There’s been a bit of a rumble about POC characters and their portrayals on covers. I’ve heard it said that books with POC characters on the covers don’t sell. Mind you, I’ve seen no data to back that up so I can’t speak to its reality. I’ve had authors come to me and say, “I’ve been told this. This has happened to me.” And that makes it a very real problem.
Now, I can tell you from my experience I’ve never had a push back from my publisher, Dreamspinner Press, about have a POC character on the covers or in the books. If anything, I’ve not gotten so much as a blink from the company about the ethnic makeup of my characters and have only been encouraged to write well and go where the story takes me. I have had to educate a few of my editors on Hawaiian, Japanese and a few other things but that’s par for the course (and hey, they’re trying to be sensitive to cultural norms). I’ve also had to establish we say “the” in front of the freeway numbers in California and carne asada fries are actually a thing. So it’s a working cultural exploration sometimes for them… as well as my narrators who probably know more about bao and saimin than anyone really needs to.
I come from a multi-cultural background. I have Irish and Portuguese influences as much as I do Asian and Hawaiian. I do not choose to be one race because I am all of those combined. I have all of those cultural influences and a few others from growing up in a family with a diverse ethnic makeup. I write what is around me and what is around me is a full spectrum of white, peach, beige, brown and gold.
All of that being said, the very IDEA — much less PRACTICE — of suppressing the voices of a POC authors, POC characters and their portrayals on the book covers enrages me. I will stand with any author who gets that kind of dismissal from a publisher or a reader. It is not a “white-wash*” or even an erasure. It is a denial of existence. It is a shunning of people who exist outside of a small slice of the world’s vibrant landscape of people.
A rainbow cannot exist without all of the colours and neither can we.
* I dislike this phrase for a variety of reasons but I understand its common use. I imagine this goes hand in hand with brown-washing a character, writing a POC character without exploring or accurately depicting their cultural influences. But that’s all another discussion.