N. S. Dolkart Blanche Profile picture
Mar 1, 2018 19 tweets 3 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
There is an uncomfortable corollary to All Your Faves Are Problematic, and that is that You Are Also Problematic.

The discussion going on right now around representation by whites vs. #ownvoices is very meaningful and uncomfortable and worth paying attention to.
There are choices we white liberal authors make, thinking we are improving matters, that...maybe don't? Or at the very least, which have very complicated results.

POC protagonists are a perfect example of this.
When I was still in early stages of drafting SILENT HALL, working on the first couple of chapters, I heard or read something or other about lack of representation in fantasy and said to myself, Hey, there's no reason these characters should be white.
I was very much aware that I wasn't trying to tell a black story, more just trying to challenge the uber whiteness of epic fantasy and give someone else a chance to see themselves palling around with dragons and such.
Seemed like a good idea! Not a big deal, not necessarily worth patting myself on the back for, but better than the alternative. Because the alternative, I figured, was to write and try to publish something that *reinforced* the uber whiteness of epic fantasy.
But there's a flip side here, and that's the question of whose stories end up published. I saw today some horrendous statistic that something like 29-point-something % of children's & YA books with black protagonists have black authors?
Something outrageous like that, and the numbers for indigenous protags vs. indigenous authors must be as bad if not worse. So, y'know, maybe white authors who think they're helping out are just sucking up all the oxygen. And worse, our rep probably sucks.
Look, everyone thinks they're an above-average driver. I've tried to be very careful about the subtle messages my stories are sending. But even if I *didn't* screw up personally, boy howdy do I not trust white authors as a population to write respectful stories about black people
That the growth in POC protagonists has been increasingly outpacing % of POC authors in the industry is a pretty damning sign. (Because to be clear, while the numbers for black & indigenous protags/author are the worst, other POC identities only have better numbers by comparison)
But the thing is, I can't honestly say which is the worse outcome, because it all sucks. The growth in POC protags suggests that there *isn't* a quota for books about POC, or at least that the quotas are ballooning. So are we *really* sucking up the oxygen, or just...
...upping the noise for people who are looking for good books featuring characters like them? What is the value of "normalizing" POC protagonists in formerly extra-white genres, versus minding your own damn business?
I don't know. I don't have the answer.
Would it have been better if POC existed in my world but weren't the main characters? I don't *think* so, but I could be very wrong.

I like how my books came out. They're good books. But I don't know if I did right.
What keeps me guessing, what keeps me from saying definitively that I did the *wrong* thing, is that I don't really believe my books got published on account of the main characters' blackness. I think they'd have been published anyway.
And I'd have added yet another lily-white fantasy series to the stupidly huge pile.
As far as I can tell, the only solution is to publish WAY more POC authors, but crucially, THAT IS NOT A PART OF THIS INDUSTRY THAT I CAN CONTROL. All I can do is read/buy/recommend the POC authors who show up on my radar, and keep trying to write better books.
A final thought: I have seen some other white authors throw hissy fits at the notion that, what with publishing slots being finite, more of those should go to POC. That is, needless to say, a bad look.
Nobody's asking white authors to stop writing or to give up our dreams. If you hear "more of those slots should go to POC" and you instantly think, "they want to take MY slot," that's pretty telling. You're admitting your own mediocrity.
If you're so concerned about losing "your" spot to a person of color, maybe you should try writing better books? Make yourself indispensable, rather than clinging to a rigged system.

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More from @N_S_Dolkart

Oct 8, 2018
A commitment to telling your kids the truth is not as easy as it sounds. It doesn't even let you feel always that you're doing the right thing.
My daughter's (public) kindergarten has been teaching her the same old whitewashed story about everyone thinking the world was flat (they didn't) except for Columbus who thought it was round (he didn't) and was given three ships by a good queen (she wasn't)...
who then went on to Discover America (WTF, people were living here already, and he wasn't even the first EUROPEAN to find the Americas, just the first one who triggered a cascade of violent invasions). So I'm supposed to tell her her teacher is lying? (Yes, I am supposed to)
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