I’m back! I haven’t been online much lately, and unfortunately I neglected both this blog and my writing.
I’ll skip over my private life, because I was planning to move to London but something came up last minute and, long story short, I can’t go. Not right now at least. But it’s okay, UK isn’t going anywhere, and btw I think a smaller, “happier” city like Brighton or Bristol will be actually more suited for me. We’ll see.
This sudden change of plans caused a bit of a personal crisis though, and I haven’t written a line in over a month. Which is awful, I know, but I felt too emotionally drained and stuck and lost in life to even consider thinking about my stories. I binge-watched Friends instead, all 10 seasons, which helped me feel a lot better. My lovely friend T. (who suggested that I watched it, like she did a few months ago) and I also noticed that I’m basically the child Monica and Chandler never had, considering I have his habit of using sarcasm as a defense mechanism and her need to compete with others and please people and clean everything.
Apart from the appalling fat-shaming and the ridiculous no-homo attitude that some of the characters had, this show was so great. It really makes you want to live like them, with them. I can see it, Friends 11×01: The One Where Charlie Moves In. Why isn’t life a sit-com? I feel like it should be. Mine for sure.
Anyway, moving on
to the sad real life.
Last weekend some scenes and lines found a way to insinuate themselves into my brain, mostly at night when I couldn’t sleep, and I wrote down that stuff on random pieces of paper or my cellphone, and book-related thoughts began to flow again. I opened up Scrivener and looked at my first project (which for now I’ll refer to as simply “BH”, not having decided its definitive title yet)
and I was happy to be reminded that I had already divided the whole thing into 24 chapters, and every chapter into detailed scenes. I wrote almost 50k words during NaNoWriMo 2014, so I can say I do have a first draft to work with. I HAVE A FIRST DRAFT! A short, terrible, first draft, but a first draft nonetheless. Now I should start writing the second one (and then a third, and a fourth, most likely).
I also created a new Scrivener project (“SSB”, temporarily), which is actually my first novel idea ever:
It features two main characters, whose POVs will alternate in chapters. I had the idea for this story in 2010, but I wasn’t sure how to approach the subject. Now I feel a bit more confident, so I’ll just write down details now and then, while working on BH.
Honestly though, there are days when I’m not so sure writing BH is a good idea. It has some very personal stuff in it that is not easy to bring up. But I also need to bring it up, even if I know it will be painful and embarassing and will make me want to smite myself. I need to get it out of my system by transforming it into fiction. Does this make any sense?
I think I can’t stop writing it. I love my characters and the journey they’re going to face.
I also spent a lot of time thinking about the fact the most of my characters are not white. I’m from Sicily, and I’m used to see almost more light-brown faces than white (even though I consider myself white, I’m pretty sure both my mother’s and my father’s families, like A LOT of other sicilians, have old arab origins, btw), and I also found out that Southern Italians were not considered white when they arrived in America, to the extent that they too were subjected to the Jim Crow laws of segregation.
I’ve been educating myself a lot about racism and other social issues since I realized that school doesn’t tell you shit about them and casually sends you out in the world like an ignorant entitled person who thus risks to come off as a major jerk too often.
I’ve been doing a lot of research too, because when I first started writing BH I automatically pictured Noumi, the main character, as brown-skinned, her main love interest as japanese, one of her best friends as black, and several other relevant characters, with their own personality and story-arc, as non-white. Since it’s set in a future, post-apocalyptic England, and England is already a multicultural country, for me it just made perfect sense. It would be absurd NOT to have a diverse cast.
But then, le panic. I’m white, and I don’t want to be yet another white person who uses non-white characters/stories without even respecting them to, ultimately, make money (think about The Help. Beautiful movie, the first time you see it. Really problematic, when you start thinking about what really happened there). I don’t want to risk cultural appropriation, tokenism, fetishization, colour-blindness, and all the other mistakes white authors usually make when they write about POCs. So…. what do I do? Some said, just don’t write them like that then. Stick to what you know. Write them all white.
Yes, I suppose I could. But DAMN, the mere thought bothers me so much. That is not the world I live in. I live in a multiethnic world, where differences matter, where differences are beautiful and should be equally represented instead of being dismissed, or reduced as background clichès, just because white culture is the one who has more money and more power in this fucked up society. I was so happy when they cast Lucy Liu as Watson in Elementary, she’s one of my favourite actresses and that tv show is amazing on so many levels. I owe Naya Rivera’s Santana Lopez A LOT in terms of self-confidence and acceptance of my sexuality. I’ve been in love with girls who happened to be latinas, east-asian and indian all my life. When I was four (and naive, I was too young – and privileged- to know how bad POCs are treated), I told my mother I wanted to be black because Whitney Houston and Lauryn Hill were my favourite singers and I thought they were the most beautiful and talented human beings on Earth. I’m pissed as fuck they’re rebooting Spiderman AGAIN instead of giving us a Black Widow movie, but since they’re doing it PLEASE CAST OSRIC CHAU, he’d be perfect, thanks. I was perplexed when they cast Jennifer Lawrence (she’s amazing and I love her, BUT) as Katniss since in the books Katniss is described as having “olive skin” and for a sicilian “olive skin” means definitely not pale white freckled skin. I slappend the fuck out of a classmate who refused to stop using the n-word after I asked him several times and spent an hour explaining him WHY it was so wrong and disgusting.
I know that I will never, ever be able to really understand how bad POC are treated and what it must feel like, for them, to live in a world like this. I don’t have the words to express myself properly here, so I’ll just use someone else’s instead:
For me, it’s important to write believable characters, real characters, and that includes POCs, because that’s the world I live in. And because, honestly, there are already so many white characters around even I, a white girl, am sick of it. Where are the others? Let’s face it, writers who are people of colour don’t get published as easily as white writers, so there are less non-white characters around, and the audience gets used to their absence even more, so there is less demand, and so less poc writers get published. It’s an egg-chicken problem. If white writers started writing more POCs, IN A NON-STEREOTYPICAL OR OFFENSIVE WAY, they could finally open the way to all the talented non-white writers who want, and have the right to, tell their stories.
Just like it’s important to have queer representation (personally speaking, I’d love to see more well-written bisexual characters for example, whose story doesn’t revolve only around their sexual orientation. Like, where is my freaking bisexual Steve Rogers or Wonder Woman or something like that? It would have been important for me, growing up, having someone like me to look up to and who made me feel normal. And trans* people, asexuals, a-gender, genderfluid people and so on need representation too), it’s important to have cultural and ethnic representation.
So, yeah. Noumi is not the stereotyped “hot spicy latina, mmhh mmmh”, she never was and never will be. She is a thief and a fighter and a very proud, rational, controlled, calm person, who will be constantly torn between justice and mercy. Akio, although having a long family tradition of samurai-sword crafting, will never be the stereotyped “spiritual, garden-loving japanese character”. He’s a very morally ambiguous, “I’ll kill you in your sleep if you bother me but only if that doesn’t actually take too much of my time and energy” kind of person. Kumar is an indian doctor who basically adopted a young white, blonde-haired, naive girl after losing his family to a virus. Doyle is a super-intelligent scientist, of Maori ancestry, who has a huge crisis of conscience and changes his life completely. Shana is a black, bisexual, sweet young girl who melts the heart of the cynical Blythe, a pale-skinned thief who discovers herself to be a lesbian, by showing nothing but kindness and strenght of spirit despite all the horrible things she saw in her life. Wayne, Noumi’s closest and most beloved friend, is a 6,5 feet tall white, scarred, idealist warrior consumed by his rage and thirst for justice. There are other important characters, both white and non-white, but I think you got my point by now.
I want to create realistic, complex characters, and I don’t actually see any valid reason why I should write them all white (not even the “Damned if I Do, Damned If I Don’t” one). I don’t want to. So yeah, I won’t. I’ll write POCs and I’ll do my best not to screw it up and I’ll always accept constructive criticism, obviously. Wish me luck.
Have a nice week, everybody!
ps. For no particular reason whatsoever but the fact that I’ve been singing this song since it came out and I love it and I dance to it every time I feel sad and it always makes me feel better about myself and life in general, I feel the need to conclude this looong weird post with Taylor Swift.
No, you know what, now that I think about it there actually is a good reason to post this video: some time ago a guy, an ex-schoolmate, told me that curly hair was really ugly and I did the right thing by straightening it or styling it in loose, nice waves. It was not the first time I heard this kind of opinion on curly hair by a boy, and I’ve been stressing and torturing my hair for the past 7 years. Recently I realized my hair deserves more love and respect than those guys did, and I want to tell them FUCK YOU for making me (and a lot of other girls) feel so bad about something so personal and natural. From now on I’ll leave my hair as it is and I’ll learn to accept it and love it despite of what people might think and say.
Thanks to CurlyPenny for the inspiration!
Haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate hate.