Dilemma

So, I have a problem.  I’m writing a book, which i love dearly of course, but I am questioning the races of the characters.  I am black, and 2 of the characters are black and one is biracial.  The book doesn’t focus on race, per se, but the characters are black except for the main character’s love interest.  The thing is, i don’t want to be relegated to the African-American lit side because then that cuts off about 90% of the people who may want to read the book if it’s not in that small ass section of the bookstore.  It wouldn’t matter so much to change the race though, but they are slightly based on real life people and I like them being black because, really, should only black people be interested in black characters if it doesn’t affect the storyline?  the book is set in an upper-class type society and nothing is blatantly about race except the description. 

I should just change the race to white, huh?  I don’t want to be relegated to a section where only 13% of the population really even wanders and then have to cut down that percent to the people who will actually buy the book….when I could just make it a “white” book where white people, some blacks, some asians, some of anybody may read it.  Not to say that other races don’t read “black lit”, but it’s a steeper change that doesn’t seem economical when you think about it. 

Lol, guess blog writing is informative, because I pretty much summed up my own answers, huh?

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4 Responses to “Dilemma”

  1. antigenre Says:

    Unfortunately, you’ve summed up a large problem in the world of literature. Books by women are deemed ‘for women only’ or ‘chic-lit’, books by people of whatever race or ethnicity are only ‘for’ people of the same race or ethnicity… It’s kind of dumb.

    My advice is to stay true to your own writing style and the characters you’ve created, and find yourself a good marketing person who can help you get your book out to a large audience. Good luck!

  2. la fashionista Says:

    You and I are in the same boat. I’ve been working on my novel for the past two-and-a-half years. With the exception of a close friend and a of couple other minor characters, the main characters are all black.

    I understand your concern about being relegated to a certain niche fiction section. Last weekend, I went into Borders and began browsing the Af-Am. Lit. section. Some of the titles I saw had me shaking my head; it was like a BET video on a bookshelf. Only a handful of the novels that I saw sparked my interest (because the rest were not novels that I would ever think to buy).

    With that said, I would suggest not changing the race of your characters. I completely understand the frustration, but I don’t think you should make the change. Stay true to what feels natural to you, and that’ll come through.

  3. Grace Says:

    You should write what you want to read.

  4. Trula Says:

    I think you should keep the characters black. Because you are black, your book is probably going to be deemed a ‘black’ book or put in the black section by many book stores and libraries anyway. Also, if the race of the character is not the focal point of the story, who is going to know their race until they actually read the book? You can just write the characters without explicitly mentioning their race, just the way most white writers do when writing about white people. I know it’s ‘understood’ that unless otherwise mentioned characters are assumed white, but this is wrong. Definitely describe what your characters look like, I’m not saying you should ‘pass’ them off as white.

    One more thing…please don’t underestimate white people. Many are not racists and would not reject or pass over a book just because the characters are black and/or the author is black. Look how successful Toni Morrison has been with a largely white fan base. and James Baldwin. and Terri McMillan. and Eric Jerome Dickey. these are all New York Times best-selling black authors who wrote about black people.


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