tasslyn blog - writing white

I’m struggling with a writing issue. I’m deep into a revision of my verse novel. I wrote the initial draft quickly during NANOWRIMO – it was no where near 50K words, but folks, it’s poetry. 

As I dig through this first really big revision, I’m starting to see something. I write really white. My story is set in a white middle-class family. My main character’s best friend is white. Her boyfriend is white. Her grandparents, white. Her school, predominately white. 

I don’t say that in my draft. But it’s clear to me that it is true. I became convinced when I tried to have my main character notice someone in a classroom who was new and found myself trying to make them not white – and relying really on visual cues. I thought I was working on making the world of my imagination more diverse. 

Representation and diversity of voices is very important to me. I want to hear and listen better. I spend time reading and listening to viewpoints not my own. I’m probably the text-book example of a really “nice” liberal white lady.

But then, look at the world of my imagination. 

Where’s the diversity? Where are the different people? Different voices? 

It’s not there. 

I suspect I understand why. My imagination reflects the way in which our lives, my life is lived. I live in a very white community. I work in a very white field when I’m not writing. And I’m a kid-lit writer, which as you may know, is a pretty white field of authors and editors and agents and publishers. Some of these things are changing, yes. (Look at We Need Diverse Books ASAP if you haven’t already and please follow the blog of Debbie Reese and Reading While White). Maybe I’ll do a blog soon with all the people I follow on Twitter. 

I’m not like some people I know in my local community – I’m not afraid of going places. Meeting new people. Seeing new environments. But I don’t do it too often. So I ask myself – how different am I from those people in my community?

I read a lot. I give donations. I call my reps. I have a Black Lives Matter sign. I try to support voices – and not speak for people. I try to amplify when I can and listen always. 

But my world is white. And they say you write what you know. And I’m honestly having a moment where I’m uncomfortable with the mirror my own writing shows me. 

What am I going to do next? I’m going to keep writing. I’m going to keep listening. I’m going to keep learning. And I’m going to learn more about being anti-racist. I’m going to need to expect more from myself if I want my inner and outer world to reflect a world of justice for everyone. 

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