Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cultures or Avoiding the " WTF " emails.

Quick intro: Hi, I'm Zoe Nichols. New to this blog but pretty comfortable in the genre in general. You can find my stuff at Torquere and in the upcoming year, you can add Phaze and Cobblestone to that list too.

Okay, enough with the pimpity pimp pimp.

On to the subject! A little while back on my Livejournal, I brought up a particular topic that had been bothering me for awhile. It eventually came out because there's a publisher (sorry, I don't give names because hey, they might only bother me) that has some not so great titles and some not so great storylines in their interracial section.

Now, usually, I can ignore this. I mean, if the publisher took it, someone is likely to read it, and the writer gets paid. Que sera, sera.

In this case, no.

I can not brush off stereotypes. Particularly stereotypes that are based on skin color. I don't understand, whatsoever, as to why it is hard to portray black people. No, seriously, I don't get it.

We can write exceptional Mexican characters, we can write all the sub-categories that form the term Asian, we can write the British, Scottish, Irish, Native American and a multitude of others.

We can not write black people. And this astounds me. Because the aforementioned races have cultures that many of us know nothing about. Yet, we're perfectly fine illustrating them and their differences, a lot of them extreme from the average American white dude who is the default m/m hero.

Nothing wrong with him, don't think I'm saying that. I happen to be a black author and there's a good chunk of my stories with white dudes. A lot of times with other white dudes. I'm guilty too. What I mean is, why do we, the authors, when we do touch on black folks, find it so easy to stereotype a black person as ghetto but we go out of our way to present the Mexican culture as best we can?

It's kinda bizarre to my eyes because while I know black dudes aren't gay as gay can be, I also know for damn sure that the Mexicans and the Italians are both known to have cultures that are surrounded in machismo and yet, they are also, next to our white dude, two of the most popular cultures explored in m/m. So it can't be because the African-American culture isn't gay-friendly.

Why is it so easy to brush off one but research the other? What baffles me the most is that your average American black dude is likely the same as your average American white dude...except for his skin. He celebrates Christmas, he goes to church, he drinks with the buds and its entirely possible that he likes a blowjob as much as the next guy.

Tell me please why it is so hard to portray that? Why does he wear brand labels and talk like a Hollywood gangsta and drive an SUV? What's wrong with a Jeep? This is not to say that these guys don't exist. Just like your drunk Irishman exists and your stingy Jewish guy and your brainy Chinese guy. Stereotypes exist because there's a grain of truth in them. But they're not entirely true and treating them like they are? Sucks.

We all deserve to like reading about ourselves - even if it's just a skin color we share with the character.

I started devoting more of my writing toward showing the difference and exploring it because...frankly, it makes me sad. We're doing so good everywhere else....yet why are we failing here? So, I'm trying.

And what do ya'll think? Not just about black characters because hey, not everyone's gonna share my pet peeve. But what about other cultures that are mixed and matched in stories? Interracial is creeping up slowly and I think it's pretty nice to see. What about you?


Liz said...


When Shayne and I wrote 'When I Dream of You' for Phaze, I wanted Karl to be outside a stereotype. He was Daniel's knight in shining armor, drove a regular car (okay, a sports car LOL), had a dog he adored, was a personal trainer/part-owner of a gym, and was queer.

I HATE stereotypes, and I'm with you: why in God's name is it so hard to write black men without stereotyping them? I don't get it either, hun. Not at all.

Zoe Nichols said...

*grin* I love that passion, bunny boo. I do believe that's on my list to grab like...soon.

It's just one of those things that I think we need to tackle next. We've gotten over the Coming out-omg-I'm-gay-it's-bad-to-like-dick-but-its-so-good-but-I-must-be-forced-to-admit-I-like-it mentality of m/m stories.

Let's go to the next level now!

Liz said...


We're breaking down gender and sexuality barriers. Time to break down racial ones.

Bottom line: everyone has the capacity, and RIGHT, to love. Everyone bleeds the same red blood.

Ally Blue said...

Excellent question, Zoe. I've wondered that myself. Especially now, since I'm working on a novella whose point-of-view character is black. I was nervous at first about "getting it right", possibly because there's still a certain level of racial tension in this country and I don't want to add to it, even accidentally. But, then I figured what the hell. Eli's black, he's also gay, and an avid cyclist, and owns a bike messenger company. Just another thing about him. I like that :)

Zoe Nichols said...

o0o0o. I want that story! I'm glad you figured that out. I think it's overthinking that brings up the stereotype....which is interesting, because you'd think overthinking would create a character that goes as far left of the stereotype as possible but there ya go. I really look forward to reading it, Ally :)

Ally Blue said...

Thanks Zoe! I hope it'll be a good read. VERY tight deadline on this one so Ally is under the gun to produce the wordage O_O

Anonymous said...

From an early age blacks are taught that they must be twice as smart and twice as strong to even get a foot in the sucess door, cuz there is still people hung up on color, even though there is no such thing as a pure race. History teaches, blacks are the only ones that did not choose to come to America. Prejudice is hidden, but it's still out there.


Anonymous said...

True. But let's face it, if we stay hung up on the past, we will never move on. We draw strength from the past and try to better our future.

I put out those questions because first you educate and then you act. Now, I might not get to everyone and I can deal with that. But there are lurkers who might have read it and those lurkers might be authors. So maybe we'll start seeing better black folk in stories, embracing themselves and being embraced for themselves.

It's all baby steps. But we'll get there.

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