1. Amber13

    Amber13 Member

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    Biracial Character Portrayal

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Amber13, Nov 7, 2017.

    Hello! I am currently working on a novel that features a biracial protagonist. Because she's my main character, I wanted to ensure I did proper research before getting too deep into the book. Her race doesn't really play a huge part in the series I've planned until the second book, but I've already struggled with whether or not I am the person to tell the story of a biracial character (as a white woman, that is). After a couple of months debating, I've decided to forge ahead (I've worked with this character for about a decade on and off, so I'm too attached to let her go), but want to do a respectful and well-informed job.

    Do you have any recommendations for resources? For specifics, her father is white, and her mother is from an island nation similar to Polynesian culture.

    Thanks for any advice!
     
  2. Damien Loveshaft

    Damien Loveshaft Active Member

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    This will vary a lot based on a number of aspects like which culture she was raised in and what time she lived in I'm afraid. Other than that whenever I do cultural research I just peruse my local library.
     
  3. Azuresun

    Azuresun Senior Member

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    Well, she doesn't have to be a perfect paragon of a biracial person with nothing about her that might cause offence to anyone--if nothing else, that character would be kind of boring to read about. :) The character should be a convincing individual first and foremost, and her heritage may or may not be a big part of that based on how she was raised, how society of that place and time views people like her, what she thinks of her parents and her own personality.

    Maybe tell us a bit more about where and when the story is set, what the themes are, any specific things you're worried about including?
     
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  4. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

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    izzybot likes this.
  5. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    If her parents were of different cultures, what was her home life like growing up? Was she aware of her mixed ethnicity when she was growing up? If not, is she seeking to draw closer to the ethnicity she was previously unaware of? Were either of her parents religious growing up? Where did she live? Are there any social restrictions where she is now that would make her less proud of her ancestry or cause her to downplay her origins? More importantly, is her specific ethnic background a plot point or does it stand in direct opposition to her achieving her goals? Most people that I know of are of pretty diverse racial backgrounds. Personally, my father is Irish/Native American and my mother is Jewish/Eastern European, but these labels really don't mean anything. I'm still a mostly normal human in everyday interaction, my ethnicity is rarely an issue and is used more as an ice breaker at parties than anything else. So, I'm not really sure where the problem is. As long as you treat her and of her ethnicity with respect I don't understand what the struggle is about.
     
  6. izzybot

    izzybot (unspecified) Contributor

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    My rule of thumb - being someone who's part of an assortment of marginalized groups, but is white - is to tell stories about people outside of my own groups, but not stories about being in those groups. You said that her race doesn't play a huge role until the second book, but I'm curious as to how much it does then. That's the only thing I'm leery about. You'll want to do a lot of research to make sure you get it right.

    You might want to look up microaggressions people of her parents' races face, and consider what she might have to deal with as a result - some biracial kids take heavily after one parent or the other and aren't 'visibly' biracial, so people will treat them differently on a case-by-case basis, not in a broad "all x+y biracial people experience z" way.
     
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  7. Amber13

    Amber13 Member

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    Thank you! I'll definitely check this out!
     
  8. Amber13

    Amber13 Member

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    Thank you guys for your feedback! In the first book, she's not too aware of her race. Her mother was the only non-white member of the community she grew up in, and no one commented on it. Her parents moved to the small village as a place to hide out, so the whole village was chosen for the kind of don't ask, don't tell atmosphere.

    A little more backstory that explains why her race will have a bigger impact in the second and third novel: her mother is from a nation that was conquered by another kingdom, and as a result, many of the people of that nation have slowly been taken from their home nation and used as slaves in the conquering nation. Lynn - the MC - grew up in a neighboring nation where slavery is outlawed. Of course, near the border, some slavery has leaked in, but she will not know about it until the very end of the first novel, where her heritage is revealed. She will come in contact with people from that conquering nation, but as her knowledge of where her mother came from is limited, she won't understand a lot of the racially or ethnically charged comments until later. As far as her physical appearance, it's not a drastic difference from many of the people around; she'll have slightly darker skin, and some of her facial features are a little different. But I'm not setting her in a place where everyone looks the same; it's a diverse nation, and there will be other people with a similar background to her own.

    izzybot, I have the same concern. I've had this story arc planned for years now, and am so invested in the story and characters. I attended the SeYa conference in March, though, and one of the authors raised the question of diversity in YA literature. Since then, I've gone back and forth on my story. I started out wanting to write a trilogy that addressed issues of diversity and social justice, with a character I've been working with for years. But I know I'm balancing on a thin line, which I why I wanted to start early on my research to see if I feel I can do it justice while being respectful.
     

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