in itself, or is something else going on? 2) why aren’t there more romances out there written by black authors? Is that racism in the industry, or are there fewer books getting written in the first place?
Personally, I can tell you that I am most challenged when writing from the perspective of somebody whose life experience is farthest from my own. It’s not that I can’t, and it’s not even that it’s too much work, it’s more a fear of getting it wrong, and giving offense.
Is that the beginning of an answer?
hmmm, which makes me wonder if there’s a fear of offending when you write in male characters?
For both Monica and Rosina:
I’ve finished TTTT the first time, but want to reread it before really big comments, other than EVERYONE READ IT! It’s delightful. Monica, Rosina treats the blacks and the black and white communities and their interactions in a way I haven’t read before, I’m saying circumspectly. I’m quite interested in Monica’s reactions, although this might also be under the heading of spoilers. Should we drop this, Rosina? This might help on your SDMN, but might give too much away on TTTT.
Bruce — sure. Or better said, I worry that I’ll overreach writing male characters and that heeps of scorn will be showered upon my head.
asdfg: I’m thrilled you liked TTTT so much, and of course I’d like to hear your thoughts. I’m not so much worried about spoilers as I am about sidetracking away from Monica’s question into a discussion of me me me and mine mine mine. I think I’ll put up a new post to try to delineate these various topics.
Not sure where that came from, I think maybe because of something you said about writing about personal experiences, the shoplifting professor I think.You said to change the gender and I remember thinking easier said then done. Brings to mind something Jack Nicholson said in the movie”As good as it gets” he plays a romance novelist who when confronted by a gushing fan and asked how he wrote women so well said” I think of a man…and I take away reason and accountability” hmmm anywho think I’l watch it again, one of my faves, that and “finding forester” No SDMN’s in that one.
Rosina, thanks for your response! I wasn’t asking about romance novels, because you’re not a romance writer, but rather about romantic or love relationships (any gender including complicated familial relationships) within any novel. I was wondering why so few black secondary characters have them unless they are by a black author and/or specifically in the literary category vs genre?
I feel comfortable writing about anybody who lives within the culture that I experience. I can imagine the life of my white neighbor next door or my white co-worker fairly accurately. We’re simply not that far apart in experience–I just take away the filter of being treated. . . well, like a black woman is treated by white people.
Black romance novels are no different from a white one except that the skin is described as pecan instead of creamy because the books are always about straight, middle class American professionals living in exactly the same culture working the same sort of jobs in the same sort of situations.
It’s really dumb that they are segregated and quite telling.
I doubt that black mystery novels are much different either. Maybe urban (street lit) and such are though, but they are crafted to be that way.
I can’t get an answer to my question from any white person whom I know reads widely and I’ve asked several. I’m really curious about this. I knew Steve Barnes posts about Halle Berry as the only female X-Man character not to have a love interest a while back on his blog. Is it a bit of same phenom–blacks as not quite human? I’m not sure.
PS. I will be reading your book! I’ll let you know what I think.
I wish I could edit comments. I wanted to add why I was so curious about this question. I was thinking of submitting something as a white author (many perks to white authordom as everything else) with a secondary black character.
Since this practice is so pervasive, I wonder if I wrote a multi-dimensional black character would I be breaking some sort of unspoken or even unconscious authorial white code and be outed right away?
Monica — you know, I think you could write that novel (or any novel with any combination of characters), and submit it under a penname — never addressing the question of race. So your agent sends off the novel and s/he never mentions race either, not in cover letters or phone conversations. It’s irrelevant. The question is: did you write a good story? Are the characters real and engaging? Your race has nothing to do with that.I don’t think anybody would be put out or call you on it. Unless your characterizations were off somehow, in which case you’d get comments one way or another.
The issue is a little more complicated when it comes to writing stories where main or prominent secondary characters are people of color. If white authors are hesitant about writing these characters, one reason has to do with anticipating charges of cultural appropriaton. I personally don’t believe that anybody can own a story, but I know that many people have strong feelings on this. One of my primary fears with Into the Wilderness was that I would overstep with the Native American characters, who were meant to be real people struggling to survive in difficult circumstances, good and bad and everythign in between. I did get some critical comments from NA readers (not many, but a few) about appropriation, to which I always respond the same way: I hope you will go and write stories from your perspective, so I can read them and learn from it. But in the meantime, I tell the stories that come to me.
So the bottom line: you should tell the stories that interest you. If you tell them well and with conviction and passion, they will find a readership.
As for my books and characters — the first thing I should point out is that many people do consider what I write romance. That’s where my novels are shelved, and how they are reviewed. And I have no problem with that at all. Also, I made an attempt, in TTTT, to include a crucial secondary love story between a woman of color and … somebody else. Don’t want to give too much away here. I’ll be interested to see what you think.
Rosina, That’s an excellent answer. Fear, in a sense, of going outside of boundaries.
More are stepping out–it isn’t unheard of any more to have a white author write a layered secondary black character with in depth relationships as you did. I’m looking forward to reading your book!
Monica, have you read the Boney books by Arthur Upfield? They’re a series of detective novels about an Australian detective who has both white and Australian Aboriginal heritage, and about his struggles with that. As far as I know, they were written by a white man, but I’ve not read or heard any discussion from Aboriginal people about the accuracy or otherwise of his insights. No romance, though, alas. Also I know the African American experience and Australian Aboriginal experience will be different, but the attitude of white people towards them may have been a bit similar historically.
Oh, my! Pickup Truck is lovely. I’ll wait until tomorrow for the other 2 to make my treat last. Thank you.
Thank you for writing these, for editing them and making them available online in a new way. I loved the last story, made me want to share it with my husband. The second story made me want to help her hide the credit card bills. The first reminded me of something from The West Wing. I will always want to read more.
Thank you Rosina for the gift of your short stories. I’ve read the first one PickUp Truck. It was wonderful, and I wanted it to continue. I haven’t read the other two, yet! Looking forward to reading them, too.
Beautiful stories Rosina. Very touching.
Once again, thank you Rosina. You have such a way with words.
Thank you Rosina. ;)
They made me tear up… very touching. Thanks so much for sharing them with us, Rosina.
Thanx Rosina, liked the last one best.
p.s..I can never pridict how your stories’ll end! That’s what I like about your writing. :D
Catalog. Why is she doing this? This is crazy. Until the last sentence. Thanks. Saving #3 until tomorrow.